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Iraq: Bush, Blair seek new U.N. backing

By Kamal Ahmed

THE UNITED Nations is to be given a lead role in post-occupation Iraq under British and American plans to shore up crumbling international support for the continuing military presence in the country. United Kingdom officials said there would be a sustained push for a fresh U.N. resolution `mandating' the continued military presence in Iraq after the handover to the transitional government in June.

The move comes a week after the new Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, threatened to withdraw troops from the coalition force unless it was given a greater degree of international legitimacy. British officials said Republican claims from America that Spain had `appeased' terrorists were unhelpful and wrong. The Polish Government, which also supports the military action in Iraq, has now also suggested that it was misled on the reasons for war.

The resolution, which British sources believe will be backed by the Security Council, will also allow the U.N. a role in overseeing Iraq's first democratic elections and the judicial and legal framework which the new government will rely on to protect individual freedoms. Britain will then suggest a NATO role in security matters in Iraq, as happened successfully in Afghanistan.

The move comes as the British Labour Party adopted a new foreign policy document this weekend, which said that all international conflict had to be `within a U.N. framework.' In a potential snub to Tony Blair, the document, which is likely to be published as a policy paper before the next election, said that military action could only be taken `as a last resort' and had to be `in accordance with international law'.

An amendment demanding that all military action must be sanctioned by the U.N. was defeated at the party's national policy forum in Warwick.

The push by British diplomats for a new resolution reveals Mr. Blair's enthusiasm for U.N. `cover' in Iraq. With international support slipping, Whitehall sources believe that the U.N. is the only route that can ensure pan-European support for a continued presence in Iraq.

"When we need a resolution is fairly clear — when we are coming up to May and June. We will then need to address the prospect of a transitional government," said one senior British official closely involved in the negotiations. "We will have to cover the continuing multinational force and endorse that as being the clear wish of the Iraq people. And we'll need to look forward to what is going to be this enhanced U.N. role post-30 June."

He said the U.N. could ratify decisions made by the transitional government, help it prepare for elections and enshrine democracy.

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