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Gary Younge
Washington forced to delay vital vote

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters that the three leaders would have a telephone conference early today to coordinate their positions on Washington's controversial draft resolution that seeks broader international support for US plans for Iraq's future.

All three countries had proposed amendments to the draft text, not all of which were accepted by the US.

US diplomats had previously been confident that the resolution would pass with the requisite nine of the 15 votes last night. But with the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, still critical of the revised draft, it remained unclear whether the motion could muster enough support to be presented with the consensus needed to enable other states to send the troops and money the US badly needs.

Despite concessions on both sides, the principal sticking point was America's rejection of a timetable for the transfer of power to Iraqis.

"It looks like the Americans are heading toward a divided vote," said Mexico's UN ambassador, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser. "And a divided vote with nine countries in favour and five or six abstentions [will send the message] that there is no consensus."

The US draft calls on the Iraqi governing council to produce, by December 15. a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections.

European countries had sought a more precise schedule.

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