WASHINGTON - Deft diplomacy will be needed when the United States seeks a U.N. resolution to endorse its plan to transfer power in Iraq, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said Monday, but within the Bush administration, "diplomacy is deficient."
President Bush's decision to invade Iraq was opposed by many countries, including several who are represented in the U.N. Security Council. Until his recent shift to seek a U.N. resolution for on the transfer of power, Bush has resisted a significant role for the international organization in reconstructing Iraq.
"Even if the decisions are correct, the diplomacy is deficient," Lugar said at a breakfast with Washington reporters. "By that I simply mean not many people agree with us, or like us or are prepared to work with us. That will really have to change."
He laid the responsibility for the poor international relations at Bush's doorstep.
"It starts with the president and proceeds, really, through the Cabinet and those who are advising him. Each administration has to determine which kind of tone it wants to establish in these matters, and that obviously starts with the president," he said.
In addition to improving U.S. relations with the United Nations, Lugar said, the Bush administration will have to explain to voters why it has changed its view about the United Nations' appropriate role and deal with the growing anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
"Americans will say why in the world should the French and Russians . . . after we have done all the fighting, have all the people on the ground, have paid all the money, why should they have a say in this? But then we're back to square one, where is where our administration has been until a short time ago, which is that they shouldn't have any say," Lugar said.
"When you see the polling of the Iraqis now, they don't like us; they resent our being there," he said. Asked whether the United States should leave immediately, Lugar said, "They say no, but they don't want the U.S. there any longer than you have to be - and that's among the more benign people, not the insurgents."
Lugar, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has been nudging the Bush White House since before the war started to also have a plan for postwar Iraq. Although Lugar is well regarded on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington for his foreign policy expertise, recent news analyses have painted him as largely ignored by the Bush administration.
He did not dispute that characterization at the hour-long meeting with journalists.
"They're going to have to determine, really, who they want to have around the table," he said. "I do not purport to have played a significant role in those talks."
Lugar said he has had only one long conversation with Bush - 90 minutes when the two traveled to Indiana last fall on Air Force One.
But even if the White House doesn't solicit his advice, Lugar said, he has evidence that Bush and other top officials take note of his comments, although they don't necessarily take his advice.
For instance, Lugar said, the day after he said the June 30 deadline should be reconsidered, Bush publicly said it was a firm date; and when Lugar said it was important for the White House to name an ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte was nominated within days; and that when Lugar said it was important to conduct a hearing on Negroponte's nomination quickly, the administration initially said it would take more time, then agreed to an earlier date.
Nevertheless, he said, "the administration people have kept their counsel. The suggestion has been that perhaps I might be more intrusive. Sort of go down to the White House and hammer on the door and say, 'I'm here, and we ought to be talking.' "
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