The draft seeks to win over countries like France, Germany and Russia which want a speedy handover of power but it does not fix a date to end US-led occupation.

America’s ambassador to the UN John Negroponte released the draft on Wednesday at a meeting with veto-wielding Security Council powers Britain, China, France and Russia.

He also gave it to Germany, a current council member.

The draft underlines that the US occupation is "temporary" and will last "until an internationally recognised, representative government is established by the people of Iraq."

Timetable

France has said six months should be enough time for the United States to give sovereignty to Iraqis. The United States says that deadline is unrealistic.

Bush needs to see the US
resolution backed by everyone

Instead, the White House believes control in Iraq should be "progressively undertaken" by the US-selected Iraqi governing council, which should set its own timetable for writing a constitution and then holding elections.

The new draft also appears to expand some UN responsibilities but does not lay out the central role that France, Germany and Russia have been demanding for the world body in Iraq.

France has said it will not block the new resolution and diplomats say there is a strong desire to come to a consensus and avoid the bitter divisions that split the council before the war.

But differences remain and it was unclear if the new text offered enough changes to win full backing from countries that refused to support invasion and occupation.

Bloody resistance

Washington wants the resolution to give an international mandate for a multinational force and is lobbying for a 15-0 yes vote - in which other nations would share the burden of an increasingly bloody resistance uprising.

Two more US troops were killed in separate attacks on Wednesday.

Potential contributors like Pakistan have said they could not send troops unless the military force had UN backing.

But the size of the role the United Nations could play has been thrown into doubt by two deadly suicide attacks on the UN headquarters in Baghdad since August.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last week ordered another withdrawal of international staff in Iraq, citing the security situation. His spokesman said Wednesday that around 30 remain, down from more than 600 two months ago.

But Annan has said he wants the UN role to be clearly defined, which would help minimise the risk to UN personnel of being associated with the US occupation.

    

Source: Agencies