Powell wants U.N. to back increase in international forces

Friday, August 22, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary of State Colin Powell launched a new effort Thursday to broaden the American-led coalition force in Iraq. But he made clear Washington won't cede any authority, as France and other nations have demanded.

France, which led opposition to the war in Iraq, said that if the United States now wants countries to share the military burden of restoring peace to the country, it must share authority. Powell insisted U.S. leadership provides "competent control" of the force.

Powell was at the United Nations following Tuesday's bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23 people. The issue of security in Iraq and the possibility of a new U.N. resolution to enlist more foreign troops were at the top of the agenda during his meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

France, Russia, India and other countries have ruled out sending soldiers to Iraq unless a multinational force is authorized by the United Nations. Without U.S. agreement to cede some control to the world body, diplomats said the possibility of a robust international force appeared unlikely to attract new support.

The council held an open meeting which focused on security in Iraq and later went into closed session to hear U.S. ideas for a new resolution.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the Bush administration wants more countries to provide troops, financial assistance and help with police training to beef up security to bring stability to Iraq. Negroponte also encouraged contributions to equip and train an Iraqi police force and called for speedy transfer of assets of the former regime, which are being deposited in a fund for Iraq's development.

According to Security Council diplomats, the Bush administration wants military troops, financial assistance and help with police training to beef up security to bring stability to Iraq.

The United States will not offer to broaden the U.N. mandate in Iraq but is willing to work on language that might make it more attractive for countries to contribute troops or money, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Powell stressed that the U.S.-led force in Iraq is multinational already, with 30 nations providing 22,000 troops, five others in the process of sending troops and 14 others discussing it. About 11,000 of those troops come from close ally Britain.

"But perhaps additional language and a new resolution might encourage others," he said. "We'll be looking at, of course, reaffirming our determination to succeed in Iraq. We're looking forward to language that might call on member states to do more."

When asked if Washington was willing to hand some of its control in Iraq to the United Nations, Powell said, "We have said all along that we want to U.N. to play a vital role. The issue of ceding authority is not an issue we have had to discuss today."

He said the countries that have sent troops to Iraq want U.S. command over the peacekeeping operation.

"You have to have control of a large military organization. That's what U.S. leadership brings to the coalition," he said, adding that the U.S.-led occupation authority was authorized by U.N. resolutions.

Close U.S. ally Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary who is scheduled to meet Annan today, agreed, saying: "If you want to be an effective military operation ... then the command has to be through the United States."

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