Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Sunday, March 30, 2003

Iraq Remains Test for Unity of UN Security Council

A potential humanitarian catastrophe in the war-torn Iraq provided an opportunity for the United Nations Security Council to heal its wound caused by the long bitter row over whether it should back war on Iraq.


A potential humanitarian catastrophe in the war-torn Iraq provided an opportunity for the United Nations Security Council to heal its wound caused by the long bitter row over whether it should back war on Iraq.

After a week of arduous negotiations, the council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution revamping the oil-for-food program. The measure was co-sponsored by all the 15 council members, a collective move rarely taken by the body.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and many council members hailed the vote, which came a week after the United States and Britain abandoned their efforts to win UN approval of war against Iraq and went it alone.

"It (the vote) augurs well for future tasks ahead of us," Annan told reporters here. "We have many challenging questions and I hope we will be able to approach these tasks with the same spirit."

Analysts here, however, predicted that the council could see the wound bleeding again when it comes to the sensitive issue of arrangements in the post-war Iraq. The US-led coalition launched the war on Iraq 10 days ago in a bid to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

In fact, a row over what role the United Nations could play in the post-war Iraq was already brewing at the council and among major capitals around the world.

Friday's resolution makes the United Nations a key player in supplying humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people, but did not mention any UN role beyond that. It resolved the humanitarian challenge arising from the war, but stopped short of touching such sensitive issues as political, economic and security arrangements in future Iraq.

France, Russia and Germany, staunch opponents to the war against Iraq, have already made it clear that the United Nations should play a leading role in administering the post-war Iraq.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told a German television Friday that the post-war period must be organized "under the aegisof the United Nations" and Germany would be ready to offer assistance toward reconstruction in Iraq "in such case."

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin earlier also saidcategorically that the United Nations should have a central role in peace-building and economic reconstruction in Iraq.

But Washington, which has its own agenda, is unlikely to allow a UN-led interim administration to govern Iraq before a new Iraqi government is elected, a model that had been implemented in East Timor during its transition to full independence.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell shed some light on the agenda last Wednesday during a hearing at the House of Representatives. He said that Washington would not agree to the United Nations overseeing a transitional authority for Iraq.

"We would not support ... handing everything over to the UN for someone designated by the UN to suddenly become in charge of this whole operation," he emphasized.

Although Powell did not go into details on the issue, a leaked plan of the US administration showed that it wants Iraq ruled under the direct control of a US military commander for a certain period before transferring the power to civilian authorities.

But such a plan is alienating the United States and its two allies -- Britain and Spain -- which have threw strong backing behind the US-led invasion. Britain even sent troops to fight alongside the US forces.

Facing fierce domestic opposition to a war without UN backing, both Britain and Spain have proposed getting the UN involved and giving it a greater UN role in Iraq than Washington is willing to give.

On his return to London from his summit with US President George W. Bush, Blair said Friday that he favored the formation by the United Nations of a representative government in the post-war Iraq.

The British leader is also reportedly pushing for a UN resolution giving the international body the lead role in governing Iraq after the current war ends. But so far, there have been no signs that Washington had accepted his idea.

Nevertheless, analysts here predicted that the United States could consider giving the UN a coordination role in order to utilize the UN rubber stamp to legitimize its post-war arrangements.

It is also possible for the United States to give up its plan for a military administrator for Iraq and instead support the appointment of a puppet civilian leader, who is pro-US but acceptable to the UN, they said.

If the United States bypasses the United Nations and sets up a military administration in Iraq, its self-proclaimed image of "liberator" could be totally damaged.

Establishment of a military authority in Iraq could nurture resentment among the Iraqis and confirm the view held by many that the United States is a neo-colonialist, they warned.

Likewise, the United States could allow the United Nations to act as a junior partner in Iraq's economic reconstruction while keeping a dominant role in distributing reconstruction contracts.

On the other hand, France and other nations, which have voiced objection to adopting any resolution that would in effect legitimize the conflict, could eventually make concessions on UN involvement in rebuilding Iraq.

Otherwise, the United Nations, the world's main authority in maintaining peace and security, could risk being ignored again and significantly marginalized. Therefore, a compromise solution on post-war civil administration could be found in the Security Council, but with so much economic interests at stake, horse trading and bitter bickering seem inevitable.

However, Washington, which has already made public its intention to maintain a long-term military presence in Iraq, would undoubtedly keep its sole authority on the security affairs of the post-war Iraq. Recent media reports quoted the "hawks" in the Pentagon as saying the United States planned to turn the new Iraq into a forward base in Middle East.

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UN Role in Post-war Iraq must be Decided by Security Council: Annan

UN Approves Resolution on Oil-for-food Program for Iraq

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