Bush and Schröder finally settle differences over Iraq

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Indy Politics

President George Bush and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, said yesterday that they were putting aside their differences over Iraq and would strive together to try to bring security and democracy to the country.

Mr Schröder, who last spring sided with the French President, Jacques Chirac, in opposing the war, said Germany was ready to contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq, notably with training and police personnel. But he did not indicate a willingness to contribute troops.

The two leaders met for their first private discussions in 16 months on the fringes of the UN General Assembly. Mr Bush said: "The first thing I told him, I said: 'Look, we had differences, and they're over. We're going to work together'."

An appeal to the General Assembly by Mr Bush on Tuesday for assistance from other nations in rebuilding Iraq drew a chilly response. And a meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Chirac failed to bridge the gap between them on how fast political powers should be handed back to the Iraqis.

But Mr Schröder said: "We very much feel that the differences ... have been left behind. We would like to come in and help with the resources that we do have. We very much envisage that we will assist and supply training for the security forces and police functions, or be it some form of military function."

But in his address to the Assembly - the first by a German chancellor since Willy Brandt 30 years ago - Mr Schröder appealed for a strengthened role in Iraq for the UN. While Mr Bush conceded that the UN should help with writing a constitution and organising elections, most members want the UN to become the main proprietor of Iraq in its transition, and an end to the perception of the US as a colonial power.

"Only the United Nations can guarantee the legitimacy that is needed to enable the Iraqi population to rapidly rebuild their country under an independent, representative government," Mr Schröder said.

In a series of meetings with other world leaders in New York, Mr Bush has been trying to build support for a new UN resolution that aims to establish a multilateral force in Iraq with Security Council approval, and thus draw more nations into contributing to the reconstruction effort. France wants a quicker handover of power in Iraq than is envisaged by Washington, but has signalled that it will not use its veto to block the resolution.

Residual anger was voiced by numerous world leaders in New York that America had jeopardised the system of multilateral security by invading Iraq against the wishes of many nations. Megawati Sukarnoputri, the Indonesian President, said the war in Iraq created "more problems than those it intended to solve".

At the same time, few appeared in the mood to frustrate Washington's push for a new resolution. "The reality is that the goals are the same for everybody and the means vary, but I don't think we will be locking horns for the sake of locking horns," said Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Prime Minister, who was a strong critic of the war. He said all nations shared the goal of transferring power to the Iraqi people at some stage.

The US is hoping in particular that the passage of a new resolution will encourage troop contributions from Pakistan and India. Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, said last night that, "Pakistan would be prepared to help in a collective, UN-sanctioned Arab and Islamic effort to help the Iraqi people, if they wish us to do so".