Friday, September 24, 2004

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi appealed to the world leaders at the United Nations yesterday to help his country achieve stability by sending peacekeepers, reinforcing borders and forgiving its debts.

In his first speech before the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, Mr. Allawi appealed for assistance to “defeat the forces of terrorism” and stressed that stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq was a global responsibility.

“Our struggle is your struggle, our victory will be your victory and if we are defeated, then that will be your defeat,” he said.

He also told reporters afterward that there would be “no partial elections” in Iraq in January, and said that every eligible Iraqi would be able to participate.

“There will be one election and all Iraqis will be able to vote in it,” he said. “The elections are in January,” he said, adding that any security problems are “hypothetical.”

Mr. Allawi refused to respond to criticism from Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, who said the prime minister was too optimistic in assessments of his country’s stability.

In a focused speech to the U.N. General Assembly’s annual session, Mr. Allawi urged governments to put behind them the divisions over Washington’s invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein but was called “illegal” by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“Some countries objected to the war, and that is their right, but difference over the issue shouldn’t stop the aid now,” he said.

The Allawi address, on the afternoon of the fourth full day of speeches, attracted a moderate-sized audience to the General Assembly chambers.

Mr. Allawi barely mentioned the United States, in contrast to his remarks before the rare joint session of Congress on Thursday.

However, he was effusive in his praise for all nations that helped liberate the Iraqi people, and especially for those that are now providing military, technical or financial assistance to the reconstruction.

He said his nation was facing “a struggle between the Iraqi people and [their] vision for the future of peace and democracy [on the one hand], and the terrorists and extremists and the remnants of the Saddam regime who are targeting this noble dream [on the other].” He urged the body to look forward, rather than continue to examine the acrimonious buildup to the 2003 war.

Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi conceded that it was a good thing that Saddam was gone but said Tehran could not condone the war.

“We, in Iran, benefited greatly by the removal of Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Kharrazi told the assembly. “Many in Iran are relieved to see the murderer of their sons behind bars. However … the international community has demonstrated that it will not celebrate achieving this desirable goal through illegal means of glorifying military power, through rushing to use force without the approval of the United Nations.”

Mr. Allawi, who was installed the interim Iraqi prime minister in June by the now-dissolved U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, urged the United Nations to return to his country, despite the August 2003 attack that killed 22 persons at the U.N. offices in Baghdad.

He met briefly with Mr. Annan yesterday afternoon, but did not receive promises of an expanded U.N. mission, or hope of a dedicated protection force of U.N. personnel.

Mr. Allawi told leaders yesterday that Iraq’s foreign debt remains “the most serious obstacle” to reconstruction.

Repaying it, he said, is beyond Baghdad’s capabilities.

“It is an unjust burden [accumulated from] unjustified wars and the search of weapons of mass destruction.”

He said he hopes to reach an agreement with members of the Paris Club, the group of largest lender nations.

“Without your generosity, we cannot rebuild and attract foreign investment,” he said.

The U.S. delegation included U.N. Ambassador John Danforth, as well the current ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte. Several other delegations, including France and England, were anchored by lower diplomats.

Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, sat at Iraq’s table, along with the charge d’affaires at the U.N. mission.

In Washington earlier yesterday, Mr. Allawi met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon before leaving for New York.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Rumsfeld said U.S. troop strength could be reduced in Iraq before the country is completely pacified.

“Any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and U.S. forces I think would obviously be unwise because it’s never been peaceful and perfect and it isn’t likely to be,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

“Our goal is to invest the time and the money and the effort to help them train up Iraqis to take over those responsibilities,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said that “no country wants foreign forces in their country any longer than they have to be there.”

“The more of them you have, the more force protection you have to have, the more combat support you have to have,” he said. “And the heavier your footprint is, the more intrusive you are in their lives.”

• Betsy Pisik reported from New York.

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