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France cool on U.S. troops appeal

U.S. is refusing to consider giving up military or political control in Iraq.
U.S. is refusing to consider giving up military or political control in Iraq.

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Should the U.S. share command of the joint military force in Iraq?

PARIS, France -- France has poured cold water on U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's drive to get more nations to send troops, police and money to help rebuild Iraq.

Washington's attempt to win support for a U.N. Security Council resolution in the wake of the bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad has been hindered by its insistence on keeping command of the joint military force.

Speaking on French radio, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the coalition powers should switch from "a logic of occupation to a logic of sovereignty" in Iraq.

De Villepin was asked on French RTL radio for his response to Powell's request for more nations to send troops.

"Is there a need for a security escalation? I'm not sure," he said. "The real question is whether there needs to be a rethink of the involvement in Iraq, not only that of the U.N. but that of all the parties, including the coalition.

"Iraqi sovereignty must be recognized, so that Iraqis can feel they are truly in command, and take their destiny into their own hands," he added.

Powell said his colleagues and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's staff were exploring with council members "language that might call on member states to do more." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also met Annan on Friday to discuss the resolution.

After their meeting, Straw told reporters the discussions had been "constructive" and he felt members would be able to reach agreement.

Annan said a resolution for a broader multinational role under a U.N. mandate is possible, but only if decision-making is shared among the countries that commit their resources.

"If that doesn't happen," Annan told reporters, "I think it's going to be very difficult" to get a resolution that will "satisfy everybody.

"I think there can be unity, but i think it's going to take discussions, it's going to take give and take, it needs to be done behind closed doors, and that's what I am recommending to members." (Full story)

Powell, talking to reporters Thursday after his meeting with Annan, said: "We want the humanitarian workers and other workers in Iraq -- reconstruction workers and others -- to have a safe environment." (Aid groups pull out)

Powell's effort evoked a cool response from Security Council members France, Russia and Germany, who said the United Nations should play a larger role in Iraq, according to Reuters and Washington Post reports. All three opposed the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq.

"To share the burden and the responsibilities in a world of equal and sovereign nations, also means sharing information and authority," Michel Duclos, France's charge d'affaires at the United Nations, told a Security Council discussion, Reuters reported.

"This political transition will have a greater chance of success if it is guided by the Iraqis themselves with the assistance not of the occupation forces but of the international community as a whole," Duclos said.

Reuters reported that Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergei Lavrov agreed with Duclos as did Wolfgang Trautwein, Germany's charge d'affaires, who called for a "wider U.N. role in the political field" and "broader military cooperation."

The diplomatic moves follow Tuesday's bombing in Baghdad that killed at least 23 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. envoy in Iraq. Two more American service members were killed in Iraq Thursday, U.S. military officials said Friday. (Full story)

About 140,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq and more than 20,000 forces are from other countries, principally Britain.

Powell noted an international presence already exists in Iraq, with about 30 nations contributing troops under U.S.-led coalition control.

But a senior White House official told CNN the United States would draw the line at giving up primary military or political control of the transition in Iraq.

"We will maintain the chain of command. The United States is spending 95 percent of the money to maintain Iraq until the economy is up and running. We have accountability issues," the official said.

Because of this, few in the administration are optimistic a U.N. resolution will be approved soon.

Britain's Straw also echoed Washington's insistence that it was not practicable for the U.N. to take over the lead role on security from the U.S. and Britain.

Five more nations -- which one source said included Turkey and Thailand -- are sending troops, and 14 other nations -- among them Moldova, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal and Thailand, according to State Department officials -- are discussing contributions.

A new resolution also might induce other Muslim countries such as Pakistan to send troops, Reuters reported.

Some countries such as India have cited the need for a new U.N. resolution authorizing a military operation before they could send any troops. India previously declined a U.S. request to send 17,000 peacekeepers to Iraq. (Full story)

Annan said the United Nations has no intention to recommend a contingent of "U.N. blue helmets," or peacekeepers.

Overseeing security arrangements was the province of a multinational force, "with the U.N. focusing on the economic, political and social areas where we do our best work," he added.

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