Washington tabled a new draft resolution on Iraq at the UN Security Council on 2 October, calling on the organisation to take a central role in reconstruction and appealing to the international community for military and financial support. Congressional pressure on US President Bush to share the burden is growing, as he seeks approval for billions of dollars for reconstruction.

The new resolution, presented the day after the US assumed the rotating Security Council presidency, puts far greater emphasis on the UN than have previous texts on the subject. ‘The UN. should strengthen its vital role in Iraq,’ it says, envisaging the organisation’s assistance in economic reconstruction, humanitarian relief and particularly in the post-war political process.

The resolution also mandates a multinational peacekeeping force to take responsibility for maintaining the security necessary for political progress. US diplomats are privately pessimistic about securing major deployments. Lobbying has focused on India, Pakistan, South Korea and Turkey but Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 28 September that New Delhi had declined to send troops and Islamabad is likely to be deterred by domestic opposition. Ankara is understood to be demanding reciprocal assurances of US action against secessionist Kurds based in northern Iraq. Seoul is currently considering the request.

Financial burden-sharing is an increasingly urgent priority for the White House. A bill allocating $87,000 million for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has provoked strong congressional objections. In contention is not the military financing but the $20,300 million set aside for reconstruction. Lawmakers are calling for a portion of this to be extended in the form of loans rather than grants and are demanding assurances that none of the funds will find their way into the coffers of foreign governments to repay the debts of the old Baathist regime.

Even if the budget is passed in its present form, the amount pledged will fall well short of requirements. An assessment prepared by the World Bank, the IMF and the UN ahead of the 23-24 October donors’ conference in Madrid puts Iraq’s reconstruction needs over the next three years at some $55,000 million. The US’ draft resolution calls on international financial institutions ‘to provide their full range of loans and other financial assistance’ and on member states and international organisations to make ‘substantial pledges’ in Madrid.

The omens so far are not good. The EU announced in late September that it would offer Eur 200 million ($234 million) and was immediately forced to refute accusations of miserliness. ‘The figure we are proposing for the next 14 months is a realistic response to the needs identified by the World Bank and UN, as well as to the budgetary resources available… [it is] not a political signal,’ said EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten on 1 October. The White House is unlikely to see the offer in the same light.