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U.S. Offering Partnership to U.N. in a Postwar Iraq

The United States and some of its European partners argued intensely over the possibility of war against Iraq. Their conflict may continue on the administration of the country after the war as well.

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Germany's chancellor says Iraqi oil should remain in Iraqi, not coalition, hands

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the general turned diplomat, returned to Brussels on Thursday to consult with opponents of the American-led war against the regime of Saddam Hussein about the shape of a postwar Iraq.

Like the war itself, questions about postwar Iraq have fueled continuing trans-Atlantic tension. The European Union wants the United Nations to take a key role. But officials in Washington want the United States to remain in charge of running the oil-rich country if Saddam is toppled, arguing it has risked the lives of its troops and spent billions of dollars to prepare Iraq for representative government.

Powell, in his strongest comments on the subject, said last month that the United States would not cede control of Iraq to the United Nations, as some Europeans have demanded. During Thursday's meetings, Powell called for a "partnership" with the United Nations to rebuild Iraq after the war, an official told reporters.

But, the official said it was too early to define exactly what role the United Nations would have. "There has to be a partnership with the U.N. (We) can't say when that would all start," he said.

Role for retired general foreseen

The current American plan calls for a U.S. administrator, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, to run Iraq in conjunction with U.S. and British forces until the United States can set up an "interim Iraqi authority" with limited powers.

The powers of the interim authority would gradually increase until an independent Iraqi government took over, but U.S. officials have rarely indicated how long that would take. One senior State Department official has said the military occupation could last two years.

Schröder at odds again with Bush

In Berlin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a leading opponent to the war, staked out a position on Thursday that puts him once again at odds with the United States.

Schröder said Iraq's oil and natural resources must remain under the control of the Iraqi people. "After this war, the United Nations must play the central role as far as the future of Iraq and the new political order is concerned. I would warn against speculating at this point about the details of the necessary reconstruction of Iraq," he told German parliament.

The centerpiece of Thursday's negotiations was an informal two-hour lunch that brought together 23 foreign ministers.

Europeans object to proposal

A day before the meeting, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, spelled out some of the European objections to the U.S. plans for the administration of Iraq and called the concerns substantial. "We believe that the presence of an American general in command in Iraq is completely different from the existence of an Iraqi government or a procedure under the United Nations for a transitional period," he said.

After Thursday's lunch, Papandreou seemed conciliatory. "We are seeing an emerging consensus on these issues," he said.

Powell planned to hold more than 20 separate and mostly closed-door meetings with European and NATO foreign ministers at the alliance headquarters in Brusssels. His partners included France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, who helped lead the diplomatic opposition to the war.

Powell was also attending a meeting of NATO's North Atlantic Council, the alliance's decision-making authority, at the level of foreign ministers. According to diplomats, Powell planned to call for NATO to play a military role in postwar Iraq, a proposal already received coolly by anti-war European states.

NATO was plunged into an unprecedented crisis in February after Germany, France and Belgium blocked a U.S. request to help boost Turkey's defenses in preparation for a war.

(Reuters, AFP)

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