UNITED NATIONS - The United States and its allies - seeking swift U.N. approval for lifting sanctions on Baghdad - hinted yesterday at a larger political role for the United Nations in forming a new Iraqi government.
At the first Security Council sessions to consider a resolution on postwar Iraq issues - co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain - the coalition members also sought to address concerns that they wanted to control Iraq's oil wealth.
While many questions remained, the resolution would end economic sanctions and legitimize the allies' occupation of Iraq for at least a year. Also, it would allow Iraqi oil income to be used to rebuild the country.
While U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States expects to put the resolution to a vote next week, the Russian, German and French ambassadors spoke only of opening negotiations, indicating potential rough going for coalition plans.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan said his government had "a lot of concerns." Council diplomats said the French, Russians and Germans expressed serious reservations at the additional power that the resolution would give to the occupying countries.
Negroponte said experts from council nations were scheduled to meet this afternoon when a revised text of the resolution will be presented.
"For us, the most important point is that we think we need to move quickly," he said. "The sanctions need to be lifted as soon as possible, and we need to move on with many of the pressing questions which relate to restoring economic activity to the people of Iraq."
Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said council experts who met Monday to discuss the draft resolution posed dozens of questions to the co-sponsors.
"We got lots of interesting answers" - but not enough, Pleuger said. "At this point, I would say we are all still confused, but at a higher intellectual level."
For many council nations, a key element in a new resolution is the role of the United Nations in postwar Iraq.
Many members want the world body to play a significant political role and to help organize a conference to establish the framework for a new Iraqi government, similar to the Bonn conference in the fall of 2001 that created the post-Taliban interim government for Afghanistan.
"The U.N. role is going to be clarified a little bit better, and enhanced a little bit better," said Spain's U.N. Ambassador Inocencio Arias. "The U.N. is going to play a central role but not the central role."
Negroponte said, "We see a role in facilitating the political process," adding that a coordinator for Iraq, appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "could have a very, very important role indeed."
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock went further, telling the council that Britain would support holding a conference in Iraq to create a transitional government with U.N. involvement in a "strong role" that "should not be subordinate to the coalition," the council diplomats said.
"We've always said the U.N. should play a vital role," a U.S. official said, when asked to comment on Greenstock's proposal. "We are currently working with Security Council members to make clear what responsibilities the U.N. coordinator will have."
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said the co-sponsors went in the right direction with their responses to questions about their readiness "to reiterate respect for Iraq's right to control their natural resources" and to provide more details about the U.N. role in Iraq and the political process.
"We have to see how it's reflected on paper," he said, adding that "quite a number" of outstanding questions need answers before negotiations can begin.