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U.S. offers revised U.N. resolution describing troop withdrawal

WASHINGTON—The United States on Wednesday for the first time explicitly described a procedure for American combat troops to leave Iraq after the country is returned to its people.

The plan is part of a revised U.N. resolution on Iraq that's designed to attract greater international backing for the U.S. position on the country and to encourage larger contributions of peacekeeping troops and rebuilding money.

It remains to be seen whether the changes will be enough to assuage the criticism, mostly from European nations, that President Bush encountered during his visit to the United Nations last week.

Some countries want a clearer idea of when the United States will exit. The revised resolution, however, sets no firm deadlines.

Senior administration officials said the document, approved at the White House on Sunday, says an American-led multinational force will leave Iraq after a new Iraqi administration is in place.

The document says the de facto U.S. government in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority, is "temporary, until an internationally recognized government is established," said a senior American official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It gives "not an end date, but an end point," the senior official said.

Attempting to dispel the image of the United States as an occupier, it says "the sovereignty of Iraq resides in the state of Iraq," he said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a news briefing that the changes are a response to other countries' desire to see a clear timeline and process for Iraqis to reassert control over their country.

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday telephoned colleagues from Britain, Germany and other nations on the Security Council seeking their support on the draft resolution.

There was no immediate public reaction from Security Council members, including France, which has led international criticism of Bush's decision to go to war last March.

But one diplomat from a Security Council member said Europeans weren't optimistic about major concessions from the Bush administration.

France has insisted on a more concrete timetable, including the almost immediate establishment of a provisional Iraqi government and national elections by next spring.

The United States has rejected such demands as too hasty. Powell last week urged the Iraqis to write a new constitution within six months, but members of the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad said that was unlikely.

American officials said Wednesday that they expected the resolution to win the nine votes it needs to pass when it's put before the council. But they're hoping to maximize the number of votes, to give greater international legitimacy to U.S. operations in Iraq.

Even if the resolution passes, however, nations Washington has lobbied for more peacekeeping troops and rebuilding money have offered a largely tepid response.

In late October, diplomats and financiers will meet in Madrid, Spain, in hopes of collecting some of the tens of billions of dollars that will be needed to revive Iraq's decrepit infrastructure in coming years.

The new draft resolution also is more specific about the planned role for the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq. It refers to a July 17 report by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that outlines which tasks his organization can undertake in the country.

In that report, Annan proposed a new U.N. mission in Iraq headed by a special representative with responsibilities including humanitarian relief, human rights and assisting Iraq's political process. But the United Nations has continued to reduce, not increase, its Iraq staff since the August bombing of a U.N. headquarters in Baghdad killed 22 people, including the head of the U.N. mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.