After weeks of diplomatic wrangling, the United States scored a victory at the
United Nations with the Security Council’s unanimous vote for its plan for
rebuilding Iraq.

The resolution required the support of nine of the council’s 15 members to pass and no veto.

In a telephone blitz, Secretary of State Colin Powell succeeded in overcoming continued resistance by council members who opposed the war in Iraq – France, Germany, Russia and Syria – as those four countries finally agreed to back the fifth draft of the resolution at the last minute.

While not threatening to veto the reconstruction resolution as they had the resolution authorizing military force in Iraq in the months leading up to the war, permanent Security Council members France and Russia were expected to abstain from voting.

The crucial tip of the scales came this morning when after a 45-minute conference call, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he had agreed with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin to support the plan.

Jean-Marc de La Sabli?re, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Sergey V. Lavrov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, and Gunter Pleuger, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, before yesterday’s Security Council meeting.

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

At the same time, a well-informed U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CBS that Syria had notified the U.S., which holds the Security Council presidency this month, it would support the resolution.

“I think this is a great achievement for the Security Council in coming together,” Powell said, adding that President Bush was “very, very pleased” with the vote.

Secretary Powell flanked by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and United Kingdom Foreign Minister Jack Straw

The chief complaint with the reconstruction proposal was that the U.S. retains full control over the country. Detractors had wanted the U.N. to take over the reins.

The resolution adopted gives U.N. authority to a multinational, U.S.-led force in Iraq and calls for troop contributions as well as “substantial pledges” from the 191 U.N. member states at a donors conference in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 23-24. Pledges have already been made by Turkey and Japan.

Amendments yielded concessions to critics and allow the U.N. a greater role in the political and economic reconstruction process. However, the U.S. did not budge on the French-German-Russian demand of a timetable for transferring power.

The U.S. also agreed to a provision that sets a deadline of Dec. 15 for Iraq’s interim Governing Council to provide the Security Council with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

Calling the process “difficult,” U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan welcomed the vote.

“Our common objective is to restore peace and stability to a sovereign, democratic and independent Iraq as quickly as possible,” he said.

Similarly, France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said France wanted to make unity in the council “a priority.”

French officials added, however, that their support of the resolution would not translate into the funds and troops sought by the U.S.

The starkly different tone of cooperation among Security Council members marks a victory for the Bush administration, which was slammed by war critics who perceived its snub of the U.N. as causing irreparable damage to international relations.

The unity also lends credibility to the global body increasingly seen as irrelevant.

Asked his reaction to the vote, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated it might help stabilize the security situation in Iraq.

“It’s a good thing that it passed. It will have a favorable effect in some countries that indicated they would prefer to have an additional U.N. Security Council resolution. Which countries and how many troops it will affect will remain to be seen,” he said.

Rumsfeld told reporters Washington is in discussion with five to seven countries as to the number of troops they will donate.

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