NEWS

Emerging consensus?

BRUSSELS – The United States and the coalition it leads in Iraq are carrying the greatest burden in ridding the country of Saddam Hussein’s regime and so will play the central role in the country’s reconstruction, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told his European counterparts in Brussels yesterday. On a fence-mending visit to Europe, Powell held consecutive meetings with EU and NATO officials who told him of their concerns regarding Iraq and the need for the UN to play a leading role in Iraq’s reconstruction. «The coalition came together and took on this difficult mission at political expense, at the expense of the treasure – the money that it costs – but at the expense of lives as well,» Powell said. «I think the coalition has to play the leading role in determining the way forward. This is not to say we will have to shut others out and not to say that we will not work in partnership with the international community and especially the United Nations,» he told the press. Powell, in effect, turned the discussion to how America’s postwar presence in Iraq will be given legitimacy, as well as the role to be played by the UN and NATO and other organizations. Powell held three series of meetings. The first was with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU presidency, EU defense and foreign policy chiefs Javier Solana and Chris Patten. This was followed by talks with EU and NATO foreign ministers and then with a meeting of NATO ministers. The Europeans stressed the central role that they believe the UN must play in Iraq’s political and physical reconstruction. As Patten said, «If Mr Powell had not understood the importance we placed in this, he did so today.»  Although Powell did not seem to give in to the EU demands, Papandreou said, «We are seeing an emerging consensus on these issues,» indicating that the UN and NATO might play a role in Iraq. There was, however, no word on what that role might be, nor how the UN will legitimize the postwar state of things in Iraq. Powell said the UN can play an important role in providing humanitarian aid and the Security Council could pass a resolution on Iraq. Papandreou stressed the importance of this. «I can say that a UN resolution will be prerequisite for a full involvement of the EU in the post-conflict reconstruction,» he said. In another comment he added, «We hope that there will be a substantial dialogue so that, in the Security Council, consensus will be reached on the role of the UN and the next phases in Iraq.»