UN resolution falls short on sovereignty, Iraq declares

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The Independent Online

The Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, said last night that a draft resolution before the UN Security Council on the future of his country does not go far enough to guarantee the return of full sovereignty after 30 June. Nor, he said, does it properly clarify the future relationship between the new interim government and foreign troops.

The Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, said last night that a draft resolution before the UN Security Council on the future of his country does not go far enough to guarantee the return of full sovereignty after 30 June. Nor, he said, does it properly clarify the future relationship between the new interim government and foreign troops.

Addressing members of the Security Council in New York, Mr Zebari said that the new government, selected earlier this week, will insist that the UN pass an "unambiguous resolution that underlines the transfer of full sovereignty to the people of Iraq and their representatives".

He made his appeal just hours after Iraq's influential Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, gave his nod to the new government. But the Ayatollah also emphased the need for a clear expression of Iraq's new sovereignty from the Security Council.

Lamenting that the interim government was not elected and lacks "legitimacy", Mr Sistani said, "it is hoped that the government will prove its efficiency and integrity." Referring to Mr Zebari's visit to New York, he urged the government to get "a clear Security Council resolution enabling the Iraqis to restore full sovereignty".

Several key members of the Council have been pushing for rewriting of the latest draft, unveiled by Britain and the United States this week. France, Germany and Russia have all voiced concern that that the text still does not spell out how sovereign Iraq will be.

Debate is starting to focus on the relationship between new government and the US-led force, which would only leave Iraq after direct elections and the completion of a new constitution at the end of next year. London and Washington have, until now, suggested that such issues - for example, when and if Iraq could refuse to participate in a military operation - should be dealt with in separate side letters, outside the resolution.

Mr Zebari told the Council it was important for the troops to remain in Iraq for now to prevent bloodshed and chaos. But he added the Iraqi government "must have a say in the future presence of these forces and we urge that this be reflected in this resolution".

A senior diplomat close to the Council said members are still some way from agreeing on a text. British sources indicated, however, that London was willing to revise the text further to accommodate French and German concerns in the hope of reaching a consensus on the resolution soon.

The wrangling inside the Council was about "how much power the US and the UK are really giving up and how it is distributed," the diplomat said.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, signalled his own reservations about any provision to give a final say over the operations of the multinational force to Iraq. "You can't use the word 'veto'," he insisted in an interview with the Middle East Broadcasting Center. "There could be a situation where we have to act and there may be a disagreement, and we have to act to protect ourselves or to accomplish a mission."

France's President, Jacques Chirac, sent a message that his government needed to "affirm and confirm the full sovereignty of the Iraqi government, particularly in the military domain."

John Negroponte, the next US ambassador to Iraq, acknowledged that the text may need "fine tuning". But he added that the "full exercise of sovereignty will be restored to the people and government of Iraq by June 30. I don't have any doubt about that."

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