Bush Seeking Multinational Force Support
Bush Administration to Ask U.N. to Support Multinational Force in Iraq

ABC News

September 3, 2003

The Bush administration is quietly consulting with other countries on a new Security Council resolution that would give the United Nations a leading role in building an Iraqi government and transform the military presence in Iraq to a multinational force.

President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell met on the issue Tuesday and agreed to move forward with a new U.N. resolution in an effort to attract more foreign contributions to postwar Iraq, three senior administration officials said on condition of anonymity.

Powell and his aides will begin talking about the new resolution in coming days with key members of the Security Council whose support is critical: close ally Britain, as well as France and Russia, two countries that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The United States hopes that expanding the U.N. role in postwar Iraq will attract badly needed troop contributions from more countries to help stabilize Iraq and to gain money to help rebuild the country.

Last week, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the Bush administration was open to the creation of a U.N.-endorsed multinational force but with an American commander in an attempt to persuade reluctant nations to send troops to boost security in Iraq.

But one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said then the administration would not consider putting the operation under U.N. control. It was unclear Tuesday night how much authority the administration would be willing to hand over to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has ruled out a U.N. peacekeeping force in Iraq, but he has sought to turn the military operation into a U.N.-authorized multinational force.

Five months after the United States was forced by lack of support to drop a U.N. resolution seeking authority to attack Iraq, administration officials say they do not want a repeat of that battle. They say they expect the United States to engage in quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiations on the text of the resolution, to ensure it would be agreeable to the veto-wielding permanent members and the rest of the Security Council, and to project a unanimous, internationally backed stand on what happens next in Iraq.

Diplomats say placing reconstruction under U.N. auspices would make it easier to garner contributions from nations that opposed the war, notably France and Germany. Belgium also said last week that it may be willing to donate money if the United Nations was "playing a central role" in reconstruction.

France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, whose country wields a Security Council veto and which led the opposition to the war against Iraq, said the international community needs to move quickly to establish an internationally recognized Iraqi government. France and Russia have called for a timetable for a constitution, elections and the restoration of Iraq's sovereignty.

"We think now it's a matter of urgency, and the transfer of responsibility to the Iraqis is something now which is a priority," de La Sabliere said Tuesday at U.N. headquarters in New York. "On the whole subject, we have to move fast because the situation is deteriorating."

With soaring budget deficits at home, Bush is eager to win financial contributions from other nations. The U.S. military occupation of Iraq could cost anywhere from $8 billion to $29 billion annually, depending on how many American troops are needed there, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Bush and Powell made their decision two weeks after U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was bombed, killing top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others, and injuring 164 people. On Friday, the United Nations ordered a drastic reduction of its remaining 400 international staff to a ceiling of 50 because of continuing security concerns.

Mexico's U.N. ambassador, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, a Security Council member, said Tuesday the withdrawal has to be a temporary measure to reassess security conditions.

"The commitment of the United Nations has to be reinforced and reconceived," he said. "The authority in Iraq should be the U.N. as opposed to the occupying powers."

Bulgaria's U.N. ambassador, Stefan Tafrov, another council member whose country has already provided troops to the U.S.-led force, said a new resolution should provide "as central as possible" a role for the United Nations.

"What is clear is that all members of the Security Council and the international community at large need a stabilized Iraq. It's in the interest of everybody, the Iraqi people to begin with," he said.

The administration is optimistic it can attract peacekeeping troops for Iraq from at least India, Pakistan and Turkey by placing the operation under the U.N. flag.

Associated Press writers George Gedda in Washington and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.