During his visit to Europe this week, U.S. President George W. Bush expressed confidence that the compromises reached on a new draft Iraq resolution could enable it to be introduced in the United Nations within days.
President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac: Are better times ahead for them?
In Rome and Paris this week, Bush asked European leaders to support the latest draft Iraq resolution, and he appears to have gotten it, too. French President Jacques Chirac, one of the toughest critics of Washington's Iraq policies said after a one-hour talk with Bush on Saturday that he was confident that a U.N. resolution could soon be passed.
"I hope that we will manage within a few days to (agree) on a resolution which meets what is, in our eyes, essential, which is to give the Iraqis the feeling that they have regained their sovereignty and the mastery of their destiny," Chirac said. In surprisingly harmonious words, Chirac also said that he and Bushwould seek a common position on the Iraq issue, and that the two had conducted a "trusting" and "sincere" talk. France and the U.S., he said, share the same values of democracy, peace and human rights.
Still much to do
Chirac described the current situation in Iraq as "extremely precarious" and said there was no choice but to restore order in the country. He also sought to minimize France's differences with the Bush administration.
"Well you all know that our countries have had somewhat different approaches and solutions and a vision of the situation which was not similar," he said. "That being said, we share one and the same conviction today, namely that there is no alternative to restoring peace and therefore to restoring security and development in Iraq and that no effort must be spared in achieving this."
Bush is currently visiting France to participate in celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy during World War II. Upon his departure from Rome, where he met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi one day earlier, Bush said he believed the latest draft resolution from the U.S. and Britain deserved the "full support of the international community." He said he was confident the resolution, which would restore sovereignty to the Iraqis, would soon find majority support.
The U.S. and Britain released a reworked version of the resolution text on Friday night. The resolution endorses Iraq's new interim government and establishes a multinational force to provide security as the country tries to arrange elections in January. The resolution also gives the Iraqi leadership the right to expel foreign troops from the country. It states that the mandate for the U.S.-led international force in the country will end when a democratically elected government takes office in Baghdad "or earlier if the independent interim government of Iraq" so desires.
So far, the strongest criticism of the new draft has come from Russia. "We cannot say that it satisfies us entirely," said Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov. "We therefore believe further work is vital to reach agreement." The official for Russia, which holds veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council, said it had yet to be determined whether accepting a new resolution would clearly improve conditions in Iraq.
"A big catastrophe"
Both Bush and Berlusconi said during their visit that American and Italian troops should remain in Iraq as long as they are needed to ensure security and the building of a democratic nation requires. "Our troops will stay in the country, until the (Iraqi) government decides otherwise," the Italian prime minister told reporters.
In his first television interview on Friday, the newly appointed Iraqi interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, warned that a premature troop pullout could lead to a "big catastrophe" for his country. The U.S.-led occupation force, he said, must remain in place until Iraq has a functioning security apparatus and a proper army.
Parliament to draft constitution
Under the new resolution, the interim government would take "full responsibility and unlimited authority" for the country after the planned transfer of power on June 30. Parliamentary elections would then be scheduled sometime between Dec. 31 and January 31, 2005. The parliament's first duty would be to create a constitution that would lead to a constitutionally valid elected government by the end of 2005.