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US, Britain Push Postwar Iraq Setup

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U.S., Britain Push Postwar Iraq Setup

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - The United States and Britain are seeking U.N. approval to run Iraq for at least a year in an American proposal that also limits the United Nations' role in the country, council diplomats said Thursday.

The long-awaited U.S. draft resolution, to be introduced at the U.N. Security Council on Friday, outlines a U.S. vision for postwar Iraq sharply at odds with that of several Security Council members, particularly Russia.

It would end U.N. control over Iraq's oil revenue and let the U.S.-led coalition use the country's vast oil wealth to help finance its reconstruction — with international oversight.

The U.S. proposal calls for the immediate lifting of sanctions against Iraq and would phase out over a four-month period the oil-for-food humanitarian program, which has been feeding 90 percent of Iraq's 24 million people. It does not mention any role for U.N. weapons inspectors, whose return to Iraq Washington opposes.

The resolution would also approve a "coalition provisional authority," run by Washington and London, to govern Iraq — and it apparently forsees a lengthy stay.

Under the proposal, the 12-month initial authorization would be automatically renewed unless the Security Council decided otherwise, the council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Since the United States and Britain have veto power in the council, they could block any attempt to get them to leave Iraq — which is likely to be unacceptable to some council members.

The United States could also face opposition from council members that want the world body to be a major player in creating an interim government for Iraq. The draft resolution does not define the makeup or duties of a provisional government, which if approved would effectively leave it up to the United States and Britain to decide.

The United States and Britain sent a letter to the council president late Thursday outlining their role as the "coalition provisional authority" in Iraq, council diplomats said, without revealing any details of its contents.

The U.S. draft resolution was given to some council members on Thursday and U.S. and British officials began lobbying for its approval in capitals of key council nations.

The council faces a deadline just four weeks from now when the current six-month phase of the oil-for-food program expires.

"Our view is that it's desirable to have this resolution passed as soon as possible, that the June 3 deadline for the expiry of the oil-for-food program is in fact very much the outer limit," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

There is little enthusiasm for another bruising battle following the bitter debate earlier this year over the war itself, which shattered the council's unity and left France, Russia, Germany and China at odds with the United States, Britain and Spain.

Nonetheless, council diplomats predict a tough round of negotiations. Russia and France have made their own proposals.

Russia wants U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Baghdad to certify that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated before sanctions are lifted. It also wants the oil-for-food program continued under U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's authority until Iraq has a legitimate government and sanctions are lifted.

"We believe it's still valid," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said Thursday of his country's proposal.

The French proposal calls on the council to suspend sanctions, phase out the oil-for-food program, have U.S. and U.N. weapons inspectors work together, and lift sanctions when a legitimate Iraqi government is in place.

The American draft calls on Annan to appoint a U.N. special coordinator who would coordinate with U.S. and British authorities and work with them and the Iraqi people to restore and establish "national and local institutions for representative governance," the diplomats said.

The coordinator would also promote the delivery of humanitarian aid, reconstruction, human rights, legal and judicial reform and international efforts to rebuild an Iraqi police force, as well as help refugees return.

The U.S. draft resolution would lift the economic embargoes the council imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait but maintain the arms embargo.

The oil-for-food program was created in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions, allowing Iraq to sell oil and requiring it to use the proceeds to buy food and medicine under U.N. monitoring. Phasing out the oil-for-food program would end U.N. control over Iraq's oil revenues.

The U.S. draft resolution would continue Annan's control over humanitarian contracts during the four-month phase-out, to speed badly needed food and medicine to Iraq.

When the oil-for-food program ends, the United States and Britain want the food distribution to continue under the Iraqi provisional administration, which is expected to be operating by then, council diplomats said.

On the oil side, Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization would be restructured and resume selling oil, the diplomats said. Proceeds would go into an "Iraqi Assistance Fund" overseen by Annan, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and a team of international auditors they select.

Under the oil-for-food program, victims of the first Gulf War received 25 percent of Iraq's oil revenue. The new draft proposes a much lower figure, between 5 and 10 percent, council diplomats said.

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