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Chirac to Join Russia-Germany Talks on Iraq
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By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Leaders of the main countries opposing the U.S.-led military action against Baghdad will meet this weekend and are expected to press for a major role for the United Nations (news - web sites) in a postwar Iraq (news - web sites).
A Kremlin statement said French President Jacques Chirac would join Russian President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at long scheduled talks in Russia's second city of St Petersburg on Friday and Saturday.
The statement on the meeting in Putin's home town made no mention of any agenda. But it is certain to be topped by discussion on how to proceed with reconstruction in Iraq after the U.S.-led war to remove President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).
All three states have adopted a more conciliatory approach as U.S. and British troops advance through Iraq, but say they want the U.N. to be the principal body overseeing reconstruction efforts.
President Bush (news - web sites) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) said on Tuesday the United Nations should have a "vital role."
But it was unclear how much power they believed the U.N. should have outside humanitarian matters.
A United Nations spokesman in New York denied initial reports, both by the Kremlin and the U.N. office in Moscow, that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) would join the talks on Saturday.
France, Germany and Russia formed the backbone of opposition to Washington's hawkish stance on Iraq, calling instead for diplomatic efforts through the United Nations to ensure the country was free of alleged weapons of mass destruction.
CENTRAL U.N. ROLE
Chirac acknowledged on Tuesday that Iraq had to pass through a "necessary phase of establishing security," but said it would then be up to the U.N. to spearhead efforts to rebuild the country.
"We are no longer in an era where one or two countries can control the fate of another country," he told a Paris news conference. "Therefore, the political, economic, humanitarian and administrative reconstruction of Iraq is a matter for the United Nations and for it alone."
Schroeder was equally forthright last week, saying the U.N. "must play the central role as far as the future of Iraq and the new political order is concerned."
Putin, vociferous in his initial denunciations over Washington's military action, has since said a U.S. defeat is not in Russian interests.
The Kremlin said at the weekend Putin had stressed in a telephone conversation with Bush "the importance of pursuing an intense political dialogue" to uphold Russia's new alliance with Washington, rooted in support for the U.S. anti-terror campaign.
But he has also said the Iraqi issue should remain for the U.N. to decide. Other Russian officials have said they hope existing contracts with Iraq, particularly in the oil sector, will be upheld regardless of who is in power in Baghdad.
In the months running up to the conflict, all three countries backed U.N. Security Council resolution 1441 last November. That led to the resumption of U.N. inspections for banned weapons which the United States accused Saddam of possessing.
Before hostilities began on March 20, the three issued joint statements criticizing any resort to force and opposing any new resolution endorsing military action.
The UN should be involved? I agree they should be but I don't feel their role should be as paramount as they seem to feel. I mean, we do
want Iraq rebuild and functioning within this century
don't we? If the UN takes hold of it, with their track record of accomplishing things, I'm afraid Iraq will never get back on track.
Apr 8, '03
You know, it all reminds me of the childhood fairy tale of the hen baking bread and asking for help----- No one helps her gather the ingredients, do the kneading, bake the bread, or clean up, but they sure want to reap the rewards, e.g. eating the proceeds. This is no different in my eyes--- and not at all a surprise to me. They all want a piece of the action but don't want dirty hands. Ain't that the way of the world, really?
Last edit by SmilingBluEyes on Apr 8, '03