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UN role in Iraq: Bush, Chirac at loggerheads

Suman Guha Mozumder at the United Nations | September 24, 2003 09:33 IST

United States President George W Bush on Tuesday made it clear that Washington was not in favour of a governing role for the United Nations.

But he expected the world body to get involved in task such as developing a new constitution for Iraq and training civil servants.

Bush justifies Iraq, Afghanistan wars

In his address to the 58th General Assembly, Bush said that the primary goal of the US-led coalition in Iraq is self-government for the Iraqis through a democratic process. But this process, he said, must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis and not by the wishes of other parties.

"And the United Nations can greatly contribute to the cause of Iraq self-government," he added.

Bush later spelt out the contributions that the world body could make. "As in the aftermath of other conflicts, the UN should assist in developing a constitution, in training civil servants and conducting free and fair elections," he said.

The president did not mention issues like the formation of a multinational peacekeeping force for Iraq under the aegis of the world body as called for by some member states.

Countries like India and Pakistan have said that they would consider sending peacekeeping forces to Baghdad if such a request comes through the UN. Bush also did not talk of a timeframe for transfer of power to Iraqis.

French President Jacques Chirac, who spoke after Bush, disagreed with Bush on a number of issues.

He said the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis was 'essential' for stability and reconstruction. "It is up to the UN to assist with the gradual transfer of administrative and economic responsibilities to the present Iraqi institutions according to a realistic timetable and to help the Iraqis draft a constitution and hold elections," he said

France has taken the position that a second resolution at the Security Council could be considered by Paris provided the current administration immediately transfer all power to a temporary Iraqi government by this year, among other things.

But with Bush's insistence that the democratic process must take place according to the needs of the Iraqis and not by wishes of others, that does not seem to be in offing.

Bush said America was working on a second Security Council resolution on Iraq, but whether it will be passed remains doubtful with France, a permanent member of the Security Council, having the option to veto it.

The US apparently is hoping for a majority vote in favour in the Council. A New York Post article said Tuesday that Spain and Bulgaria, both non-permanent members of the Council, are supporting Washington. The report also said that Moscow and Beijing have indicated they would not veto the draft resolution. Mexico and Chile have also welcomed the resolution.

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