Anti-war trio demands leading role for UN

The anti-war trio of Russia, France and Germany called yesterday for the United Nations to take the leading role in rebuilding Iraq, but toned down their criticism of the US, with President Jacques Chirac voicing hope that fractured ties with Washington would be mended.

President Vladimir Putin hosted Mr Chirac and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, at a hastily arranged summit dominated by the Iraqi crisis in Russia's former imperial capital. The three leaders wrapped up their two-day gathering by opening a seminar on security and international law.

"Once the necessary security has been restored, the United Nations should play a central role in ensuring that Iraq regains its sovereignty and that the Iraqi people recover their dignity and their freedom," Mr Chirac said at the start of the seminar.

"There can be no lasting international order based on the logic of power," he said, adding that a leading UN role in Iraq would help "allay the popular feelings of frustration in the region".

Mr Schröder said the UN was crucial in bringing "legitimacy" to post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq. "The legitimacy of the restoration of the state and economic structures can be ensured only through international law," he said.

The three leaders spearheaded the diplomatic opposition to the military campaign in Iraq, badly straining their nations' relations with the US. Nevertheless, Mr Chirac insisted that he was pleased with the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Condemnation of the dictatorship was never the issue," he said. "Our dispute was about how to manage the world and its crises, particularly proliferation crises."

He also signalled a desire to mend the rift with Washington, saying: "We can rebuild our unity around the values that all great democracies share. This spirit of solidarity and collective responsibility should emerge strengthened from this crisis. I'm convinced that the international community can once again agree on its fundamental values."

Mr Putin said the crisis highlighted the need for modernisation of the United Nations and the entire system of international law: "Many shortcomings of the existing international law system and serious contradictions have emerged, which create a serious potential for conflict," he said. (AP)

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