U.S. campaign to get more countries to contribute troops in Iraq faces uphill battle

Friday, August 22nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Friday that the Security Council would be unlikely to support a new U.N. resolution for sending more troops to Iraq if the U.S.-led coalition doesn't agree to share decision-making and responsibility.

The U.S. campaign to get more countries to contribute troops to forces in Iraq faces an uphill struggle in a Security Council still bitterly divided over Washington's decision to launch a war without U.N. approval.

Expressing concern about continued violence in Iraq, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, whose country led the opposition to the war, said in published interviews that Iraq is in a state of ``decomposition'' and the United States has fallen into ``a logic of confrontation.''

He indicated that France would support a U.N.-authorized international force to stabilize the country.

Annan reiterated that the United Nations was not considering sending a peacekeeping force to Iraq. But ``the council may decide to transform the operation into a U.N.-mandated multinational force operating on the ground with other governments coming in,'' he said.

That would ``imply not just burden-sharing but also sharing decision and responsibility,'' Annan said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. ``If that doesn't happen, I think it's going to be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everybody.''

Building consensus on broadening the U.N. mandate in Iraq would be the focus of upcoming, closed-door council sessions, discussions in capitals, and input from potential troop contributing countries, Straw and Annan said.

Annan also said a U.N. team was en route to Baghdad to review security after the truck bombing of U.N. headquarters Tuesday that killed at least 23 people and injured at least 100.

``Although people's starting positions may be different, it is possible to reach a strong consensus,'' the British foreign secretary said.

Key objections to a resolution for sending more troops to Iraq have been Washington's insistence on retaining command of all military activity in Iraq, and its apparent refusal so far to broaden the U.N. mandate calling for the world body to supply humanitarian aid and help rebuild the war-ravaged country.

Annan said his discussions with Straw _ and with Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday _ focused on letting other countries participate in economic, political and security areas in Iraq.

Straw spoke of searching for ways ``in which the international community can come together to strengthen the mandate of the United Nations and the role which the international community is taking.''

But Powell on Thursday made no mention of a broader U.N. mandate, instead making clear that the United States has no intention of relinquishing military authority.

Since the war to oust Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops have come under constant guerrilla attack. The massive bomb at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad added to the security woes of the U.S.-British occupation force.

Powell launched the drive for a new U.N. resolution on Thursday, calling on member states ``to do more'' to help Iraq. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said later that Washington wants the resolution to encourage countries to provide troops, money and help with police training.

France's deputy U.N. ambassador Michel Duclos said Wednesday that if the United States wants countries to share the military burden of restoring peace to the country, it must share ``information and authority.''

Turkey's top political and military leaders met Friday to consider a U.S. request to deploy thousands of Turkish soldiers in Iraq _ a move that could make this predominantly Muslim country the third-largest foreign country in Iraq after the United States and Britain. At the end of the 4 1/2-hour meeting, the leaders issued a vague statement, an apparent move to delay any decision as the United Nations considers a possible new mandate for troops in Iraq.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told the newspaper Milliyet that Turkey could send peacekeepers to Iraq, but he stressed that soldiers would go to help rebuild the neighboring country and ``definitely will not be occupiers.''

Powell reaffirmed the U.S. determination to succeed in Iraq and insisted U.S. leadership provides ``competent control'' of the coalition force. He stressed that the U.S.-led force in Iraq is multinational already, with 30 nations providing 22,000 troops _ 11,000 of them from close ally Britain.

``But perhaps additional language and a new resolution might encourage others,'' he said.

France, Russia, India and Germany 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 much new support.

Nevertheless, France and many countries say they've agreed that they want a greater U.N. role in Iraq.

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram said Thursday's briefing ``started the ball rolling'' on a new resolution.

``Everybody wants to help in stabilization,'' he said, ``but it's a question of how we get that additional stabilization'' _ whether through the coalition force or additional forces.''

If Powell could win support from Annan and show flexibility on the concerns of key council members, he might be able to convince the White House and Pentagon that there are ways to maintain U.S. control while giving the international community a bigger role in Iraq.