U.N. resolution on Iraq passes unanimously
Iraqi official: Measure removes 'concept of occupation'
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution that endorses the June 30 transfer of sovereignty in Iraq and gives authorization for a U.S.-led multinational force.
President Bush said the vote was a "great victory for the Iraqi people." Pakistan's U.N. ambassador called it the "most significant" diplomatic step on Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.
Approval of the U.S.-British resolution came after weeks of intense negotiation, with many key diplomats seeking a better explanation of the multinational force's role after the June 30 handover.
France and Germany, two of the most strident opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, signaled their approval of the resolution late Monday.
The compromise resolution says the multinational force will serve "at the request of the incoming interim government of Iraq" and that the force can be asked to leave at anytime.
It also says the force will be able to take "all necessary measures to contribute to maintenance of security and stability" in Iraq and gives a 12-month deadline for the force to be reviewed. In addition, it asks member states to contribute to the force.
Under the resolution, the interim government will serve until national elections are held. The resolution says national elections will be held on December 31, 2004, if possible, and no later than January 31, 2005.
With U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan looking on, the 15 representatives of the Security Council member nations raised their hands at the horseshoe-shaped table after being asked if they supported Resolution 1546.
"The result of the voting is as follows: 15 votes in favor," said U.N. Security Council President Lauro Baja of the Philippines.
Feisal Amin Al-Istrabadi, the senior legal adviser to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, observed the vote in Iraq's chair.
"I very much welcome this. I think it is a good resolution in itself -- no less important is the fact that it has been adopted unanimously," Annan told reporters afterward.
"I believe it is a genuine expression of the will of the international community, led by the Security Council, to come together again after last year's divisions and to help the Iraqi people take charge of their own political destiny -- in peace and freedom -- under a sovereign government."
Speaking on Sea Island, in the southern U.S. state of Georgia where the Group of Eight economic summit was under way, Bush welcomed the resolution as Russian President Vladimir Putin stood at his side.
"The vote ... was a great victory for the Iraqi people," Bush said. "The international community showed it stands side by side with the Iraqi people. ... America supports strongly the idea of a free society in the midst of hatred and intolerance."
Putin called the resolution a "major step forward."
At the United Nations, both France and Germany expressed their solidarity with the resolution.
"Germany supports this resolution as an important step towards the restoration of full sovereignty of the Iraqi interim government in all relevant areas and towards Iraqi ownership," said Germany's U.N. ambassador, Gunter Pleuger.
French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere noted that the recent negotiations were "demanding," but that the world body considered France's concerns.
"Our main concern has been taken into account, and this is why we think it is a good resolution," he said.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte hailed the resolution as an important milestone and "a vivid demonstration of broad international support" for the new Iraqi government.
"Resolution 1546 defines the key political tasks in which the United Nations shall play a leading and vital role to support Iraqi efforts. This resolution makes clear Iraq's sovereignty will be undiluted," Negroponte said.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya described the resolution as a "milestone that marks an end to the past and a beginning of the future."
One of the strongest statements of support came from Munir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations.
"We view this resolution as the most significant step since the first Gulf War towards the full normalization of the situation in Iraq," he said.
U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been a key point man in bringing about not only the resolution but also the formation of the interim government.
He told the council Monday that Iraq would need the world's assistance for some time to come.
"The days and weeks ahead will severely test this new government, and the solution to Iraq's current challenges will take years, not months, to overcome," Brahimi said.
In remarks Tuesday to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Zebari said "the significance of the resolution is really to take away the concept of occupation, which I would say is the reason for many of the difficulties we've been going through since liberation on April 9 ."
He said the resolution would enhance the government's legitimacy.
"It will not be seen as purely an American-led administration."
On the subject of the need for coalition or multinational forces in Iraq, Zebari said: "We need these forces. It is an Iraqi need, more than an American or coalition need. The consequences would be catastrophic."
Zebari said "withdrawal would create a vacuum and we, the Iraqis, are not ready to fill it. There would be the possibility of a junior Saddam coming up again."