Just days after the leaders of France and Germany dismissed a U.S.-backed U.N. resolution on Iraq as inadequate, Europe and America over the weekend appeared to be moving closer to a compromise.
A new resolution could pave the way for U.N. peacekeepers in Iraq.
Only last Thursday, French President Jacques Chriac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder rejected an American proposal for a new U.N. resolution on Iraq, saying it did not give the United Nations a “dynamic enough” role in rebuilding the country.
But Paris and Berlin, both staunch opponents of the U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, were keen not to shut the door entirely on Washington, in the hope the United States might be willing to cede more control to the United Nations.
“All of us have the desire to find a compromise,” said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Saturday, while meeting his EU counterparts near Lake Garda in northern Italy.
Washington, which has had difficultly stabilizing postwar Iraq, would like a new resolution to pave the way for greater international involvement in peacekeeping operations and reconstruction efforts. But U.S. President George Bush has been loath to relinquish command of the Iraqi occupation to the world body that once stymied his war efforts.
Fischer lauds U.S. initiative
Also in Italy, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer lauded the United States’ draft resolution for bringing “movement” into the discussion how to give the U.N. more responsibility in Iraq. He said he had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday and had listed changes Berlin would like to see in the resolution before it could support it in the U.N. Security Council.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
“We want a transfer to an Iraqi authority as soon as possible and a rebuilding of Iraqi sovereignty in order to help achieve stability,” said Fischer.
The current U.S. draft aims to create an U.N. multinational military force in Iraq under American command. It also would leave U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer in charge of the occupation. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Berlin realizes Washington will be willing to offer the United Nations only a certain degree of new authority. Citing high-ranking German officials, the paper said Berlin remained confident a deal for a new resolution could be soon be struck.
Possible Bush-Schröder summit?
It was also reported over the weekend that Bush was finally prepared to meet Schröder or bilateral talks in New York later this month. The two haven’t met one-on-one since Bush became upset over Schröder’s strong opposition to the war in Iraq. Schröder is set to attend a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly from September 22 to 24.
Somewhat ironically, the meeting between the two leaders could then take place exactly one year after Schröder’s election victory that he largely owed to his anti-war stance. Schröder’s campaigning so angered Bush that he refused to officially congratulate him on his reelection.
A Bush-Schröder summit would signal a great thaw in U.S.-German relations, but it still seems unlikely Bush will be able to convince Schröder to send troops to Iraq. Many observers consider the German army is already pushed to the breaking point with operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Plus a military engagement in Iraq would be unpopular with many Germans, who feel their soldiers shouldn’t be placed in harm’s way for a conflict they didn’t want in the first place.
Speaking to German ZDF television on Saturday, Schröder confirmed his well-known reluctance: “We have no plans – and that’s the way it will stay – to get involved in Iraq militarily.”
Still, Schröder is likely to face some pressure from Bush. During his first White House speech to be given since he announced the bombing of Baghdad on March 19, Bush on Sunday called for European countries to contribute both financially and militarily to the stabilization and rebuilding of Iraq.
"Europe, Japan and states in the Middle East all will benefit from the success of freedom in these two countries, and they should contribute to that success," he said.He went on to describe military assistance from these countries as a "duty."
"I recognize that not all our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power," he said. "Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties." Members of the United Nations, the president said, "now have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation."