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US goes to UN for Iraq help, but insists on control

( 2003-09-04 11:14) (Agencies)

The United States went to the United Nations on Wednesday in a policy shift on Iraq to seek troops and money, but said it would not give up its military command or dominant role in the country.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said initial reaction from leading U.N. Security Council members on a draft resolution had been positive, as Washington battled to stamp out daily and often deadly attacks on its troops and other targets in Iraq.

President Bush had previously resisted giving the U.N. any real say on Iraq, but four major vehicle bomb attacks in a month and the refusal of some nations to contribute troops without a U.N. mandate seem to have swayed him.

Powell said the draft resolution envisaged a multinational force under U.S. command, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad mapping out Iraq's political future and the U.N. having an expanded role in reconstruction.

"We are asking the international community to join us," Powell told a news conference in Washington. "Certainly the United States will continue to play a dominant role...because of the size of the U.S. force presence and the leadership we are providing. But there are many roles to be played."

Powell discussed the draft with close ally Britain, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and three heavyweight Security Council countries that opposed the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein -- France, Russia and Germany.

It was not immediately clear whether the proposals went far enough to win over any major countries not yet involved in Iraq. Some nations have opposed Washington's domination in Iraq.

Germany's U.N. ambassador Gunter Pleuger said Berlin wanted a "central role for the United Nations and if that is the outcome of a new resolution we will welcome that." French envoy Michel Duclos said Paris wanted a timetable signaling the end of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

The full 15-member council is expected to get the draft before the end of the week in hopes of adoption before Bush visits the U.N. General Assembly on September 23. France, Russia and China have veto powers along with Washington and London.

The United States has deployed some 150,000 soldiers in Iraq and is supported by about 21,000 others, 11,000 of them British.


Mortar bombs were fired at a U.S. military base in Saddam's home town of Tikrit in northern Iraq on Wednesday and U.S. forces responded by sending Apache helicopters and armored vehicles to repel the attackers, witnesses said.

U.S. forces, who have mounted intensive searches in the Tikrit area for Saddam since he was ousted on April 9, said they thought at least one Iraqi was killed.

In a move planned weeks ago, a Polish-led, 21-nation force took command of a chunk of central Iraq from U.S. Marines who had been in charge for several months.

A car bomb attack on Baghdad's police headquarters on Tuesday and similar bombings last month against the Jordanian embassy, the U.N. headquarters and a top Shi'ite Muslim cleric killed scores of people.

Before the four bombings, violence had been largely grenade and gun attacks that Washington blamed on Saddam supporters. Since then U.S. officials have made increasing mention of al Qaeda and other foreign fighters.

Sixty-seven U.S. and 11 British soldiers have been killed in attacks since Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

A wider U.N. role could help a U.S. drive for reconstruction funds at a donors' conference in Madrid in October.

U.S. officials held a preliminary meeting in Brussels that involved the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and others.

"The U.S. wanted to explain that, in their view, the situation was less worrying than people think and getting better every day," said a European diplomat, declining to be named.

Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world behind Saudi Arabia, but sabotage and looting have put the brakes on the industry powering an economic recovery.

In the United States, legislators from both Bush's Republican Party and the Democratic Party reported mounting concern among constituents that the United States was shouldering too much of the danger and financial burden in Iraq.

Bush is campaigning for re-election next year.

In Baghdad, new Iraqi ministers were sworn in and were set to get down to work in what the U.S.-led administration says is another step toward handing the reins of power back to Iraqis.

The U.S.-backed Governing Council appointed the 25 ministers, who will help formulate policy and run departments. Ultimate power remains with U.S. governor Paul Bremer until a general election. No date has been set.

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