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U.S. Goal is International Consensus on Iraq

U.S. Goal is International Consensus on Iraq, Official Says

Seeks to expand U.N. role in Iraqi political process, says Holmes

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

New York -- The overall aim of the U.S. effort to get a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq is to achieve an international consensus on the whole political process in Iraq, a senior U.S. official said September 24.

Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Kim R. Holmes said that work on a new resolution "is not just about troops. It is not just about finance. It's actually a larger question of how we bring the international community together on a consensus on the whole political process in Iraq. That's the larger picture that we are working on."

The United States is "trying to expand the role of the United Nations, have it more involved in the political process. We're trying to bring the council members together behind that process. That is our goal," Holmes said at a press conference during the opening week of the 58th U.N. General Assembly session.

President Bush opened the assembly's debate with a half-hour speech that concentrated on the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and the importance of economic assistance and an orderly transition to self-government for Iraq. "All nations of good will should step forward and provide that support," he said.

"The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by orderly and democratic means. This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis -- neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties," Bush said.

The United Nations can contribute greatly to the cause of Iraqi self-government by assisting in developing a constitution, training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections, the president said.

Holmes noted that the issues are "defining the vital role of the U.N., finding an appropriate consensus on the political timetable, the political process, and dealing with these differences of opinion on turning over authority."

The United States believes that turning over authority to the Iraqi people "should be at the end of a democratic process," he said.

"This would give the most legitimacy to whatever new government is created rather than handing it over early to some provisional government that would have neither the capacity nor the legitimacy to have full sovereign authority over the people of Iraq," Holmes said.

"The quicker we come together on this question, the quicker we move on a resolution and get the international community behind a common effort on returning authority to the Iraqi people, the faster it will go," the assistant secretary said. "The more we disagree, the more we delay, the more opportunities it gives to those who either through terrorism or through political obstructionism want to slow the process of democratization of Iraq."

Holmes said that at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, Great Britain and the United States) called by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan there was "a convergence on two essential points" of the resolution: the need for a new U.N. mandate to create a multinational force that would enhance security and stability in Iraq, and turning over sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people at the end of the process.

Holmes said he did not want to underestimate the differences that still exist overall, especially on the timing of the political process, but he said that he was "encouraged" by the constructive climate of the talks.

"We are listening, they are listening ... So far, I am encouraged," the assistant secretary said.

Holmes gave no indication of how long it will take to get a consensus text into the council chamber. "Where we go next depends on the results of the discussions of the principals" who are all in New York attending the General Assembly opening.

"It is going to take some tough discussions over the next few days," he said.

"The president said we are committed to this resolution and we will go forward with it," Holmes said. "We want to do this right. We want to take our time to put together a consensus in the council on this issue. "

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