France, Germany, Russia will vote


Thursday, October 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6




UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Germany, France and Russia _ the leading opponents to the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein _ decided Thursday to vote in favor of the latest U.N. resolution, seeking to restore international solidarity to Iraq's reconstruction effort.

The decision, announced by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a European summit in Brussels, marked a dramatic shift by the three countries. But in a blow to Washington's hopes that the resolution would attract troops and money for Iraq to ease the burden of American forces, the German and French leaders said all three ruled out any military commitments for now.

French diplomats said France and Germany have agreed to train Iraqi police either in the country or in Europe, but declined to say how much their financial contribution would be to that training program. They said both countries will attend the Oct. 23-24 donors' conference in Madrid, Spain, however.

Schroeder said he, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin made their decision during a 45-minute conference call.

``We agreed that the resolution is really an important step in the right direction,'' he said.

Russian news agencies reported Putin, who was visiting Malaysia, also confirmed that Russia, France and Germany would vote for the resolution.

At a news conference in Brussels for a summit of European Union leaders, Schroeder said the three found their concerns about the speed and direction of Iraqi reconstruction and restoring sovereignty were addressed in Washington's latest draft.

``Many things have been included from what we proposed,'' he said. ``This led us ... to jointly agree to the resolution.''

But he added that not all disagreements had been overcome. He did not elaborate, but said because of that, Germany, France and Russia were not ``in a position to engage ourselves militarily or beyond that, with material support.''

Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, also said the three ``are very far from being able to commit themselves financially or militarily'' to the reconstruction of Iraq.

Before committing troops, some countries told the United States they needed U.N. authorization, and Washington hoped that Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Korea and other countries might contribute soldiers to bolster 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Turkey went ahead and offered troops without a resolution. India's Defense Ministry indicated that sending troops was unlikely because of a surge in violence by Islamic militants in Kashmir. And Pakistan's Akram said Wednesday ``it would be difficult for Pakistan to provide forces'' without an invitation from the Iraqi people and a separate identity for the multinational force.

U.S. officials had been optimistic Wednesday about support from Russia and German, and they hadn't ruled out approval by France. China indicated it might support for the resolution that Washington also hopes will set Iraq on its way to independence.

``Our attitude has become more and more positive,'' said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose country supported the package of French-Russian-German amendments.

``For China, what we want to see is a stronger role for the U.N. and early return of the sovereignty. At this stage, I think this resolution is far from what (we) expect. But I think as council members, we should always be ready to make compromises,'' he said Wednesday.

Although the U.N. Security Council remains divided on how fast to transfer power to Iraqis _ and who should oversee Iraq's political transition from a dictatorship to a democracy _ the compromise appeared to be part of an effort to send a more united message on the importance of returning sovereignty to Iraq.

``Above all the unity of the international community must be preserved as much as possible,'' Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said.

However, she added that the three countries ``are very far from being able to commit themselves financially or militarily'' to the reconstruction of Iraq.

To get more troops and funds into Iraq, the resolution would authorize a multinational force under U.S. command and call for troop contributions as well as ``substantial pledges'' from the 191 U.N. member states at the donors' conference in Madrid.

A Wednesday vote had been delayed so Russia, France and Germany could decide whether to back the resolution _ despite Washington's refusal to support their key demand that it include a timetable to transfer power to Iraqis.

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, whose country was considered a swing vote, announced support for the U.S. draft ``despite some reservations on certain provisions.''

After rejecting the French-Russian-German demand for a timetable, the United States homed in on Russia in its search for votes. Moscow has taken a more moderate position than France and Germany.

Council diplomats said Washington asked what Moscow wanted and it submitted three amendments Wednesday morning. Less than 12 hours later they were accepted ``99 percent by the sponsors'' and included in a fifth draft of the resolution, said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.

The amendments would give U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan greater scope to participate in the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution and the political transition, and would state for the first time that the mandate of the multinational force authorized by the resolution would expire when an Iraqi government is elected.

Facing rising costs and casualties in Iraq, the Bush administration initially focused on getting more countries to provide troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

France, Russia and Germany changed the focus to the quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, forcing the United States to make clear it has no intention of remaining an occupying power.

The United States and Britain never wavered in their assessment that sovereignty can't be relinquished until Iraq drafts a new constitution and holds elections.

They agreed, however, to include new provisions urging the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority ``to return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable'' and calling on the Iraqi Governing Council to provide the Security Council with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding elections by Dec. 15.