Thursday, September 04, 2003

More Franco-German Cynicism

Chirac and Schröder never miss an opportunity to disappoint:

France, Germany Criticize Iraq Resolution (AP)

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - The United States faces tough negotiations on its proposed U.N. resolution that seeks troops and money from all nations for Iraq (news - web sites)'s postwar reconstruction, but doesn't relinquish political or military control of the country.

France, which led opposition to the war on Iraq, has made clear that if the United States wants to share the burden of restoring peace to Iraq, it must share information, authority, and decision-making. Russia, Germany and other council members are also seeking a a larger U.N. role in Iraq.

Russia, however, sent its first signal Thursday that it was edging closer to Washington in efforts to rebuild Iraq. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov reportedly said Moscow may send peacekeepers to Iraq as part of an international force.

"It all depends on a specific resolution. I wouldn't exclude it outright," Ivanov told Interfax news agency when asked whether Moscow can contribute peacekeepers.

Reaching out to the international community for help restoring security to Iraq, the Bush administration on Wednesday offered the United Nations (news - web sites) a bigger role in Iraq's security, political transition and reconstruction. But whether it is big enough to satisfy members of the U.N. Security Council remains to be seen.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac were expected to focus on Iraq at an informal meeting on Thursday in Dresden, Germany, but it appeared unlikely they would give full endorsement to the draft U.N. resolution.

France's Foreign Ministry said it received a copy of the resolution on Wednesday and was studying it.

"I have no comments at this stage," ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said. "There should be consultations on this subject soon in New York for an initial exchange about this proposal."

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Thursday that the U.S. offer to share Iraq's postwar reconstruction was in line with the objectives of China, which has "actively participated in the endeavor."

The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would transform the U.S.-led military force in Iraq into a U.N.-authorized multinational force under a unified command. It would also ask the Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the United Nations and U.S. officials in Baghdad to produce a timetable and program for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites), who outlined the U.S. proposal at a news conference, made clear that "the United States will continue to play a dominant role" both politically and militarily. An American commander will take charge of the multinational force and U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer will keep the top political post, he said.

To council nations that want responsibilities in Iraq to be shared, Powell said, "With the resolution, you're essentially putting the Security Council into the game."

Powell discussed the proposed resolution Wednesday with his Russian, German and French counterparts as well as with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites). France, Britain, Russia and China hold veto power as permanent council members.

Powell said he expected to get reaction and suggestions to the resolution from fellow Security Council members by the end of the week.

"We will see where we are at the beginning of (next) week and push it as aggressively as we can," Powell said.

U.S. diplomats are expected to engage in behind-the-scenes negotiations on the text of the resolution, to ensure it would be agreeable first to the veto-wielding permanent members, then to the rest of the Security Council.

That would enable the U.N.'s most powerful body to project a unanimous international stand on what happens next in Iraq.

Powell said he didn't foresee "an extended process" of negotiations. Other council diplomats said they would like the resolution to be adopted before ministers gather for the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 23.

But some European countries are likely to resist, or protest, if the United States continues to try to hold on to all the lucrative and influential ventures — such as oil contracts and the political rebuilding process, according to some council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Council diplomats expect France to take the toughest position, pressing for the United Nations to take charge of Iraq's political transition — though Paris is unlikely to achieve that degree of power for the world body.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, who hadn't yet seen the text, stressed it was "essential" to help Iraqis recover their sovereignty as soon as possible.

Ah, yes, France, indefatigable champion of Third World sovereignty! Not bloody likely - it's all about the oil and the contracts. As if the squabbling over Libyan compensation weren't bad enough! What a sordid diplomatic playbook by which the French operate.