- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

The United States yesterday rejected a Russian demand for a cease-fire in Iraq, saying it would merely "delay the inevitable," but pledged for the first time to seek U.N. recognition of a post-Saddam Iraqi government.
Worried that images of dead and wounded Iraqi civilians on Arab television networks are eroding the already negative image of American power in the Muslim world, the Bush administration vowed to do everything it can to change that perception.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell went on a broadcast offensive yesterday, giving interviews to Al Jazeera the pan-Arab satellite station based in Qatar and to TV stations in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and India.
In one of those appearances, Mr. Powell brushed off Russian demands that hostilities in Iraq be suspended as soon as possible and that the issue be brought back to the U.N. Security Council.
"A pause or a cease-fire would serve no purpose at this time. It would merely delay the inevitable and give Saddam Hussein some chance to believe that he could avoid the serious consequences that he has caused to befall his regime," he told Al Jazeera.
"The sooner we finish this conflict without a pause … the sooner we get on to restoring stability within the country, bringing the humanitarian and health care supplies in and providing for a better life for the Iraqi people," Mr. Powell said.
After days of debate in the administration on whether the United States and Britain should seek a U.N. mandate for Iraq's postwar interim government, it appeared yesterday that the supporters of such a move had won the argument.
"We will do this with full understanding of the international community and with U.N. presence in the form of a U.N. special coordinator … with U.N. recognition of what we are doing and some level of endorsement in the form of a new U.N. resolution," Mr. Powell told a House appropriations subcommittee.
Taking such a position, despite the administration's belief that the invading powers have sufficient authority under international law to administer Iraq after the war, represents a victory for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Mr. Blair, who arrived in Washington yesterday for talks with President Bush, had been urging the administration to back him on seeking a U.N. mandate since the war began last week.
He argued that without international legitimacy, it would be difficult to attract resources from other countries for Iraq's reconstruction, which will be too expensive for the United States and Britain to handle alone.
But Mr. Powell faced tough questioning on whether Washington would permit nations that had opposed the use of force against Saddam to decide on what will come next in Iraq.
"We didn't take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have significant, dominating control over how it unfolds in the future," Mr. Powell said.
"We would not support … handing everything over to the U.N., for someone designated by the U.N. to suddenly become in charge if this whole operation."
It was not clear how Mr. Powell plans to persuade his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, to support a U.N. resolution recognizing a new Iraqi government.
Moscow, which still views Saddam as Iraq's only lawful ruler, says that any such resolution would legitimize the country's invasion by U.S. and British forces.
Mr. Ivanov continued to insist yesterday that the war to oust Saddam is illegal and "doomed to failure."
"It has become more and more clear how far from reality their attempts are to present the military action against Iraq as a triumphant march to liberate the Iraqi people with minimal victims and damage," he said.

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