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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
French obstacle to Iraq force plans

By Barnaby Mason
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Jack Straw met Kofi Annan in New York
Britain is keen to expand the international force in Iraq
American and British efforts to secure a new Security Council resolution authorising an expanded international security force in Iraq have run into difficulties.

The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has met the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in New York - following in the footsteps of the American Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

But France has now cast doubt on the whole idea of sending more foreign troops to Iraq.

The US and Britain hope that a new Security Council resolution would persuade reluctant countries, such as India, to contribute to an international security force in Iraq.

Worsening cycle of violence

But French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said he was not sure they should get into what he called a security escalation or game of one-upmanship.

He said a trap had been laid: Iraqi nationalists, Islamic militants and terrorists had come together, and the risk was of a worsening cycle of violence.

Dominique de Villepin
De Villepin warns against a security escalation
Mr de Villepin suggested all parties should rethink their involvement in Iraq: the starting point was to recognise Iraqi sovereignty so that the people felt they were in command of their destiny.

As before the Iraq war, France is leading the opposition to the US and Britain, but its general message is echoed by Germany and Russia.

All three want the UN to have a more central role, especially in guiding the political transition.

There is no sign yet that the Bush administration is prepared to give up any authority to the UN - certainly not on military command on the ground.

Instead, it offers some unspecified new "language" in a resolution to give a legal framework that would encourage other countries to send troops.

The British government gives the impression of wanting to be more flexible - perhaps by conceding a more prominent UN role politically - but it is limited in what it can persuade Washington to agree to.


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