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Bush to Seek $60 Billion or More for Iraq


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Bush to Seek $60 Billion or More for Iraq

By Glenn Kessler and Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writers

The White House has informed congressional leaders that it is preparing a new budget request for between $60 billion and $70 billion to help cover the mounting costs of the reconstruction and military occupation of Iraq (news - web sites), sources on Capitol Hill said last night.

The planned request -- which congressional budget analysts said will be nearly double what Congress expected -- reflects the deepening cost of the five-month-old U.S. occupation and serves as an acknowledgement by the administration that it vastly underestimated the price tag of restoring order in Iraq and rebuilding its infrastructure.

The estimate was disclosed on the same day the administration provided details of a draft U.N. resolution that it is preparing in an effort to win foreign pledges for more troops and money for Iraq. The U.S. draft would authorize a multinational peacekeeping force under U.S. military command and would invite the nascent Iraqi Governing Council to submit a plan and a timetable for writing a constitution, creating a government and holding elections.

The decisions to seek new funds from Congress and to try to strike a bargain at the United Nations (news - web sites) signaled that President Bush (news - web sites) is trying to resolve festering disputes over his administration's Iraq policies before they turn into political liabilities. Both the rising cost of the military operations and the failure of the administration to share the peacekeeping burden in Iraq have prompted growing criticism on Capitol Hill and by Democratic presidential candidates.

The draft U.N. proposal appears to set up something unprecedented in U.N. history: a multinational force with a United Nations mandate in a country where the world body does not have political control or a say over who has political control.

The initial reaction of U.N. diplomats was mixed, with many viewing the draft as a basis for difficult negotiations over how much power the administration would be willing to cede to win an international imprimatur that some countries have demanded in exchange for their participation in a security force.

Administration officials portrayed the initiative as a further evolution of the president's pledge to give the United Nations a "vital role" in the rebuilding of Iraq. But it also marked a reversal for an administration that had once argued that the United Nations would become irrelevant if it failed to back the U.S.-led invasion earlier this year. For the first time, the administration is now indicating a willingness to give other nations a greater say in Iraq's future.

"With the resolution, you're essentially putting the Security Council into the game," said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who promoted the proposal in a blitz of phone calls to his foreign counterparts.

The spiraling cost of the Iraqi occupation was hinted by L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, last month when he said during a visit to Washington that "several tens of billions" of dollars will be needed over the next year to cover security and construction costs, revive the economy and help the Iraqis form a government.

But the administration has until now been reluctant to put a firm figure on its budget request. The request for new money, which has yet to be formally sent to Congress, follows a $79 billion wartime budget supplement for Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) that Bush signed in April. The administration must regularly approach Congress to fund ongoing military operations because they are not normally covered by the Pentagon (news - web sites) budget.

A White House spokesman said last night that the request for new money "has not been finalized." Other officials said the budget package has not yet been presented to Bush.

Congressional aides said the White House is discussing a variety of breakdowns for the spending. But one proposal would allocate about $55 billion for the Pentagon and $10 billion for reconstruction. Most of the money would be designated for Iraq, and a small part for Afghanistan.

Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record) (R-Pa.) said Bush gave no specific figures about his budget request during a meeting with Republican congressional leaders at the White House yesterday. The president told the leadership he is "not running this war out of Washington" and is going to adopt the requests of Bremer and Army Gen. John Abizaid, who as head of the U.S. Central Command is responsible for Iraq, Santorum said. Abizaid is scheduled to meet with members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees in closed sessions on Capitol Hill today.

"We were very clear that what the president wants, he's going to get," Santorum said.

The administration yesterday began circulating the draft U.N. resolution among Security Council members. Foreign diplomats welcomed the administration's willingness to expand the circle of decision-making on Iraq, but they expressed concern over its refusal to give up political power in Iraq in the near term. Thus, it was unclear whether the proposal would be enough to overcome the continuing bitterness over the administration's decision to launch a war after failing to win approval for a U.N. resolution authorizing military action. U.S. officials aim to begin bargaining next week in hopes of winning a deal before the U.N. General Assembly opens this month.

"It's going to be tough," said one U.S. official familiar with the reaction to Powell's calls to his counterparts in France, Germany, Britain, Russia and other key countries. "It's going to be particularly tough with the French," who led the opposition to a resolution authorizing the use of force and who have been demanding a central role for the United Nations in postwar Iraq.

In particular, diplomats are eager to understand know how much authority on political matters the United States would give to the Iraqis or the Security Council. "The big, big question mark is who will continue to be the [political] authority in Iraq," a senior council diplomat said. "Is it the U.N. or the U.S.? How could the U.N. create a multilateral force, led by the United States, and not be the international authority in the country?"

Another U.N. diplomat who has seen the draft resolution welcomed the U.S. decision to go beyond the military issue to cover the politics of Iraq -- specifically to give Iraqis a defined role in developing a constitution and a timetable for the transition to democracy.

The draft calls for an enhancement of the role of a U.S.-appointed Iraqi council, which has 25 members. It asks the Security Council "to endorse the Governing Council as the principal body of the Iraqi interim administration."

That could prove to be a problem, however, because the Governing Council has not been widely recognized. The Arab League has refused to recognize it, as have such institutions as the World Bank (news - web sites) and International Monetary Fund (news - web sites).

"The main question is whether the Governing Council will be accepted, respected and endorsed by the Security Council and the Arab world," a council diplomat said. "Some people call Chalabi a marionette from Washington," he added, referring to Ahmed Chalabi, the chairman of the Governing Council, who has close ties to the Pentagon.

Left vague are the relative roles of the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Bremer, and the United Nations itself. A question remains about what authority the occupation officials and the United Nations would have if they did not approve of the Iraqi draft constitution or timetable, the diplomat noted.

Diplomats said the structure of the military force is less of a concern, in part because it appears it would follow the model of previous forces in Kosovo, East Timor (news - web sites) and elsewhere, and in part because most of the other nations on the Security Council are not interested in shouldering the burden. India, Pakistan and Turkey are expected to be the largest source of potential troops. Only Pakistan is on the council.

Sources said that the security part of the resolution's text has already been shown to Pakistan and India, and that the objective right now for the administration is to get them to agree to send in troops.

Powell said he got a "positive response" in his calls, but he noted that "this is before they have studied the resolution and had a chance to make their own judgments. And as I've discovered with these resolutions, there's a large difference between an 'and' and an 'or.' "


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