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Powell urges U.N. nations to share the burden in Iraq

UNITED NATIONS - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell launched a new effort yesterday to broaden the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq. But he made clear that 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 that U.S. leadership provides "competent control" of the force.

Powell was at the United Nations after 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 that focused on security in Iraq and later went into closed session to hear U.S. ideas for a new resolution.

U.S. Ambassador John D. 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 more discussing it. About 11,000 of those troops come from close ally Britain.

"But perhaps additional language and a new resolution might encourage others," Powell 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 is willing to hand some of its control in Iraq to the United Nations, Powell said: "We have said all along that we want the 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.

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

Negroponte said he wouldn't "slam the door" on the possibility of an arrangement like that in Afghanistan, where the international force in Kabul has broad independence but operates under a U.N. umbrella.

The U.S. position was certain to be a disappointment for France, Russia, China, Germany and other council members who have pressed for an expanding the U.N. mandate in Iraq beyond providing humanitarian assistance and helping to rebuild the country.

France's deputy U.N. ambassador, Michel Duclos, asked whether "we would be in this state" if a genuine international partnership had been established at the outset, under the guidance of the United Nations, to address Iraq's problems.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, said, "All of us wish a stronger and more active role of the United Nations." He said solving security problems should be done in tandem with other work - "first and foremost a political process and a clear timetable for restoration of sovereignty of Iraq."

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