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Germany, France Fault U.S. Offer of U.N. Iraq Role

Schroeder and Chirac favor more authority for world body and a quicker transfer of power. Diplomats see a starting point for talks.

September 05, 2003|Maggie Farley, Sebastian Rotella and Carol J. Williams | Times Staff Writers

UNITED NATIONS — The leaders of France and Germany criticized the Bush administration's new proposal for a greater international role in occupied Iraq on Thursday, saying the U.S. must speed up the transfer of power to an Iraqi government and give the U.N. more authority.

Although their words sounded like a reprise of their alliance in opposition to the war earlier this year, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder did not completely reject the U.S. plan. Diplomats at the United Nations interpreted that as a starting point for negotiations.

In Baghdad, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq said he had enough soldiers for the tasks assigned to him, but new challenges "looming in the future" would require more soldiers. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez confirmed that the Pentagon would like to see 10,000 more troops from other countries take part in the postwar peacekeeping and cleanup.

U.S. and Turkish officials began discussions Thursday on the conditions for sending Turkish troops to Iraq.

Chirac, who held a regularly scheduled meeting with Schroeder in Dresden, Germany, told reporters that the U.S. proposal "seems rather far from what we see as the foremost objective, which is the transfer of political responsibility to an Iraqi government as rapidly as possible."

Schroeder said the U.S. proposal that began circulating this week was "not dynamic enough, not sufficient."

Emphasizing a desire to help Iraq, the French president said France would study the resolution "in the most positive manner possible" and that France and Germany would work "in full collaboration" to amend it to reflect their concerns.

Their comments suggested that prewar divisions between the allies had not entirely disappeared. But diplomats said they might be able to resolve the differences.

"We didn't expect everyone to agree on the first day," said one Security Council diplomat. "There's a big gap to close, but everyone wants to see Iraq succeed, so I think we can close it."

Russia and China, which like France hold veto power on the U.N. Security Council, sent positive signals about the resolution in media statements and in a closed-door meeting of the five permanent council members.

"They were making suggestions, not objections," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte, who convened the meeting. "But it's very early in this process."

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the U.S. was willing to work with France, Germany and others.

"I think the resolution is drafted in a way that deals with the concerns that leaders such as President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder have raised in the past, and if they have suggestions, we would be more than happy to listen to them," he said.

A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said German officials had contacted the State Department after the comments by Schroeder and Chirac became public to say that Schroeder's remarks weren't meant to be negative.

The draft has not yet been formally submitted to the Security Council, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, mindful of the prewar divisions, cautioned ambassadors this week to keep their debate private until they reach a consensus. The council will meet as a whole today for its first informal discussion of the proposals.

The draft resolution calls for a multinational force under U.S. command to help stabilize Iraq and provide enough security so Iraqis can begin to reclaim sovereignty over their country.

The proposal has the U.N. in a central role helping to organize elections and overseeing Iraq's political transition, though the United States and Britain would retain ultimate control. The resolution calls for the Security Council to formally endorse the interim Iraqi Governing Council. It would be up to the Governing Council, it says, to create a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections.

France and Germany are preparing an amendment that would accelerate the transfer of power from U.S.-led occupation authorities to Iraqis, under U.N. supervision and according to a precise timetable.

"We think the situation is deteriorating," said French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere. "We will make a proposal on how to transfer responsibility to Iraqis. It is important that they have ownership of the process."

Gunter Pleuger, the German ambassador to the United Nations, added, "We would like to see the U.N. take over the political process. We would like to improve the security situation. And third, we would like to have transparency in economic reconstruction," he said. "We will have to find language that reflects this."

Key for the United States is finding countries to share the military and financial burdens.

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