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REBUILDING IRAQ -- UNITED NATIONS

2 more back resolution

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States picked up important support from China and Pakistan for its new Iraq resolution late yesterday, and US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell predicted "a successful vote."

But Russia's UN ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, asked for voting to be postponed until today so the leaders of France, Russia, and Germany could discuss the final draft and decide whether or not to support the resolution.

After closed-door consultations among the 15 Security Council members, US Ambassador John Negroponte said the council would meet at 10 a.m. today to vote, diplomats said. No country threatened a veto.

Russia, Germany, and France, which opposed the US-led war on Iraq, had called on the United States to reverse itself and agree to a speedy handover of power to Iraqis.

On Tuesday, the United States had rejected their demand to add to the resolution a timetable for the transfer of sovereignty.

"What I want to stress is that there is real movement toward greater consensus in the council on the basis of our draft text," said Negroponte, the Security Council president.

Several wavering council nations backed his view.

"I think our attitude has become more and more positive," said China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, who had supported the French-Russian-German amendments.

"If a vote is taken, I hope that there will be more members supporting this draft," Wang added.

Pakistan's UN ambassador, Munir Akram, whose country was considered a swing vote, said as he headed into consultations: "We will vote for the resolution."

Powell embarked on a final round of diplomacy yesterday morning, talking by telephone to the presidents of Pakistan and Angola, the foreign ministers of China, Russia, and Britain, and twice to Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France.

"A great deal of progress has been made over the last 24 hours, and especially today," Powell said in Washington. "I think that we will have a successful vote on the resolution."

"We have been listening to our friends," and the administration is open to compromise while preserving "our firm positions," he said.

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States agreed to add new language about a stronger UN role in Iraq's political transition and to make clear that the US occupation will end when a new government is formed.

But Washington did not change its mind on the French-Russian-German proposal that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Security Council be given a role in establishing a timetable for transferring power, along with the US-led coalition and the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Lavrov said because the three countries had submitted joint amendments and "not all of them have been taken into account," they needed to discuss the final text.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had scheduled a teleconference at 6 a.m. today with President Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, Lavrov said.

Because of this, he said, "we cannot vote tonight -- I hope this is understood."

The US-backed resolution had been expected to get at least the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption. With the Pakistani and Chinese support, only the votes of Russia, France, Germany, and Syria appeared to be in doubt.

Whatever the vote, the council remains divided on how fast to transfer power to Iraqis and who should oversee Iraq's political transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.

The United States and Britain insist that sovereignty cannot be relinquished until Iraq drafts a new constitution and holds elections. Their refusal to set a timetable clearly rankled.

France's de Villepin, whose country has led calls for the United States to hand over power by the end of the year, said yesterday that sovereignty must be returned to the Iraqi people "as soon as possible."

"Let us not underestimate the ability of the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their own destiny," he said at a lecture in London filmed for the BBC. "Reform has to come from within."

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of Russia said the resolution should take into account the views of Moscow, Berlin, and Paris "so that the unity of the world community in tackling the Iraq crisis is maintained."

When the United States first talked about a new resolution six weeks ago, the primary aim was to get more countries to provide troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

Those aims still hold, and the resolution would authorize a multinational force under US command and call for "substantial pledges" from the 191 UN member states at a donors conference in Madrid on Oct. 23-24.

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