UN draft strengthens Iraq's hand over troops

Posted in Other | 07-Jun-04 | Author: Patrick Wintour| Source: Guardian

Jack Straw will today tell MPs that the UN security council is on the verge of agreeing on a resolution handing the Iraqi caretaker government full consultation and coordination rights over military action in the country.

Talks are still under way at the UN in New York over the wording of the resolution, designed to hand sovereignty to the interim government on June 30. But ministers are confident that an agreement will be secured this week.

The interim Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, who formally takes power at the end of the month, stressed yester day he was not seeking a veto over the activity of coalition forces. He has written to the UN asking that coalition troops remain in the country for at least a year.

The UN draft text is likely to say that the multinational forces will be able to act only with "the full agreement" of the interim government, a stronger version of a previous draft that referred to the need for full consensus.

Precise details are likely to be contained in an exchange of letters between the new government and the multinational forces.

Speaking on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost programme yesterday, Mr Allawi said he did not like talk of a veto over multinational forces. He said his letter stressed "the actions should be agreed and there should be a full and comprehensive coordination and cooperation between the Iraqi government and the multinational forces both in defensive and offensive situation".

The resolution will propose a national security committee chaired by the prime minister and including coalition troop leaders. Similar regional security consultation bodies will be established.

The wording does not amount to a complete veto, something the Iraqi government is not seeking, on the basis that coalition troops will need the freedom to protect themselves from attack. The wording is similar to the mandate given to coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Discussing the length of the mandate, Mr Allawi said: "After a year things would be discussed and negotiated again with the security council, but we are adamant that the multinational forces should be employed in Iraq with and in coordination with the Iraqis to secure the country from its enemies."

It has already been agreed that the resolution will state that the multinational forces will remain in Iraq only until the review of the mandate at the end of next year, by which time there will have been elections.

Discussions are also still under way on the right of coalition forces to keep prisoner anyone seized in Iraq and regarded as a foreign terrorist.

The success of the cooperation between coalition troops and the new Iraqi government will largely turn on the scale of the continuing resistance and the credibility of the new government.

Tony Blair and George Bush would be greatly relieved if the resolution is agreed this week, before the close on Thursday of the G8 annual meeting in the US state of Georgia. President Bush is pressing for a generous debt relief scheme for the new Iraqi government.