PARIS/MOSCOW - France and Russia on Friday joined U.N. boss Kofi Annan in criticizing a U.S. draft resolution aimed at coaxing more troops and cash from reluctant allies to help rebuild Iraq.
"Our first impression is...this revised project does not incorporate the change in approach that we are advocating," said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous.
France wants a provisional Iraqi government set up as soon as possible, gradually receiving executive powers in a process overseen by the United Nations.
The UN's future in Iraq was thrown in doubt after Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected US proposals on what role the United Nations would have there. (AFP/Franck Fife)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the U.S. draft was unsatisfactory, but held out hope for a compromise.
"So far we are dissatisfied with the resolution proposed by our U.S. partners," he said in answer to a question at a forum in Moscow.
The comments by France and Russia, both of whom hold a veto on the U.N. Security Council, followed criticism of U.S. policy in postwar Iraq by U.N. Secretary-General Annan on Thursday.
Annan made clear to Security Council ambassadors that the United Nations could not play a proper political role in Iraq under terms wanted by the United States, U.N. officials and diplomats said.
ANNAN CRITICIZES U.S. DRAFT
While not refusing outright to participate in the political process, Annan said the U.S. draft envisaged an impossible U.N. role.
It was one of the few times during his five years in the job that Annan had opposed Washington so bluntly on a crucial issue.
Before President Bush launched a war in March to topple former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, France and Russia mounted a campaign to keep him from securing U.N. backing.
U.S.-led forces, primarily American and British, went to war without a U.N. resolution in support of their action and ousted Saddam in April.
Postwar occupation forces have faced persistent guerrilla ambushes and bomb attacks which have killed more than 80 U.S. soldiers since major combat ended on May 1.
Bomb attacks have killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, whose Shi'ite party was in a U.S.-sponsored Governing Council, and more than 80 of his followers as well as top U.N. official Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other people in Baghdad in August.
Thousands of Iraqis thronged the holy city of Najaf on Friday for a ceremony mourning Hakim.
Postwar turmoil pushed Bush back to the United Nations to seek troops and cash to help control and rebuild the oil-state of 26 million people but he has faced concerted opposition.
Ladsous said France's criticism of the U.S. approach in Iraq "is shared by a good number of countries, including those in the Security Council." He reiterated France did not intend to use its veto to block a new U.S. resolution.
A leading member of Iraq's Governing Council said on Friday the country's new constitution should be drawn up by an elected committee -- a move that could drag out the process far longer than Washington wants.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who represents an influential Shi'ite party on the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, said that once the constitution was written it should be approved by a national referendum before being adopted.
His comments were another blow for U.S. efforts to secure a resolution giving the United Nations a broader mandate in Iraq, with France and Germany, who opposed the war, wanting a quick handover of power to Iraqis.
Secretary of State Colin Powell had said he hoped an Iraqi constitution could be ready in six months, paving the way for elections to select a sovereign government.
BUSH'S OTHER WOES
Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair also face political pressure over the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, their main justification for the war.
David Kay, the CIA official leading the hunt, told lawmakers in Washington on Thursday that no conclusive proof had been found that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons.
A CBS News/New York Times poll released on Thursday found that most Americans -- 53 percent -- believed the Iraq war was not worth it and that Bush's approval ratings were near a record low for his presidency.
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