America returns to UN for support over Iraq as EU rebuffs cash pleas

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In an effort to secure financial and military support for its occupation of Iraq, the United States has proposed a deadline of mid December for the country's Governing Council to draw up a timetable for elections and a new constitution.

A new draft resolution circulated by the US to members of the United Nations Security Council also contains language that emphasises the importance of Iraqi representatives on the Council in helping the transition. But the concessions stop short of guaranteeing a central role for the UN in the future of the country.

The new resolution, on which the US could seek a vote as early as today, is the latest effort by Washington to secure international support ­ money and troops ­ for the ongoing occupation and reconstruction. Earlier drafts were criticised by many European countries that want the UN to have a more central role and a timetable outlining a prompt handover of power to Iraqis.

America's difficulty in obtain-ing this support was underlined yesterday in Luxembourg, where Britain was alone in pledging an additional ¤375m (£264m). With time running out before a donor conference on Iraqi reconstruction next week, the US ­ and its co-sponsors, the UK and Spain ­ hope the resolution will persuade more countries to contribute. But in the absence of an agreement, EU countries rebuffed British requests to put cash on the table at a foreign ministers' meeting yesterday. Several countries that are certain to provide cash, such as Italy and Spain, declined to show their hand.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said Britain would make available an extra ¤375m available in 2004-5. Officials said pledge was new cash, as distinct from the £550m figures circulated last week. That total includes money already put aside, the new cash promised yesterday and the UK's contribution towards ¤200m being contributed by the European Commission.

¿ Saddam Hussein is believed to have been hiding in Tikrit and influencing the resistance, the US military said yesterday as guerrilla attacks across central Iraq killed three American soldiers and wounded five.

Meanwhile Stephen White, an assistant chief constable in Northern Ireland and now police chief in charge of law and order in southern Iraq criticised the Government for not giving him more resources. He has a team of 15 men and women in Basra when he expected 1,500 international recruits.