U.N. Backs U.S. Postwar Plan

map and a flag of Iraq, with UN logo
The United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly Thursday to back a resolution giving the United States and Britain broad power in postwar Iraq.

The result was a foregone conclusion after Russia, France and Germany announced they supported the U.S.-British-Spanish plan.

Secretary of State Colin Powell had expressed hope for a unanimous 15-0 vote for the plan — but Syria didn't show up for the vote. So the resolution only got 14 "yes" votes.

The final resolution represented a compromise but left the underlying goal of the United States and its allies intact: Washington and London, as occupying powers, remain firmly in control of Iraq and its oil wealth "until an internationally recognized, representative government is established."

The resolution lifts the economic sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime in 1990 — meaning oil could begin flowing almost immediately. There are 8 million barrels of Iraqi oil in storage points at the Turkish port of Ceyhan that can be sold now, diplomats said.

In other developments:

  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair is denying a report that he ignored legal advice suggesting Britain and the U.S. were breaking the law in running post-war Iraq without United Nations support.
  • Electricity shortages plaguing Iraq's cities since Saddam Hussein's fall will taper off soon, but the country needs massive investments to fix its energy sector in coming years, the U.N. agency dealing with Iraq's infrastructure said.
  • There are increasing concerns about ethnic tensions in northern Iraq. This weekend, clashes between Kurds and Arabs left 11 people dead.
  • The Iraq war's top American commander ordered all full members of the toppled Baath Party on Thursday to identify themselves and await further instructions. "There must be no Baath Party activity, because the party no longer exists," said Gen. Tommy Franks.
  • A U.S. armored vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during a late-night raid in the restive central city of Fallujah, an American military officer said Thursday. Townspeople said two Iraqi civilians were killed in the shooting that followed. The U.S. military had no information on the deaths.
  • The U.S.-backed Iraqi Health Ministry ordered an immediate health survey around the sprawling but dormant Tuwaitha nuclear plant outside Baghdad. Members of the Iraqi nuclear agency have expressed concern about radiation damage to those living nearby.
  • With lawlessness still engulfing Baghdad, the United States began deploying its most experienced peacekeeping unit in the Iraqi capital. The U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division is scheduled to replace the 3rd Infantry Division — a move that will reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 170,000 to just over 100,000.

    The near-unanimous approval for the resolution marks a turnaround for the council, whose unity was shattered over the war.

    The United States called for a vote six weeks after the end of the war, less than two weeks after it first circulated a draft resolution, and following more than 90 changes to the text.

    French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Wednesday night that France, Russia and Germany had chosen "the path of unity of the international community" which is essential to deal with "the emergency" in Iraq and the Middle East and to fight terrorism and arms proliferation.

    In the resolution, the U.S. and Britain acknowledge that they are "occupying powers," in Iraq. But the United Nations has a stronger role in establishing a democratic government than initially envisioned, and the stature of a U.N. special representative in Iraq is increased.

    The U.N. representative is charged with coordinating humanitarian activities among U.N. entities and other organizations, overseeing refugees' return, monitoring human rights and assisting the reconstitution of the Iraqi police force and legal system.

    The U.N. coordinator is also supposed to work "to advance efforts" toward a representative government. The U.S. and Britain will be responsible for running the country until that government is in place.

    However, until the government is formed, the Americans and British — working with the U.N. representative — are to help the Iraqis set up a "transitional administration run by Iraqis."

    But the U.N. did not get the lead role that France, Russia and Germany would have liked. Many council members had complained the resolution set no end to the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq.

    U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte insisted the United States would not accept any time limits on how long it could administer Iraq.

    In a key concession, however, the United States agreed to let the Security Council "review the implementation of this resolution within 12 months."

    The resolution would lift economic sanctions without certification from U.N. inspectors, but it would reaffirm "that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations" and says the council will discuss the mandates of the U.N. inspectors later. It gave no time frame.

    Sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 technically cannot be lifted until U.N. weapons inspectors declare it free of weapons of mass destruction. But the United States has refused to allow them to return.

    Nearly half the seven-page resolution deal with arrangements to phase out the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program over the next six months and transfer control of Iraq's oil revenue from the United Nations to the United States and Britain.

    During the phase-out period, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will go through $10 billion worth of contracts approved and funded under the program and decide whether they are still needed by the Iraqi people. Many of these contracts are with Russian companies.

    The occupying powers, meanwhile, will take charge of a new Iraqi Development Fund, which will have an international advisory and monitoring board.

    The resolution grants immunity from lawsuits involving oil and natural gas until an internationally recognized government is in place and Iraq's $400 billion debt is restructured.

    The resolution also directs that 5 percent of the oil revenues will go to a separate fund to compensate Kuwait for damages from the 1990 invasion and occupation.