Britain and the United States were privately voicing hope last night that they were close to a breakthrough inside the United Nations Security Council on Iraq after receiving a letter from the new Prime Minister in Baghdad, Iyad Allawi, detailing the relationship between his government and the US-led multinational force there.
The letter from Mr Allawi - as well as a similarly detailed response from the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell - was to be formally presented to other members at a special session of the 15-nation Security Council to be convened late yesterday evening in New York.
General Powell's reply appeared to be in close accord with the proposals contained in the missive from Mr Allawi, making it probable that the full Security Council will acquiesce.
That could lead to the new resolution, primarily designed to endorse the new interim government, being adopted later this week. London and Washington were expected to propose that the exchange of letters be attached as an appendix to the resolution. In that way, the letters would carry the same legal weight as the rest of the text. "This seems the logical way to go," one source in New York suggested.
Several Security Council members, notably France, Russia and Germany, have been balking at a resolution that did not sufficiently give substance to the promise of full sovereignty for Iraq after 30 June and failed to spell out what influence the new government would have over foreign troops there.
Those members and a few others were especially anxious that, with the US-led force still remaining in Iraq, the resolution would appear to be an endorsement of the continuing occupation of Iraq, rather than a signal that it was coming to an end and Iraq was regaining its freedom, as intended.
But in his letter, Mr Allawi says he will set up a "ministerial committee for national security" within his government to liaise with the foreign force commanders and have sway over the operations of the force. Similar committees would be established at regional and local levels across Iraq.
He added that his Defence Ministry and Interior Ministry would have full control over Iraq's own soldiers and its police forces. "The structures I have described will serve as the form for the multinational force and the Iraqi government to reach agreement on the full range of fundamental security and policy issues, including police on sensitive operations."
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