Chirac: Iraq war undermined U.N.
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac, in a speech to the United Nations, has sharply criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and called for the restoration of self-rule in Iraq on a "realistic timetable."
Chirac said the invasion, which was carried out without U.N. support, "shook the multilateral system."
"The United Nations has just been through one of the most grave crises in its history," he added.
His comments followed U.S. President George W. Bush's defense of the invasion and the U.S. leader's call for international assistance in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Bush said the restoration of self-rule there should not be rushed "by the wishes of other parties."
Chirac has been sharply critical of the U.S. administration's Iraq policy, and has been calling for the coalition to hand back sovereignty to the Iraqi people in six to nine months.
"In an open world, no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules. There is no alternative to the United Nations," Chirac said. (Full story)
But he echoed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in calling for "far-reaching reform" of the world body to meet new threats.
Bush acknowledged the differences among U.N. members before the U.S.-led invasion in March, but said members must "move forward" to rebuild Iraq. (Transcript of Bush address)
Speaking before Bush, Annan delivered an implicit rebuke of the U.S.-led invasion, but urged U.N. members to assist in the country's reconstruction.
He criticized states that argued for "the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively" to head off perceived threats, but he urged the Security Council to figure out how to deal with similar questions in the future.
"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years," Annan told the U.N. General Assembly.
"My concern is that, if it were adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification."
The founders of the United Nations set up a network of international institutions that would allow countries to work together for peace, Annan said. "Now we must decide whether it is possible to continue on the basis agreed then, or whether radical changes are needed."
The United States and its allies sought explicit Security Council authorization to use force against Iraq, warning that Baghdad was defying U.N. resolutions demanding it give up chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.
But the Security Council was unable to reach a consensus on the matter, and a U.S.-led army invaded Iraq in March without the blessing of the United Nations.
Annan said U.N. agencies can play a "full part" in rebuilding Iraq despite lingering disagreements over the war, but said the world body must do more to protect its staff there after last month's deadly suicide bombing in Baghdad and a second attempt Monday.
After Tuesday's meeting, Bush plans to hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders, including Chirac.
Chirac suggested in a New York Times interview Monday that France might abstain from voting on a resolution lacking a timetable but not veto it. (Full story)
In addition to Chirac, Bush is to meet Tuesday with the leaders of Spain, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Morocco. He is to meet Wednesday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, another staunch critic of his Iraq policy.