European powers seek major U.N. role in Iraq

Countries' stance differs from U.S. postwar plans

War In Iraq


PARIS - A day after the United States and its European allies agreed that Iraq would be rebuilt with significant international cooperation, France, Russia, and Germany sought yesterday to stake out as extensive a role for the United Nations as possible in reconstructing the shattered country.

Meeting in Paris, the foreign ministers of the three countries called for the United Nations to be given an immediate role in dealing with an "emergency humanitarian situation" in Iraq. Their remarks underscored the gap that remains in detail over how broad the role should be.

Speaking one day after U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met with the foreign ministers of 23 European countries, the ministers also called for the earliest possible halt to the fighting in Iraq.

The Russian foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, who joined with France last month in thwarting a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the war, said on Thursday, "We must insist today on the earliest possible cessation of hostilities."

Addressing a joint news conference after their meeting, Ivanov said: "The earlier the war is finished, the better it will be, including for the United States."

On Thursday, Powell said that the coalition led by Britain and the United States would play, at least initially, the leading role in Iraq but that they were prepared to cooperate with the international community and most notably the United Nations.

The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said it was "absolutely natural" that in the "security phase, the forces present on the ground have a specific responsibility."

Standing with Ivanov at the news conference, he added that "there should be no discussion either on the principle or on the terms" of U.N. participation in Iraq.

"No country or countries can hope to win the war alone," he said. "Nobody can hope to build peace alone."

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged on Thursday that a postwar Iraq would be run by Iraqis, not by British or American officials, and that British troops would not remain in Iraq any longer than necessary.

Blair has been treading a thin line between American insistence that its officials be able to deal with situations in postwar Iraq without having to obtain permission from an outside authority and the insistence of some European powers that the United Nations take on an organizing role as early possible.

Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who sided with France in opposing a Security Council resolution for war, said there was a "very broad convergence of views on the central role of the United Nations."

There was considerable difference in tone from the last meeting the three ministers held in Paris on March 5. Then, France and Russia threatened to use their vetoes as permanent Security Council members to block any authorization of force in Iraq. Germany is a nonpermanent Council member.

"Our efforts are aimed above all at ending the war and resolving the humanitarian problems," Ivanov said. Emphasizing that the Europeans sought a harmonious relationship with the United States, he said, "We address these words to our partners, with whom we are maintaining dialogue, since the end of the war can only profit everyone."

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