Russia, Germany and France, key opponents of the war, announced hours before Thursday's vote they would support the resolution, albeit with reservations. Syria, the last hold-out, then also came on board.

With US President George Bush under pressure from the growing cost of the Iraq occupation in terms of US lives and money, the resolution encourages nations to support the occupation with troops and cash. It also asks Iraqi leaders to draw up a plan for a new constitution and elections by 15 December.

After a three-way telephone conference with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said they would extend qualified support, but send no troops or extra aid to Iraq because the US-drafted resolution was still flawed.

Need for troops

"Clearly the goal is not a piece of paper in New York," said a US official who asked not to be named.

"What we hope it will accomplish is additional troops, additional money, greater assistance for the people of Iraq and unity on the Council."

The resolution authorises a multinational force in Iraq that could provide the international cover needed for wary nations such as Pakistan, a non-permanent member, to provide troops and cash to help stabilise the country.

Washington is not expecting much help with soldiers but does want generous pledges of money for rebuilding Iraq at an international donors' conference scheduled to start next week in Spain.

"What we hope it will accomplish is additional troops, additional money, greater assistance for the people of Iraq and unity on the council"

Unnamed US official

The United States refused to bend from its plan to have Iraq write a constitution first, then hold elections and only later gain full independence with the formation of a post-Saddam government.

The resolution gives the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council until 15 December to set a timetable for carrying out the next steps, rather than giving Iraqis sovereignty first, which the European trio had initially insisted on.

Improvement

Schroeder said the newest US draft was an improvement over the previous one, but was not adequate.

"We took note that the resolution is really an important step in the right direction," he said.

"This was the reason that, regardless of the reservations we still have ... that led us together to support the resolution," Schroeder said.

Council unity

Schroeder underlined the decision to vote for the draft was for the sake of the Security Council unity.

Putin (R) and Schroeder said yes, but will send no troops or money

"The progress in our view is still now an inadequate response to the situation on the ground in Iraq, and on those grounds, we do not see ourselves in a position to play a military role there ... or to make a further material contribution beyond what has already been agreed," Schroeder explained.

US motives

Faced with growing hostility in Iraq, the US has been pressing for the resolution so as to pave the way for other countries to contribute troops and cash for Iraq's reconstruction.

France and Germany are contributing only to a modest pledge of $232.3 million for Iraq's reconstruction from the 15-member European Union's executive commission.

Chirac's spokeswoman Catherine Colonna confirmed the three countries would not send troops or money to Iraq.