Russia, France and Germany yesterday announced they would propose amendments to Washington's United Nations resolution aimed at persuading more countries to send troops and money to rebuild Iraq.
Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, also reacted coolly to the new US draft, saying that it was "not a major shift" in the US approach. Like Washington's antagonists on the Security Council, Mr Annan favours the speedy establishment of a proper provisional government in Baghdad, and the transfer of sovereignty by occupying coalition forces.
Washington had been hoping to hold a vote on the new resolution today, but the latest move by Moscow, Paris and Berlin may upset those plans.
The main concession in the new draft was a statement that the existing 25-man governing council, appointed by the coalition, "will embody the sovereignty of the State of Iraq". But the text offers no date for a provisional government - only a 15 December deadline for the council to come up with a timetable for a new constitution and elections. The resolution also fails to propose any significant enlargement of the UN's role, making it less likely that Mr Annan will order the return of UN staff withdrawn after the August bomb attack in Baghdad. Though the draft would make forces in Iraq part of a UN-authorised multilateral force, the force's commander would still be an American.
Abstentions on the Security Council vote by countries like Russia or France would be a blow to the US, and show the major powers are still at odds over Iraq. Dissension would cast a shadow over the Iraq donors' conference in Madrid next week, which is already under threat after a poor response from European donors.
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