- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

BERLIN — France and Germany continued to disagree with U.S. ally Britain over the U.N. role in Iraq and a timetable for handing power back to the Iraqis.

But leaders of the three nations, meeting in Berlin, said the task of bridging remaining gaps will fall to their respective diplomats at the United Nations.

“We still don’t agree fully on Iraq,” said French President Jacques Chirac, “though we do agree it should be dealt with in the U.N. Security Council.

The three leaders — German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr. Chirac — met for the first time yesterday since the run-up to the Iraq war.

With the United States suffering casualties in Iraq on a daily basis, and costs spiraling beyond expectations, Washington is seeking the help of friends and allies.

With a new U.N. resolution, it hopes to reinforce about 20,000 international troops now in Iraq, along with about 140,000 U.S. forces.

Many countries, including France and Germany, which strongly opposed the terms of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, are reluctant to support the White House request unless the United Nations is given a leading role in post-war Iraq.

Mr. Blair tried to minimize the divide between the leading powers.

“The job of reconstruction in Iraq isn’t going to happen unless the U.N. plays a key role,” Mr. Blair said. “There’s no disagreement on that, and that includes the United States of America.”

But following the prime minister’s comment, Mr. Chirac sought to make clear that the United Nations couldn’t continue as a supporting actor in post-war Iraq.

“The U.N. should play a far more significant role in Iraq than it has been,” Mr. Chirac said, striking a note of discord in an otherwise tame news conference.

Mr. Schroeder said: “It is the task of the international community to give Iraq the chance for democracy and stability.”

On Tuesday, President Bush is to address the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, where he is expected to request help from other nations for Iraq’s postwar reconstruction.

Getting French and German support for the U.S. resolution is seen as key to persuading other countries such as Turkey, India and Pakistan to commit the thousands of troops the United States is seeking.

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