Wed, Oct 15, 2003 - Page 1 News List

US wants deadline for timetable on Iraqi constitution


The US has called for a vote this week on a new resolution that would set a Dec. 15 deadline for Iraq's Governing Council to submit a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections, while in Baghdad yesterday, a car bomb exploded near the Turkish Embassy.

The revised US draft doesn't meet the key demand of France, Germany, Russia and Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a quick handover of power to an Iraqi provisional government within months.

US President George W. Bush's main aim in seeking a new resolution is to get more countries to contribute troops and money to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. The resolution would authorize a multinational force -- sought by some potential troop contributing nations -- led by the US.

Even if there are no further changes, the resolution is likely to get the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption. France has ruled out using its veto -- but some council members are concerned at the mixed message the council would send if the resolution was only approved by a slim margin.

The revised resolution would give the UN a larger role in Iraq's political transition to a democracy, but the world body would not be able to act independently of the US-led coalition now running the country as Annan has sought.

The Bush administration revised the draft for a third time in hopes of addressing the concerns of key council nations and sending a unanimous message to Iraqis and the international community on the Security Council's vision for postwar Iraq.

The initial reactions were mixed.

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called the draft "a step in the right direction," while France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said more analysis was needed of the changes, which essentially call for a timetable to come up with a timetable.

In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said yesterday that China was studying the contents of the US draft. The spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue (章啟月), said, "China supports a new resolution to help Iraq realize security and stability immediately and return sovereignty to Iraq's people as quickly as possible. ... We hope the United Nations will have an increased role."

In Malaysia, foreign ministers at the world's biggest gathering of Islamic countries reacted coolly.

"If we look back at the Security Council debates, we must be pessimistic," Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Council summit.

"They have debated international law, the balance of power and everything else under the sun, except what Iraq needs. We hope these things will be reversed this time," he said.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded yesterday near the Turkish Embassy, killing the driver and injuring two staff members, the US military said.

It was the second fatal car bombing in the Iraqi capital in three days.

A concrete security barrier close to the embassy absorbed most of the blast and prevented further damage and injuries, US officials said.

A US military spokesman said an explosion occurred about 500m from the embassy.

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