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France, UK back U.N. role in Iraq

De Villepin, Straq
De Villepin (left) and Straw said the two countries had never stopped communicating

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start quoteThe dialog has never stopped between us and in fact our friendship has never stopped either.end quote
-- De Villepin
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- The United Nations has an important role to play in a post-war Iraq, the foreign ministers of France and the UK have said.

Dominique de Villepin and Jack Straw put aside their differences over the war to stress the need for fast and effective help for the Iraqi population.

"Both the prime minister (Blair) and President Bush have committed themselves to a vital role in the reconstruction of Iraq and other matters relating to Iraq as well," Straw told reporters Wednesday morning.

Later Wednesday, as more Iraqis poured into the streets of Baghdad to welcome U.S. troops, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was still "too early to say who's going to take charge and who's going to run the government."

Straw, speaking to reporters after a breakfast meeting in Paris, said: "The government of Iraq has to be from the people of Iraq and by the people of Iraq, of course with the support of the coalition and with the support of the United Nations and of the international community."

While de Villepin agreed that coalition forces already in Iraq had an initial responsibility to the country to maintain security, he said that eventually it was essential for the U.N. and other international communities to play a role in the country's reconstruction.

"We've already said that the forces that are present have got the initial responsibility," he said, adding: "The United Nations has got to play an essential role.

"We feel that the more this international community be united, the more the procedure is likely to succeed."

De Villepin and Straw pointed out that the two countries had never stopped communicating with each other even though they had vehemently differed in opinion over the war in Iraq.

"I am very happy this meeting has taken place after a few difficult weeks between our two countries," de Villepin said.

"The dialogue has never stopped between us and in fact our friendship has never stopped either," he said.

He also spoke of "common values" between France and the UK and the need to address the Middle East peace process, a key focus of talks Tuesday between U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Full story)

Jack Straw said that Great Britain was committed to maintaining and strengthening its ties with France.

"Life would be very boring if friends always agreed. There'd be nothing to talk about," Straw joked.

"This is a grown-up relationship and of course we sometimes have different perspectives on issues," he said. "What's important however, is we work through dialogue and then we reach a higher agreement. That's the process we've been engaged in today."

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