Summit presses for U.N. in Iraq

Leaders of France, Germany, Russia warn of `colonial situation'

War In Iraq

April 12, 2003|By David Holley | David Holley,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - The leaders of Russia, France and Germany met here yesterday to press the Bush administration to put the United Nations in charge of Iraq's future.

"The situation we are confronting in Iraq must be resolved as quickly as possible in accordance with the U.N. charter," Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said at a joint news conference with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "The faster we go along the path as set down by international law, the better it will be. The longer we delay a resolution within the U.N. framework, the more it will look like a colonial situation."

The gathering of the three key opponents to the war in Iraq had been dubbed by the Russian media as a "counter-summit," an "anti-Belfast" summit - in reference to the meeting of President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Northern Ireland early this week - and even a "summit of the losers."

Schroeder's visit and meeting with Putin was long-planned, but Chirac's inclusion was a last-minute addition in response to the Iraq crisis.

Bush and Blair said Tuesday after their summit that the United Nations should play a "vital role" in rebuilding Iraq, but made clear that did not mean it should be in control.

"A vital role for the U.N. means food, that means medicine, that means aid, that means a place where people can give their contributions, that means suggesting people for an interim Iraqi governing body," Bush told reporters at the end of that summit.

Yesterday, Chirac said that the "common goal" of France, Russia and Germany "is to create conditions that will give back to the Iraqi people their dignity and an opportunity to be masters of their fate.

"The task of restoring the political, economic and social system of Iraq is enormous," he said.

Schroeder stressed the need for quick humanitarian action. "The coalition forces, judging by the footage of plundering that is taking place in Iraq, should make every possible effort to restore tranquillity and thwart further looting," he said.

Putin suggested that because chemical and biological weapons have neither been found nor used in Iraq during the current fighting, that calls into question the entire rationale for the U.S.-led attack.

"Even in the most acute moment of the fight for its survival, the Iraqi regime did not resort to these weapons," he said. "If in the last moment of its existence it did not use them, it means they do not exist, or they were in such condition they could not be used."

Early in the day, speaking at a German-Russian forum with Schroeder at his side, Putin said that "the Saddam Hussein regime does not correspond to the present-day requirements and ideas of human rights and democracy" and that "the removal of the tyrannical regime is probably a plus."

But "such problems should not be solved with the help of war ... because should we embark on this path, the number of countries that do not meet Western standards of democracy amount to - I find it hard to say precisely - about 80 percent," he said. "So, do we make war on everyone like that? It is only the people of these countries who have the right to determine their own fate."

At the news conference, Putin expanded on that theme, warning against "the export of capitalist, democratic revolution.

"If we allow ourselves to do that, the world will end up on a slippery slope toward an endless series of military conflicts. We cannot allow that to happen," he said.

David Holley writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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