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Europe

U.S. Diplomats Go Into High Gear on Iraq

Debate on lifting sanctions against Iraq, discussion over peacekeeping forces and an inflammatory comment from Condoleeza Rice are all part of the ongoing transatlantic diplomacy surrounding postwar Iraq.

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Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, visiting the White House Thursday, supports Bush's plan to immediately lift sanctions on Iraq.

The United States plans to present a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council later this week calling for the full lifting of international sanctions, and in the meantime will unilaterally ease some of its own economic sanctions.

The aim is to help rebuild the country and provide aid, U.S. President George W. Bush said, speaking after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in Washington. He defended the unilateral U.S. moves, saying the regime that the sanctions were meant to influence is no longer in power.

Continuing the sanctions only hurts the Iraqi people, he said.

Familiar debate

In a debate recalling the one that dogged the U.N. Security Council prior to the U.S.-led war on Iraq -- though with a slightly different lineup -- the U.S., Spain and Great Britain are pushing for the immediate lifting of sanctions while France and Russia oppose it. Those nations say sanctions should be lifted only when it has been proven that Iraq isn't harboring unconventional weapons.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has sent high-ranking diplomats to Berlin and Moscow to push for a rapid end to the sanctions. So far, Germany's stance has been moderate. Germany won't oppose a "pragmatic resolution" on the sanctions issue, according to Germany's ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger. Furthermore, Germany doesn't insist on a "strict link" between the lifting of the sanctions and destruction of armaments, Germany's ARD television reports.

Colin Powell bei Kofi Annan

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan meets with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the U.N. in New York.

Following a meeting with U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (photo) said the United States would work with its friends, "including Germany," to develop the resolution proposal, and stressed the vital role of the United Nations and its European allies in rebuilding Iraq.

A key issue in the sanctions debate is expected to be what role the United Nations should play in Iraq's postwar reconstruction. U.S. officials say the United Nations should have a "coordinating" role, while some other Security Council members favor a lead role for the world body.

Meanwhile, a flare-up over a suggested German military presence in postwar Iraq has subsided. On Wednesday, Germany strongly rejected a surprise Polish proposal that German and Danish troops team up with Poland in a peacekeeping mission in Iraq. The three nations have an already-existing joint security force, created after Poland joined NATO in 1999.

Hostage taking

"A participation of German soldiers is not being considered, and it will not happen," said Bela Anda, a spokesman for Gerhard Schroeder. "The criteria for such a task are not met."

Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice took Germany and France to task for having delayed a military-aid package for Turkey that was meant to bolster its defenses before the war in Iraq.

In doing so, and by threatening smaller countries with reprisals if they backed Washington's plans for war, Rice claimed the two countries had taken NATO "hostage."

Speaking to four Spanish newspapers in interviews published on Wednesday, Rice said: "Nobody should take NATO hostage ... It was very unsettling that Germany and France tried to prevent NATO from reinforcing the security of Turkey. There were many unsettling things in that process."

The German government moved quickly to counter Rice's criticism. On Thursday, a government spokesman told the wire service Agence France Presse: "It's well known that despite the (German) government's policy of rejecting the Iraq war, we have competently contributed to Turkey's defense capabilities." The spokesman noted that Germany had supplied one-third of the soldiers who manned the AWACS reconnaissance aircraft that patrolled the Turkey-Iraq border. Berlin also supplied Turkey with Patriot air defense missiles to protect itself from an Iraqi attack.