After the Baghdad bombing: Pressure mounts on US to expand role of UN

America was under pressure last night to grant the UN a greater role over security in Iraq, as Washington began to be deserted by its allies on the ground after Tuesday's devastating truck bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

It was also revealed that Iraqi officials had warned the US of a possible attack before the bomb, which killed 20 people including the UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, will hold talks in New York today with Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, and members of the Security Council, to discuss the deteriorating security. He said he was carrying proposals for a "strengthened UN mandate". But as the casualties mount, Mr Straw faces an uphill struggle to convince more countries to take part in Allied operations, and the creation of a UN force has been ruled out by the Americans and the UN.

Poland, which is to take military control of Iraq's central sector, signalled yesterday that it was handing back some territory to US troops because of the heightened risk. In Spain, opposition parties called for the withdrawal of 1,300 troops committed to Iraq for peace-keeping operations, after one of its naval officers was killed.

Before the Security Council was briefed by Mr Annan in emergency session last night, Mr Straw admitted that Allied forces had not properly prepared for the war's aftermath. Mr Annan said the Canal Hotel bomb would not deter the UN. "We will persevere ... We will not be intimidated," he said.

The UN discussions are expected to focus on the composition of forces in Iraq, and particularly on how to integrate Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt into the security operation.

Some countries, such as India, have said they will only provide troops if the UN has primary responsibility for Iraq.

The aim is to find a "face-saving solution that [US Defence Secretary, Donald] Rumsfeld can live with," said one UN diplomat. Mr Rumsfeld said last night that US commanders in Iraq believed that the current force of 150,000 troops was adequate.

Ahmed Chalabi, of the Iraqi National Congress, said that last week the Iraqi Governing Council received intelligence, passed to the US, warning that "Iraqi political parties or other parties including the UN" would be bombed.

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