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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Mulls Resolution to Return Control to Iraqis

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- The United States said Monday that it would lay out steps in a new draft UN resolution to put Iraqis back in control of their country as the human cost of occupying Iraq mounted.

The UN resolution, which U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted would be ready within days, was aimed at answering European complaints that a previous draft was too vague on how Iraqis could replace U.S. occupation authorities.

A U.S. soldier was killed in a bomb explosion on Monday as a U.S. military convoy traveled along a road near Habbaniyah, about 70 kilometers from Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said. Another soldier was wounded as American forces backed by helicopters fought guerrillas for hours.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington wanted the UN Security Council to pass the proposed resolution before a conference of aid donors for Iraq, scheduled to open in Madrid on Oct. 23.

"The goal is to respond in some ways to the desire of other governments to have a sense of ... movement and momentum toward that political horizon, so we will be making appropriate modifications," Boucher told a daily briefing.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers called for the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty but set no timetable, unlike EU members France and Germany, which have demanded such a move within months.

Signaling room for compromise with the United States, Russia said it wants a "realistic but short" timeline for handing over power in Iraq and is prepared to accept a stage-by-stage transition provided the United Nations receives a major political role.

As U.S. officials worked on a revised resolution, there was a general welcome for Powell's proposal last Thursday for Iraqis to adopt a constitution in six months and hold elections perhaps in a little more than a year. Powell made clear in weekend interviews, however, that the United States will not relinquish power until a democratically elected Iraqi government is in place -- a view supported by Britain, which joined Washington in the war.

But that was far too long for France, which led the opposition to the war. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin reiterated Monday that "France insists on the implementation of a rapid transfer of power ... within several months." On Sunday, he said France would like to see sovereignty transferred to Iraqis by the end of the year.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov, whose country also opposed the war, indicated more flexibility after this weekend's meetings between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin at the Camp David presidential retreat.

"Russia's position is that we, of course, believe that the sooner the sovereignty of Iraq is restored the better it would be for the overall settlement and rehabilitation of this country," Fedotov said.

"On the other hand, we are prepared to move on a stage-by-stage basis provided that necessary UN auspices are provided for the overall transition process in Iraq."

Asked whether that meant Russia could accept the Powell timeline, Fedotov said, "We believe the timeline should be realistic but short."

Germany, another opponent of the war currently on the UN Security Council, in recent weeks has moved closer to Washington and did not insist on a timetable. At Monday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said: "We will actively support the sovereignty of the Iraqi people and at the same time avoid new risks," including a "power vacuum" in Iraq.

In Washington, Boucher said, "We should be ready to go back to other governments within the next few days to talk about the resolution and to give them some idea of modifications to the text."

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that the United States has agreed to give the United Nations a bigger role in the elections and political transformation of Iraq as France and others have demanded.

French President Jacques Chirac has ruled out using France's veto on a new resolution, but many council members would like to see all 15 members support the text to show that the Security Council, after the bitter division over the war, is speaking with one voice on the future of Iraq.

Egypt welcomed Powell's timeline, saying the council must agree on one.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, whose country opposed the war, said Monday at the UN General Assembly that a new resolution must have the support of Iraq's neighbors. Syria is a temporary Security Council member.

(Reuters, AP)