Iraqi's Offer to U.S. Troops Could Lead to U.N. Action
Bush, Chirac and Powell Praise 'Positive' Development
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page A20
PARIS, June 5 -- President Bush, meeting here with President Jacques Chirac of France, said Saturday that Iraq's new interim prime minister had formally invited U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, a development the French and American sides said could lead to a new U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced on Air Force One en route to Paris from Rome that Ayad Allawi had sent a letter outlining the terms under which he would agree to the presence of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. Powell said he would respond in a letter "in a positive vein" to Allawi's proposal. He said the letters would form annexes to the U.N. resolution.
Bush hailed the development as a "positive step forward."
Chirac, the main international opponent of Bush's policies in Iraq, agreed that "we have moved forward positively, and we should be able to put the finishing touches to this text very shortly." Chirac indicated, however, that he did not agree with Powell's plan to include the agreement in annexes. Chirac said the "thrust" of the agreement in the letters "has to be picked up in the language of the resolution."
The movement toward a new U.N. resolution, which would give international approval and possibly money and troops to the Bush plan to transfer partial sovereignty to Iraqis, was a bright spot in a news conference held by the French and U.S. presidents that exposed the tense disagreement between them over Iraq.
Chirac said during the session at Elysee Palace that he had told Bush he was not convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. While applauding the removal of Saddam Hussein as Iraq's president, Chirac said that "what's less positive is there is a degree of chaos prevailing" in Iraq.
"We have certainly not put the difficulties behind us. Do not believe that," Chirac said. "We are in a situation which is extremely precarious."
The two leaders expressed common cause in such areas as Afghanistan and the Balkans. But their comity broke down as Bush was confronted with hostile questioning from French journalists, one of whom compared Bush to Hussein, adding that the U.S. president had been "accused of state terrorism."
In a frosty moment that ended the conference, Chirac criticized Bush's efforts to compare the Iraq war and World War II, a sentiment that Bush expressed anew in advance of Sunday's 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy.
"I fully understand what led President Bush to make this comparison, if only for reason of circumstance," Chirac said. "History does not repeat itself, and it is very difficult to compare historical situations that differ. The situation in Iraq has to be contained, has to be mastered. We have to roll up our sleeves. . . . Perhaps we will succeed."
Despite the tension, both sides emphasized progress toward a U.N. resolution that would set aside diplomatic strain.
"We are very, very close to completing the work," Powell said on Air Force One. He said he believed the letters would address objections from countries, particularly France, that have sought a more specific outline of Iraqi sovereignty than the Bush administration proposed in a draft resolution.
"I am confident within a few days we will be there," Powell said. "We are in the endgame."
Powell said Allawi's letter "lays out a committee structure where there would be political-to-political and political-to-military dialogue about the strategy that would be followed, the broad policy on the use of forces and how we would deal with any sensitive operations that might be contemplated."
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