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Rumsfeld: U.N. should have role

Rumsfeld was talking to Blair about plans for Iraq's reconstruction.
Rumsfeld was talking to Blair about plans for Iraq's reconstruction.

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LONDON, England -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday he believes the United Nations will have a role in post-war Iraq.

"The coalition forces have been in contact through the foreign ministries with the U.N. and Secretary General, and I suspect that there will be over the coming period intensive discussions as to what role the U.N. may or may not wish to play.

"Personally I'm hopeful that they do play a role," Rumsfeld told a news conference at Heathrow airport after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at his country residence Chequers.

Rumsfeld declined to comment on a report that L. Paul Bremer -- a man with high-level diplomatic and anti-terrorism experience -- was being appointed to lead U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

A senior defense official Friday told CNN that Bremer was joining the Pentagon and would report to either Rumsfeld or Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command.

Retired Gen. Jay Garner, now in Iraq as the civilian head of the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, would report to Bremer.

Asked about the Bremer appointment, Rumsfeld said the White House has not yet made an announcement.

As for whether such an appointment signals displeasure with Garner, Rumsfeld said there is "no unhappiness with respect to Gen. Jay Garner," and that "there is a great deal of pleasure in the fact that this man has undertaken and performed superbly for our country and for the coalition."

Rumsfeld was in London on his way back to Washington from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He met with British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, who told reporters that coalition forces "anticipate" finding Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Hoon said: "We have always made clear that the effort to locate and precisely identify weapons of mass destruction would take some time.

"We were well aware in the course of the UN inspections of the determined efforts by the regime to dismantle weapons, to scatter them around Iraq, to hide them.

"Obviously it will take time (but) not least now that we have the cooperation of certain individuals involved in those programs, we can anticipate that success. But it is an effort that is continuing as we speak."

Both men dismissed suggestions that the coalition action in Iraq lacked a legal basis.

Hoon insisted: "What we are doing in Iraq is entirely lawful. It is covered by the Hague and Geneva Conventions, it is perfectly proper and perfectly lawful."

Earlier Friday, Rumsfeld held a private meeting in London with Jordan's King Abdullah to discuss security matters in the Middle East.

U.S. defense officials would not disclose more details on the meeting with Abdullah and would not say whether Rumsfeld was carrying a message from U.S. President George W. Bush.

-- CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report

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