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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
France lifts veto threat on Iraq
US troops in Baghdad
The US wants other countries to commit troops and money to Iraq
France will not veto a US-backed Security Council resolution on the future of Iraq, President Jacques Chirac has said.

The United States circulated a draft text for a resolution earlier this month but it has not yet been put to a vote.

"I have no intention of opposing the resolution... I am not in that mind-set at all," the French leader told the New York Times newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

Paris had earlier criticised Washington's efforts to get United Nations backing for an multinational occupation force, demanding instead a more rapid transfer of power from the coalition forces to an Iraqi Government.

I do think it would be helpful to get the United Nations in to help write a constitution. I mean, they're good at that
President George Bush
US President George W Bush, for his part, said on Sunday that he did not consider it essential to give the UN a greater role in Iraq in the short-term.

But he suggested the world body could help write the Iraqi constitution and oversee elections.

In the latest in a spate of attacks in Iraq, at least two people were killed when a suicide bomber blew up a car near the UN's headquarters in Baghdad on Monday morning.

Timetable

So far, the five permanent members of the Security Council have failed to agree on the timetable and manner of a transfer of power in Iraq, with France and the US differing most sharply.

Jacques Chirac
There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible
Jacques Chirac
Last week, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested the establishment of a new Iraqi Government in a month, a draft constitution by the end of the year and elections in nine months' time.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed this as "totally unrealistic".

In his interview with the New York Times, Mr Chirac struck a conciliatory note.

He set out a two-stage plan for Iraqi self-rule, involving first a symbolic transfer of sovereignty to the existing Iraqi Governing Council.

A gradual ceding of real power would follow over the next six to nine months, Mr Chirac said.

However, he reaffirmed France's position that sovereignty should be "transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible".

Without Iraqi self-rule, he said, there was danger in having a "governor who is Christian and foreign" administer an Arab and Muslim country.

The United States has ruled out undermining the authority of the US administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, saying a hasty move to sovereignty could be counterproductive.

No troops

Mr Chirac said France would vote for a resolution that included a timetable for Iraqi sovereignty and a "key role" for the United Nations.

However, he added, if these provisions were absent in the final text France would abstain rather than veto the resolution.

Ministers of the five permanent members of the UNSC and Kofi Annan

The French president ruled out for the moment sending French combat troops to Iraq, but made clear this position could be revised in the future.

"Everything could change," he said. "I don't have a crystal ball."

Mr Chirac is due to meet Mr Bush in New York on Tuesday, when the US president is due to address the UN General Assembly.

In his interview with Fox News - which released advanced transcripts on Sunday - George W Bush said he would tell the assembly that going to war with Iraq was "the right decision".

Many other UN members have been pushing for a greater role in post-war Iraq, and have criticised the US rationale for war as exaggerated and unfounded.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Stephen Civiic
"President Chirac says he wants an immediate symbolic transfer of sovereignty"



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