Some at U.N. Want U.S. to Channel Its Response

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The U.N. Security Council reacted strongly and promptly to the attacks on the United States, passing a broad resolution the day after the assault that condemned terrorism and supported Washington’s right to retaliate.

But what Washington wants most from the United Nations is that it not get in the way.

On Sept. 12, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1368, defining the attacks on New York and the Pentagon as acts of war and allowing the U.S. to respond appropriately. The significance may have been overlooked in that week’s confusion.

“In U.N. history, this is the most sweeping declaration of support for the right to self-defense for a member state,” said David Malone, head of the International Peace Academy, a New York-based think tank.


But as the smoke clears and passions cool, some Security Council members are having second thoughts about the green light they’ve given the United States. Now at least two permanent council members, China and Russia, want Washington to come back to the Security Council for specific approval of military action.

“We don’t believe that it would be correct if each country or a group of countries tried to resolve the problem of fighting against international terrorism in their own way,” Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov said last week. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin reaffirmed that message Monday, saying any U.S. military campaign should first be coordinated with the United Nations.

President Bush’s father assiduously built an international coalition and sought U.N. authorization for the 1990-91 campaign to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

Although the current Bush administration has welcomed the council resolution’s backing and efforts by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to quietly mediate between Islamic and Western countries, it says it should take the lead in responding to the attacks.

“We will see what further we need to do with the United Nations,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said Sunday. “But I do not believe that the president believes that he needs further authority to act in self-defense.”

Though Bush’s immediate strategy in dealing with the U.N. appears to differ from that of his father, some Cabinet members who have served both Bushes are aware of the world body’s utility. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has been in close contact with Annan during the last two weeks, discussing how the U.N. can best assist U.S. efforts.


What the world body can do better than Washington is help build global coalitions and provide an international legal framework for broad action against terrorism.

“This is a good place to cover a lot of territory regarding the global aspects of terrorism, like how to manage the flow of money and how to track individual groups,” said William Luers, president of the United Nations Assn. of the United States of America. “When nations around the world take action in the name of the United Nations, it receives much more support from their people and their neighbors than if we told them to do it. That’s something that Washington often doesn’t understand.”

The U.N. General Assembly has crafted 12 international conventions against terrorism over many decades that have the force of law. It is meeting next Monday to consider a 13th convention, which would call for specific and binding actions in the counter-terrorism campaign.

The United States has signed but not ratified recent U.N. conventions against terrorist bombing and financing. On Monday morning, Bush urged Congress to immediately ratify them and pass attendant laws.

The House approved legislation Monday releasing $582 million to pay U.S. back dues to the world body--the second installment in a three-stage plan. The bill was approved by voice vote after conservative Republican critics of the U.N. backed away from a fight in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had earlier sought to block the bill and to add a controversial rider barring American cooperation with a new International Criminal Court. But he and other conservatives shied away from a confrontation in the interest of maintaining a show of unity.


The Senate had already approved the bill, which Bush is expected to sign. Proponents said they hope the measure will strengthen the president’s position as he seeks international help in the war on terrorism.

“At the same time we’re reaching out to other nations, the U.S. remains the biggest debtor nation at the U.N.,” said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.). “That is not only unacceptable, it is a gigantic impediment to our diplomatic efforts.”


Times staff writers Janet Hook in Washington and Maura Reynolds in Moscow contributed to this report.