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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Rumsfeld hits back at Iraq critics
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has delivered a defiantly upbeat message on Iraq, speaking of a "wonderful start" to reconstruction - despite attacks on the US-led forces.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq
Rumsfeld spoke of "significant accomplishments" in Iraq

He was speaking on the final day of a visit to the country as UN Security Council members considered a US draft resolution aimed at beefing up international contributions to the security effort.

The Americans, facing spiralling costs in the struggle to rebuild Iraq, have signalled their willingness to consider changes to the draft resolution in the face of criticism from by France, Germany and Russia.

Mr Rumsfeld acknowledged that the security situation needed to be improved, but said "a wonderful start has been made".

The formation of the Iraq Governing Council and local councils indicated "progress on the political side" and the Iraqi people were "so much better off today than they were four or five months ago".

Mr Rumsfeld met US and Polish troops in the ancient ruins of Babylon and later toured a Saddam Hussein-era mass grave at Hilla and a former execution chamber in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The US has about 140,000 troops in Iraq, supported by about 10,000 UK troops and some 2,000 Poles now in charge of a central sector.

But the US wants another 10,000 foreign troops to be deployed in Iraq as part of the planned multinational force.

Reaffirms 'vital role' of UN
Calls for democratic elections
Seeks multinational force

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he believed the UN Security Council could achieve "a compromise resolution", but he stressed that there must be "a very clear definition for the role of the UN" in Iraq.

In the latest attack on US troops, a military vehicle was hit when grenades were fired at a convoy in the northern city of Mosul, but there were no serious injuries.

"Terrorists" and "Baathist elements" were still undermining security in Iraq, Mr Rumsfeld said, but added that some 55,000 Iraqis were now involved in providing security.

"Over time... we can have high confidence that security in this country will be in the hands of the Iraqi people," he told reporters.

He is due to visit Afghanistan on Sunday.

UN negotiations

The United States presented its plan for a multinational force at an informal Security Council meeting hosted by the UK mission in New York on Friday.

The British ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry, said there was a clear determination among the 15 council members to find a common position.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Colin Powell signalled flexibility over the UN draft resolution
Meanwhile, US President George W Bush is preparing to make a 15-minute national address on the situation in Iraq on Sunday evening amid a growing barrage of criticism at home.

Opposition Democrat politicians have accused Mr Bush of unnecessarily endangering the lives of American troops, 67 of whom have been killed by hostile fire since he declared an end to formal combat on 1 May.

A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the president's address would focus on progress made in Iraq so far and the country's needs for the future.

The BBC's Susannah Price at the UN says the Americans want to persuade countries such as India and Pakistan to bolster troop numbers in Iraq through a UN-authorised multinational force, with the US remaining in command.

The draft resolution also specifies that the UN should play a vital role in the political development of the country, helping the US-appointed Iraq Governing Council draft a programme for elections.

France, Germany and other countries which opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq say this does not go far enough and the UN needs to be central to the whole political process.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley reports from Baghdad
"Few countries will commit troops without a new UN resolution"

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