Allies were right to wage war on Iraq, Bush tells UN

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The Independent Online

George Bush will stand before the United Nations in New York today and insist that the United States and Britain did the right thing in invading Iraq. He will call upon its members to help to stabilise the country with contributions of cash and soldiers.

Mr Bush will make his address at the annual meeting of the UN's General Assembly one year after he challenged the body to take decisive action to force Saddam Hussein to come clean on his alleged weapons programmes or face being forced from power.

But Mr Bush, who is seeking a new resolution to help to persuade other nations to join in the reconstruction, will face an audience largely resentful of how events have unfolded ­ the invasion without explicit authorisation from the Security Council and the subsequent failure to find weapons.

"We made the right decision and the others that joined us made the right decision," Mr Bush said of the invasion in an interview on Fox television screened yesterday in the US.

Negotiating the new resolution is proving difficult. A US draft proposes, in vague terms, that the UN be given a greater role in Iraq while establishing a gradual timeline for the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government. But France wants sovereignty to be handed over more quickly.

Jacques Chirac, the French President, indicated France was unlikely to veto any text, meaning a compromise might be reached in the coming days, possibly with France abstaining. But he suggested for the first time a two-step process for handing over power. First, symbolic authority would be given to the Iraq governing council, followed bypower being ceded over six to nine months.

"There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible," Mr Chirac said, speaking to The New York Times. He added that until there was self-rule in Iraq, the country would have a "governor who is Christian and foreign" responsible for an Arab and Muslim country. He called it "a very difficult situation for any people to accept in the 21st century".

But last night the US National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, rejected the French plan, telling reporters: "The French plan which would somehow try to transfer sovereignty to an unelected people just isn't workable."

Mr Bush will lead an intense lobbying effort for Washington's version of the resolution. While in New York he is due to meet Mr Chirac today and Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, tomorrow. He will hold talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, at Camp David at the weekend.

Members of the governing council who hope to claim Iraq's seat at the UN arrived in New York yesterday. They include Ahmed Chalabi, current head of the council's rotating presidency and Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and a senior council member.

"The key on any resolution," Mr Bush said, "is not to get in the way of an orderly transfer of sovereignty based upon a logical series of steps. And that's constitution, elections and then the transfer of authority."

Diplomats said it was important to ensure that the resolution should not appear to be a retrospective endorsement of the invasion.Countries identified as possible troop contributors, such as Pakistan and India, will be instead looking for language that helps end the perception of America as a colonial power in Iraq and gives a meaningful prominence to the UN.

A diluted resolution that fails to change perceptions was unlikely to make much difference in the real world, they said. "A weak resolution may command 15 votes, but it may not have any real outcome in terms of changing the situation in Iraq," said Heraldo Munoz, the Chilean ambassador to the UN.

In the Fox interview Mr Bush considered roles for the UN in Iraq. "I do think it would be helpful to get the United Nations in to help write a constitution," he said. "I mean, they're good at that. Or, perhaps when an election starts, they'll oversee the election. That would be deemed a larger role."

For his part, Mr Chirac said that he could not envisage sending French troops to Iraq, but he did not rule it out in the long term. "As things are now, there is no situation where I can imagine that France would send troops to Iraq," he noted. But, he added: "Everything could change. I don't have a crystal ball."

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