- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

The White House yesterday said President Bush never intended to directly ask other nations for help in postwar Iraq during his visit to the United Nations, leaving that task instead to aides.

One of those aides, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, yesterday said the administration is making progress in forging a U.N. Security Council resolution that would lay the groundwork for an influx of more foreign troops and money.

“We are seeing some convergence of views,” Mr. Powell told reporters after meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Russia and China.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was peppered with questions from reporters who suggested the president failed to secure help from other nations in a U.N. visit earlier this week. The administration wants other nations to spend billions on Iraqi reconstruction and deploy a third division of multinational troops to relieve overstretched U.S. forces.

“The purpose of the president going to the United Nations was not for him to ask for specific tasks that other nations could carry out,” Mr. McClellan said. “We have other senior officials in the administration that are working with countries on those issues and talking to countries.

“That was not the president’s purpose,” he added. “The president went to the United Nations to emphasize the importance of what we’re trying to achieve in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

By characterizing the president as painting the broad strokes while his underlings fill in the details, the White House sought to shield Mr. Bush from criticism that he has been unable to cajole the United Nations into helping America. While initially predicting swift agreement on a U.N. resolution, the administration is now saying it may take months.

Mr. Bush is hoping for support today when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Camp David. During a speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, Mr. Putin sounded optimistic about a resolution.

“Despite sharp differences over how to resolve the Iraq crisis, the situation is ultimately coming back to the legal sphere of the United Nations,” Mr. Putin said. “And only with the active — and I want to stress this — practical participation of the U.N. in its economic and civil transformation, only thus will Iraq assume a truly new, worthy place in the world community.”

But the United Nations announced yesterday it was withdrawing some of its staff from Iraq after two attacks on its headquarters in Baghdad.

“We understand the grief of the United Nations family and the need to ensure the safety of United Nations employees in Iraq,” Mr. McClellan said. “But they have a vital role to play, and we want them to continue to play that vital role.”

While some news outlets portrayed the president’s visit to the United Nations as a “failure,” conservatives took the opposite view.

For example, Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation called Mr. Bush’s speech to the General Assembly “a powerful wake-up call for an organization that is in danger of becoming irrelevant on the world stage.”

He added: “The president’s speech projected clarity, vision and direction — three qualities sorely lacking in a U.N. organization that looks more like a glorified debating society than a serious global body designed to confront the world’s growing threats and problems.”

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