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U.N. Approves Multinational Force in Iraq by Dec. 2003

By Felicity Barringer

The New York Times

The Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved a U.S.-British resolution authorizing a U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq and setting a target date of Dec. 15 for Iraq’s Governing Council to lay out a timetable for creating a constitution and democratic government.

The international unity on display in the lofty council chamber when all 15 ambassadors raised their hands in assent was something of a diplomatic triumph for the Bush administration after months of apparent isolation here.

The United States and Britain won an international mandate for implementing what is largely their vision of Iraq’s political future while creating a U.N.-authorized multinational force under American command.

In a statement, President Bush welcomed the vote, saying, “The world has an opportunity -- and a responsibility -- to help the Iraqi people build a nation that is stable, secure, and free. This resolution will help marshal even more international support for the development of a new, democratic Iraq.”

But as soon as the resolution passed, several late converts -- including France, Germany and Pakistan -- made clear that it was still too flawed, in their view, to spur any contributions of troops or money beyond current assistance.

A Muslim nation, Pakistan was one of the countries that Washington had hoped would contribute troops.

Russia, France and Germany, the countries which had most visibly opposed the war, issued a joint statement saying, “We believe that the resolution should have gone further on two major issues: first, the role of the United Nations, in particular in the political process, and second, the pace of the transfer of responsibilities to the Iraqi people.”

These comments made it clear that the resolution had not done much more than paper over the fundamental differences dividing the United States from many council members, who felt that the measure should have mandated a quick, time-limited transfer of responsibilities from the coalition authorities to the Iraqis.

Still, the vote ended America’s diplomatic isolation. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called the vote “a great achievement for the entire Security Council, to come together again in this manner.” The resolution, he said, allow the international community to move forward to restore full sovereignty of Iraq back to the Iraqi people in a careful, deliberate way.“

The unanimous vote was the product of a last-minute deal brokered Wednesday between the United States and Russia, after China had indicated its support for the draft, council diplomats said.

Russia offered amendments giving the United Nations more flexibility in taking on political tasks and making clear that the multinational force’s mandate will end when the political transition is complete.

But just when that transition will be over was left unclear. The Iraqi Governing Council must submit a timetable by December 15, and allow it to be reviewed by the Security Council, but no stipulation on the nature of that timetable was included. This left the Bush administration with the room for maneuver that it sought, officials said.

The administration appeared to have Russia to thank for the unanimous vote. “Russia was the catalyst,” one council diplomat involved in the negotiations said.