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Wolfowitz: Bombing changed U.N. mood

'You exploit opportunities, you deal with surprises'

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, right, and Sen. John Warner after meeting Thursday with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, right, and Sen. John Warner after meeting Thursday with the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Thursday the Bush administration has been pushing for months for a new U.N. resolution to internationalize the force in Iraq, but it took the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad to change the "atmosphere in New York."

Wolfowitz made the surprising comments after testifying to congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, and on the same day the Washington Post reported on the apparent change of course the administration has taken in dealing with the United Nations.

The newspaper essentially said Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, teamed up to overcome Pentagon objections to a U.N. force for Iraq. Both men later called the report inaccurate.

Wolfowitz acknowledged that "any plan has got to adjust to the reality as you find it on the ground," but he also disputed any notion that the Bush administration has resisted international help.

"We're unified as an administration on this," Wolfowitz told reporters on Capitol Hill. "We're unified within the Defense Department. We all understand the enormous value of expanding this coalition."

Seeking a new U.N. resolution, he said, "didn't sort of emerge out of nowhere a few days ago."

"It's been on our agenda ever since the fall of Baghdad," Wolfowitz said.

He described last month's deadly bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad as a "breakthrough -- a sad one" -- in bringing the international community aboard.

"The bombing of the U.N. headquarters, I think, changed the atmosphere in New York and it looks like we can move forward in that area," he said.

"Things change. You exploit opportunities, you deal with surprises."

Resolution and Iraq plan may change

The United States plans to lay out its request for U.N. help in Iraq to Security Council members Friday, but France and Germany have said the proposed resolution does not go far enough.

French President Jacques Chirac said France may recommend changes to a proposed U.N. resolution. (Text of draft resolution)

He and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- both of whom opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March -- said Thursday they want the United Nations to take over responsibility for the country's political reconstruction.

Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, said any plan "needs to be constantly revisited and looked at" and that he would "very much welcome" a broader international force.

"It's important that we put a face on this mission as one that the entire international community is interested in participating in and indeed helping Iraq move towards a responsible nation status," he said.

He also said it is important to give Iraqis more control over their own security.

"This is, after all, their country," Abizaid told reporters at the same Capitol Hill news conference Wolfowitz addressed.

Wolfowitz said: "The more Iraqis feel that they are in charge of their own country, the more rapidly we'll get away from this idea that we're there as an occupation force. We came as liberators. That's our mission."

He said early last week U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed that a multinational force would fall under U.S. command, which "really solved our principle concerns on the military side and we embraced that quite eagerly."

He said, however, the Pentagon would have preferred the United Nations stepping up a month or two ago, "but it's better late than never."

"I think they're stepping up to their responsibilities," he said.

About 150,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq, along with about 20,000 troops from Britain and other allies. A Polish-led multinational division of about 9,000 troops took over responsibility for security Wednesday in most of south-central Iraq. (Full story)

Among the countries in the Polish-led force are Hungary, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia, Fiji, Lithuania, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Romania, Ukraine, Honduras, Mongolia, Thailand, Spain, Slovenia, Tonga and Kazakhstan. (Full story)

"It's important the international community participate in Iraq," Myers told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

He said the effort to involve as many countries as possible "has an awful lot to do with the Iraqi people and how they perceive coalition forces." And it has a lot to do with the "types" of troops involved.

"The last thing we want is for them to believe it's a mission of the United States," he said. "It's so important for the international community to pull together on this."

For all the talk of sending more troops, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who arrived Thursday in Iraq, said the key to stabilizing the country is to beef up Iraqi forces, not bringing in additional American troops.

"It is their country; they ultimately are going to have to provide security for that country," Rumsfeld said. (Full story)

Other developments

Iraqis march past a U.S. military armored personnel carrier as they demonstrate Thursday in Baghdad to mourn the death of Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim.
Iraqis march past a U.S. military armored personnel carrier as they demonstrate Thursday in Baghdad to mourn the death of Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim.

• President Bush has told Republican congressional leaders that he will soon ask for approximately $65 billion in additional funding for both Iraq and Afghanistan, senior GOP leadership aides said. According to one aide, the president said the White House will "seriously ramp up the public relations effort" to counter Democratic criticism of the administration's Iraq policy. (Full story)

• FBI forensic analysts have detected similarities in two bombs used recently in separate attacks in Baghdad -- at the Jordanian Embassy and the U.N. headquarters. But the preliminary evidence, which centers on the bombs' chemical composition, does not necessarily point to a single organization or political force, FBI officials cautioned Thursday. (Full story)

• British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon on Thursday ordered a review of Britain's troop levels in Iraq. The move followed a report that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Prime Minister Tony Blair to send more troops or risk "strategic failure." (Full story)

CNN's Dana Bash, Rym Brahimi, David Ensor, Elise Labott, Barbara Starr, Ben Wedeman and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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