Britain and US 'refuse to give ground over troop veto'
The United States and Britain are pressing the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution on Iraq as early as today to endorse the transfer of sovereignty to the interim government on 30 June.
A copy of the revised resolution, obtained by the news agency Reuters, shows, however, that Britain and the US have rejected an attempt to give Baghdad a virtual veto over major US military operations after the official end of the occupation. This could affect the recently increased optimism that the text, which is crucial to the White House strategy of being seen to relinquish political control of Iraq, will be adopted.
The upbeat mood came after an exchange of letters over the weekend laying out arrangements for giving the new government influence over the operations of the US-led multinational force. The agreement was outlined in a letter sent by the new Prime Minister of Iraq, Iyad Allawi, on Saturday. The other letter is from the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
British and American diplomats were yesterday rushing to draft a new version of the resolution to reflect Mr Allawi's letter, in the hope that it will be adopted by consensus in the council. Mr Allawi envisages creating a ministerial committee to co-ordinate the force's operations with US commanders.
There was still the chance of a last-minute hitch in New York, however. France, with some support from Algeria and Chile, was insisting last night that Iraq be allowed to veto any large-scale offensives by the foreign force. This was being resisted by London and Washington, however, and few diplomats expected France to win the point.
Britain and the US are proposing attaching the letters to the resolution. Most sources said this should satisfy most council members, many of whom have focused in recent days on what appeared to be vague language regarding how far Iraq could influence the actions of the multinational force. "We're confident that they do the trick," the British envoy, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, said of the letters. He said that London understood that "the policy on sensitive offensive operations" would require the assent of the new government in Baghdad.
The letters also spell out that Iraq will have complete control of its soldiers and its police force.
The passage of a UN resolution would signal that the arguments over Iraq had been largely resolved.