- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2003

U.S. officials said yesterday there is only a small chance of nailing down an agreement this weekend when the United Nations’ leading powers meet in Geneva to discuss a blueprint for the future of Iraq.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the Bush administration would resist any effort to cut the U.S.-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad out of the process to create a functioning Iraqi government.

U.N. Security Council members France, Germany and Russia all have proposed major revisions to the U.S. draft resolution, which is designed to give international sanction to the U.S.-dominated military force in Iraq and ultimately restore sovereignty to an Iraqi government. The thrust of the revisions is to hasten the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty while giving the United Nations the leading voice in the process.

“To think that the U.N. could suddenly take this all over, to the exclusion of the Coalition Provisional Authority, is not realistic. It would not work,” Mr. Powell said in an interview broadcast yesterday on the Arabic network Al Jazeera.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. diplomats are studying the amendments and have not offered a modified text, but added it was not expected that Mr. Powell and the foreign ministers of France, Russia, China and Britain will negotiate details of the text when they meet tomorrow in Geneva.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the meeting to discuss the future of Iraq in response to bitter divisions in the Security Council this spring over the war.

U.S. officials first pitched the resolution as a way to provide political cover for countries reluctant to provide troops or aid funds so long as the coalition played the dominant political and economic role in Iraq’s postwar reconstruction.

But Mr. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in recent days have played down the prospect of major international assistance to the expensive Iraqi effort, and several countries have ruled out sending peacekeeping forces to Iraq.

Both French President Jacques Chirac and Jordan’s King Abdullah II said yesterday they were not prepared to commit troops to Iraq, even with a U.N. resolution.

“Today we are a long way from being in a situation where France could participate militarily in Iraq,” Mr. Chirac said during a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who spoke by phone with Mr. Powell about the Iraq resolution yesterday, defended his country’s fierce opposition to the war, which strained ties between Washington and Paris.

He rejected the “caricature of France as a pacifist country which refuses to assume its responsibilities,” and said he wanted the U.N. resolution to focus less on the military situation and more on the political and economic rehabilitation of the country.

China, which has kept a low profile in the debate on a new resolution, said yesterday it supported efforts by France, Germany and Russia to amend the U.S. resolution.

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