UNSC extends mandate for Iraq multinational force

The UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of the nearly 180,000-strong multinational force in Iraq for a year, a move the United States called a significant signal of international commitment to Iraq's political transition. The resolution co-sponsored by the United States, Britain, Denmark, Japan and Romania was adopted in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for the US-led force to remain in the country. The current mandate authorizing the presence of the force expires on Dec. 31 following parliamentary elections in Iraq on Dec. 15 - the end point of the political process as defined by the Security Council. The resolution adopted Tuesday extends the force's mandate until Dec. 31, 2006, with a review after eight months. Under its terms, the council will "terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the government of Iraq." The force currently comprises 157,000 American troops and 22,000 troops from other countries. US Ambassador John Bolton called the unanimous vote "a significant signal that the international community's committed to making the process in Iraq - as they attempt to create institutions of representative government - succeed."