- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

NEW YORK — Members of the U.N. Security Council reacted cooly yesterday to the Bush administration’s willingness to accept a wider U.N. role in Iraq, with France saying that only a genuine power-sharing arrangement would be acceptable.

“The eventual [security] arrangements cannot just be the enlargement or adjustment of the current occupation forces,” French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said.

“We have to install a real international force under a mandate of the United Nations Security Council,” Mr. de Villepin told the annual meeting of French ambassadors in Paris.

His remarks came one day after Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters that the Bush administration is considering a multinational force under U.N. leadership, but with an American in command.

The idea, administration officials said yesterday, is to have a draft resolution ready to circulate informally to ministers and leaders who will be in New York for the General Assembly session in late September.

But yesterday afternoon, few diplomats stationed at the United Nations appeared to have been won over.

Key Security Council envoys described Mr. Armitage’s remarks as a step in the right direction, but said his ideas still appeared to fall short of political, economic and military cooperation.

“This is an interesting approach but so far it just takes into account the security side,” said Germany’s deputy ambassador, Wolfgang Trautwein. “We have always said security, politics and economics are all interlinked.”

Perhaps the Armitage remarks “reflect some view that is different now in Washington,” Mr. Trautwein said. “It is interesting and it goes in the direction we have been advocating for some time.”

After fighting the war without U.N. approval and largely sidelining the United Nations in all but a humanitarian postwar role, many here believe that the Bush administration will have to make plenty of concessions before winning international support for its occupation.

“The more U.N. the better,” said Spain’s U.N. ambassador, Inocencio Arias, whose government supported the Iraq war, and has contributed 1,300 troops to the U.S.-led coalition in postwar Iraq.

Some 138,000 U.S. troops are now based in Iraq, with an additional 23,000 sent there by Britain and 26 other countries.

Pakistan, a member of the Security Council, is another nation whose troops Washington would very much like to see assisting in Iraq.

Its ambassador, Munir Akram, said yesterday that his nation was waiting to hear the views of other nations, as well as the Iraqis themselves.

“For us, it is important that we are welcomed by the Iraqi people and there is a concurrence of regional states in the operation,” Mr. Munir told reporters. “And that can only be enlisted through the political process.”

Syria, which is stepping down this weekend as the rotating president of the Security Council, remains skeptical of Washington’s willingness to return Iraq to its citizens as quickly as possible.

“Our goal is to see an end to the occupation, and to see the sovereignty and independence of the country restored,” said Syria’s deputy ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad.

He said that no conversations had been scheduled yet in the Security Council, but many diplomats were hoping to hear more.

France, one of five veto-wielding members of the council, is likely to play a key role in any effort to broaden the U.N. mandate in Iraq, and Mr. de Villepin gave the clearest signal yesterday of what it expected.

“A real change of approach is needed [in Iraq],” he said at the meeting of French ambassadors.

“We must end the ambiguity, transfer responsibilities and allow the Iraqis to play the role they deserve as soon as possible.”

The international community should help reinforce security “on the basis of requests by Iraqi authorities,” he said, referring to the provisional government that he said should be created out of the current U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

While Washington has begun to signal some flexibility on the military side, it has officially refused to consider giving up control of the civilian administration as Mr. de Villepin urged.

Mr. de Villepin last week called on Washington to switch from “a logic of occupation to a logic of [Iraqi] sovereignty.”

He added to those remarks yesterday, saying the Iraqi Governing Council should be turned into “a real provisional government whose legitimacy would be reinforced by the United Nations.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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