Bush meets backers of new U.N. initiative

Friday, May 9, 2003

WASHINGTON -- President Bush welcomed a raft of international supporters of the U.S.-led war in Iraq to the White House Thursday as his administration prepared to engage in another U.N. showdown over its postwar goals for the country.

Bush had breakfast with one of his Iraq backers, lunch with another and spent the afternoon with half a dozen more.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who met with Bush in the morning, has agreed to send troops to help stabilize Iraq. He told Danish public radio afterward that his country wants to help move the latest debate -- over lifting long-standing sanctions on Iraq -- along in the United Nations.

Bush and Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, talked about advancing Mideast peace as well as the future of Iraq. U.S. war operations were based in Qatar; Bush offered effusive thanks.

"You made some promises to America, and you kept your promises," Bush said after their Oval Office session.

Later, the White House put on an East Room celebration for the foreign ministers of the seven eastern European nations preparing to join NATO. Six of them were partners in Bush's Iraq coalition.

With a new Iraq debate in the deeply divided United Nations only days away, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer termed the day "a real numerical reminder of how the world agreed with the United States."

The Bush administration is presenting the U.N. Security Council with a resolution today to immediately lift international sanctions on Iraq and phase out the oil-for-food program, council diplomats said on condition of anonymity. The White House said it wants action before the United Nation's oil-for-food humanitarian program in Iraq expires at the beginning of next month.

Bush and other top members of his administration have struck conciliatory, hopeful tones.

"There's no reason that this current United Nations process should look anything like the last one," Fleischer said. "There is no reason for a dustup."

Secretary of State Colin Powell, following a meeting in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, said the U.S. effort would seek to bridge the Security Council rift opened by Bush's drive to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.

"Whatever happened in the past is in the past," Powell said.

And Bush, appearing Wednesday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the White House, declared that diplomatic dispatches describe an international community that now wants "to work together for the good of the Iraqi people."

"We believe there is a mood to work together to achieve a resolution that will expedite the reconstruction of Iraq," Bush said at a joint news conference forced indoors by spring thundershowers. "The kind of atmosphere that existed prior to the war has changed and ... people now want to work together for the good of the Iraqi people."

Aznar backed his host -- "Absolutely," he said -- though he lacked Bush's certainty. "I hope it's true," he added.

Bush and Aznar urged the quick adoption of the sanctions-removing resolution being offered jointly by the United States, Britain and Spain.

"The regime that the sanctions were directed against no longer rules Iraq," Bush said. "No country in good conscience can support using sanctions to hold back the hopes of the Iraqi people."

There were some signs at the United Nations as well that the looming Iraq debate may end differently than the last one, when Bush was unable to win Security Council backing for war.

Germany, a staunch war opponent, is not insisting on "strict linkage" between the removal of weapons of mass destruction and the lifting of sanctions, a State Department official said. German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger told reporters his country would not stand in the way of a pragmatic solution.

France, which led anti-war opposition in the Security Council, also indicated a cooperative stance.

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