UNITED NATIONS - A new suicide bombing at the U.N. compound in Baghdad on Monday dramatized the dangers of stabilizing postwar Iraq as Pakistani and French leaders dealt a double blow to U.S. efforts to win wider military support.
The bomber killed an Iraqi guard and wounded 19 people on the eve of the annual U.N. General Assembly session, at which President Bush will urge skeptical world leaders to provide money and troops to pacify and rebuild Iraq.
Even before the latest blast jolted morale at U.N. headquarters, shattered by last month's devastating truck bomb that killed U.N. special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others, the response to U.S. lobbying for allies to share the costly burden of occupation was cagey.
US soldiers secure the area of a suicide bombing near UN headquarters in Baghdad. An Iraqi security guard and the bomber were killed and at least eight other people injured in the blast behind the Canal Hotel housing the UN offices, where 22 people, including the top UN envoy in Iraq, were killed in a massive bombing last month. (AFP/Karim Sahib)
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, to whom Washington is looking for a major contribution of peacekeepers, set conditions in an interview with The New York Times, pointing to widespread public opposition in his country.
That would only change if "the United Nations, Muslim countries, Arab counties and Iraqis themselves are asking for Muslim troops," he said.
The United States is working on a new U.N. resolution aimed at attracting wider support for postwar reconstruction in Iraq, but critics of its invasion are pressing for more concessions.
French President Jacques Chirac, who spearheaded opposition to the war, told The Times ahead of a meeting with Bush on Tuesday that France would not send peacekeepers to Iraq and wanted sovereignty handed over fast to an Iraqi authority.
"There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible," Chirac said, reaffirming a position that Secretary of State Colin Powell has dismissed as "totally unrealistic."
But he said France was not thinking of vetoing the new U.S. resolution.
AIDS AND TERRORISM
World leaders debated ways to fight two other global scourges -- AIDS and terrorism -- on Monday, but the unresolved problems in Iraq and the Middle East formed a gloomy backdrop.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened a conference on the root causes of terrorism by declaring that only political solutions to such problems would stop violence, and warning states against abuses in their fight against militants.
"Terrorism will only be defeated if we act to solve the political disputes and long-standing conflicts which generate support for it," Annan said, stressing that military means alone would not succeed.
"If we do not, we shall find ourselves acting as a recruiting sergeant for the very terrorists we seek to suppress," he said. He cited targeted assassinations, such as Israel has carried out against Palestinian militants, as the kind of government action that could sustain terrorism.
Norwegian Prime Minister Kjelle Magne Bondevik co-hosted the conference with Nobel peace laureate Elie Wiesel in a city scarred by the Sept. 11, 2001, attack by suicide hijackers that destroyed the World Trade Center, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Chirac, widely reviled in the United States for his diplomatic campaign against the war, used the conference as a platform for his first speech on American soil since this year's military action.
He also met U.S. Jewish leaders, concerned by reports of a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in France. His closest anti-war European ally, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, will meet Bush for ice-breaker talks on Wednesday, offering limited help to train Iraqi soldiers and police, but no peacekeepers.
White House officials said Bush would robustly defend his decision to invade Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein and issue a "call to action" urging the international community to commit money and troops to help stabilize and rebuild the country.
But diplomats said he would have to show humility and not lecture other nations on their responsibilities, since the United States unleashed the war without U.N. authority but now wanted others to share the burden of occupation.
With three more American soldiers killed on Sunday, the huge cost and mounting casualty toll is becoming a domestic political issue for Bush as he seeks re-election next year.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd