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Iraq Needs Multinational Force, Foreign Minister Says

United Nations -- Iraq needs the 160,000-troop multinational force (MNF) to remain in the country without any fixed departure date, Iraq's foreign minister told the U.N. Security Council June 3.

"The continued presence of the multination force is more a need for Iraq than for the U.S., the U.K. or Poland," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said, referring to nations with troops in the multinational force. "I stress that any premature departure of international forces would lead to chaos and the real possibility of a civil war in Iraq."

A premature departure of the multinational troops "would cause a humanitarian crisis and provide a foothold for terrorists to launch their evil campaign in our country and beyond our borders," he said.

Iraq is not yet prepared to handle its own security, Zebari said, adding: "I say that without any sense of hesitation or feeling of shame."

Zebari met with the Security Council two days after being appointed foreign minister in the new interim government that will assume sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) June 30. He flew to New York to discuss the council's draft resolution, presented by the United States and United Kingdom, which would endorse the restoration of Iraq's sovereignty and define the relationship between the United Nations, the coalition forces and Iraq after the end of the month.

Members of the 15-nation Security Council have been eager to get input from members of the newly appointed interim government on the resolution before continuing negotiations on the text and moving to a vote in the next few weeks.

Responding to some Security Council members who want to see the resolution set a departure date for the multinational force, the minister said: "I'll be very honest. You can ask any member of the new government. A call for an immediate withdrawal or a fixed timetable for withdrawal would be very, very unhelpful. It would be used by our enemies to complicate problems even further."

"The pattern of these attacks are all politically motivated. At every stage you see those forces who want to derail the process coming back and playing politics with bombings," he said.

Nevertheless, Zebari said, "the transitional Iraqi government and the new Iraqi government must have a say in the future presence of these [multinational] forces and we urge that this be reflected in the new resolution."

Zebari also said that it is important that the Security Council be united behind the resolution and pass it unanimously. "That will help us to move forward," he said.

The minister said that Iraqi military and police must be under Iraqi leadership. But with the relationship between the multinational force and the interim government, Zebari said, "we should use our imagination" to define the coordination of Iraqi forces and leadership and the multinational force "so they can work as partners in facing the security threats we are challenged with."

The arrangements should "neither compromise the sovereignty of the interim government nor the right of the multinational force to defend itself," Zebari said.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said that the proposed draft resolution "salutes the new moment that we are facing in Iraq's history. The occupation of Iraq will end. The Iraqi people will assume full responsibility and authority for governing a proud and rich nation."

"The council's timely passage of this resolution will bear witness to a fundamental change in the relationship between the Security Council and Iraq after nearly 14 years following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait," said Negroponte, who is the U.S. ambassador-designate to Iraq.

In the days ahead, the ambassador noted, the U.S. and multinational force partners will discuss with the incoming Iraqi government the nature of the security arrangements.

"This will be a true partnership, founded on shared goals and tangible cooperation at all levels -- from the soldiers on foot patrols to the highest levels of two sovereign governments," Negroponte said.

Zebari also asked the Security Council to include in the resolution an endorsement of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). The TAL, he said, "is the only legal framework and the interim arrangement that reflects the wishes of the majority of the Iraqi people for a free, unified, and democratic Iraq. Principles enshrined in TAL reflect Iraq's path of reform and democratization."

The minister said that the interim government wants "a new and unambiguous" resolution that "underlines the transfer of full sovereignty to the people of Iraq and their representatives" and marks a clear departure from previous Security Council resolutions passed since the end of the war that "legitimized the occupation of our country."

"By removing the label of occupation we will deprive the terrorists and anti-democratic forces of a rallying point to foment violence in our country," Zebari said.

He said the resolution must invest full authority in the interim government to run Iraq's affairs, make its own decisions, have authority over security matters, administer and manage its resources and assets, and have a leading role in "mechanisms to monitor the disbursements of its resources."

By Judy Aita Washington File United Nations Correspondent


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