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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
Iraqi ruling council backs US
Ahmed Chalabi
Chalabi has been strongly backed by Washington
The head of the Iraqi Governing Council has denied any disagreement with the United States about Iraq's future, as world leaders debate the issue at the United Nations.

Speaking in New York, Ahmad Chalabi said Iraqis were not at odds with the US and were grateful to President George W Bush for liberating the country.

His comments followed reports that some members of an Iraqi delegation to the UN General Assembly were demanding that more power be handed over to them quickly.

Some countries - including France - have called for an immediate transfer of sovereignty to Iraq, a move the US administration has ruled out.

Speaking on the fringes of the General Assembly meeting, Mr Chalabi said: "We are grateful to President Bush and are working with the United States to achieve our common objective of a democratic, pluralistic constitution for Iraq."

Differences have been left behind.. We both agree that we want to look into the future together
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

A former exile, Mr Chalabi has been regarded as one of Washington's main allies within the Iraqi opposition.

However in an interview published in the New York Times this week, he had urged US occupying forces to hand over more power to the Governing Council.

In his speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, President Bush insisted that the United States would not be "hurried" over any transfer to Iraqi self-rule.

Friends again

Mr Bush has been holding talks with world leaders in a effort to get more countries to play a role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Iraq needs and deserves our aid and all nations of good will should step forward and provide that support
George W Bush

On Wednesday he said a long-standing rift with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was "over" after the pair's first formal meeting in 16 months.

Both leaders said they had set aside past differences on Iraq and agreed to work together to stabilise the country.

"The first thing I told him, I said, 'Look, we had differences. And they're over.' We're going to work together," Mr Bush told reporters after the leaders spoke privately at the UN General Assembly.

Mr Schroeder says he believes agreement on a US resolution on Iraq can be struck "in the next few weeks".

And in his speech to the general assembly, Mr Schroeder said Berlin was ready to provide humanitarian, technical and economic help, but ruled out sending troops.

Muslim contribution?

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, for his part, said he would be willing to commit troops to Iraq if they were part of a UN-backed force including other Muslim nations.

The ultimate paradox is seeing George Bush come cap in hand to the UN
Stephen Bones, France

However Mr Musharraf, who also met President Bush on Wednesday, said it was vital that any such force was not viewed as part of the US-led occupation.

The Pakistani president said a new UN resolution was one of the conditions which would have to be met before his country would send troops to Iraq.

The Bush administration has been trying to win support from Muslim countries for its presence in Iraq - however, there was strong opposition from the Muslim world for the initial invasion and this has largely remained.

The Americans have circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution mandating a multinational force in Iraq and supporting the US-backed Governing Council there.

France has criticised the draft, saying the UN should play a leading role, and calling for an immediate, symbolic transfer of sovereignty - an idea Washington describes as "unworkable".

Despite their opposition to the US draft resolution, the French have made clear they will not veto it if comes to a vote.

The BBC's Ian Pannell
"The UN is still very much at the heart of things"

Leaders' speeches to General Assembly
Point by point clickable guide

US and Germany declare rift 'over'
24 Sep 03  |  Americas

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