France clears way for agreement on UN resolution over Iraq

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The Independent Online

France is ready to support the draft US-UK resolution on Iraq's future in a vote at the UN security council later today.

Tony Blair says he is "reasonably confident" that the resolution will be agreed. The Prime Minister said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there was agreement on the principles for the administration of Iraq following the transfer of sovereignty on 30 June.

The US called for a vote on a UN resolution endorsing the restoration of Iraq's sovereignty after a last-minute compromise. As well as support from France, backing also seems likely from Germany.

The US Ambassador John Negroponte said he was "very optimistic" about the outcome of the vote. But Chile and other Security Council members were still hoping for more changes in the resolution, and China urged the United States to "show flexibility," the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Before the vote, Secretary-General Kofi Annan scheduled a meeting of the Group of Friends of Iraq, comprising 47 nations and the European Commission. The secretary-general set up the forum to exchange views and share advice with key interested parties - including Iraq's neighbors - and he was expected to press for support for the new interim government.

After weeks of negotiations, the United States and Britain are hoping to send a united message to the Iraqi people that the international community supports the transfer of full sovereignty to the new interim Iraqi government and wants the new leaders to work in partnership with the US-led multinational force that is remaining in the country to help ensure security.

The French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said that France will vote for the resolution, saying: "We find many of our ideas in this text."

Barnier said France would have liked a clearer definition of the relationship between the new Iraqi government and multinational force, but added: "That doesn't stop us from a positive vote in New York to help in a constructive way find a positive exit to this tragedy."

The French President Jacques Chirac, the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and George Bush met over the weekend at celebrations in Normandy to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The occasion was seen as a way to find reconciliation between the United States and France, which led opposition to the war in Iraq.

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