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U.N. Security Council Passes Iraq Resolution

The U.N. Security Council unanimously backed a U.S.-British resolution on Iraq's future Tuesday in a major step to healing the deep international divisions over the war that brought down Saddam Hussein.

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The Security Council voted 15-0 for the resolution

World leaders have praised the new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq, which endorses the new interim government, and sets out a timetable for democratic elections to be held no later than January 31, 2005.

British and American leaders took the unanimous vote as a sign that that the international community stands behind their plans for Iraq's future.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the vote a
"milestone". "We all now want to put the divisions of the past behind us and unite behind the vision of a modern, democratic and stable Iraq that can be a force for good, not just for Iraqis but for the whole region and thus the whole world," Blair said.

"This is a very important moment," U.S. President George W. Bush said before the vote. "A free Iraq will serve as a catalyst for change in the broader Middle East, which is an important part of winning the war on terror."

Main points

The resolution gives international legitimacy to the new caretaker government in Baghdad, which takes over from U.S. forces on June 30. It places Iraqi security forces under Iraqi control, and also gives Iraq the authority to request the departure of the roughly 150,000 U.S.-led troops.

While troops remain in the country, they have leeway to take "all necessary measures" in fighting insurgents.

The resolution gives the new government control over oil and gas revenues, and adds an Iraqi member to the international advisory board charged with ensuring fiscal transparency.

It also provides for the establishment of a dedicated force to provide security for U.N. staff in Iraq, a key concern for the world body after a bombing at the U.N.'s Baghdad offices in August killed 22 people.

Compromise necessary

The U.S. and Britain had to compromise on the issue of U.S.-led forces before they could clinch the diplomatic victory. France and Germany, two of the council's most vocal critics of the war in Iraq, wanted the interim government to have veto power over major military operations. Iraq's new leaders didn't demand such power, so Paris and Berlin agreed to the U.S. compromise to coordinate "sensitive" offensive operations with a national security committee.

France has called the resolution "an important text for pursuing the political process in Iraq."

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder was also pleased with the outcome, and said it would bring "more stability" to Iraq. Germany had been calling for a complete, swift transfer of sovereignty to Iraq's transitional government, and that's what this resolution promises, Schröder said. He reaffirmed his earlier decision not to send any German troops to Iraq, but said Germany would continue to help with the reconstruction effort.

Doubts about stability persist

Although largely hailed as a victory for Iraq and international diplomacy, concerns remain about whether the resolution will create stability on the ground.

Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Alexander Konuzin noted that the situation in Iraq "remains a bleeding wound in the Middle East and in world politics." He said only time would tell whether the resolution would help achieve a turnaround.

European Commission President Roman Prodi struck a similarly cautious note, saying the impact of the resolution "has to be judged on its capacity to create a new situation with respect to the chaos, not necessarily tomorrow morning, but reasonably soon."

In Germany, criticism came from Green party parliamentarian Hans Christian Ströbele, who said the new resolution isn't sufficient, as it doesn't specify a date when U.S.-led troops should leave the country. In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung, Ströbele said that U.S. soldiers should prepare to leave within months. "I don't think that it will be possible to stabilize Iraq until there's a definite date for the troops to pull out," Ströbele said.

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