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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 17:01 GMT
France urges policy shift on Iraq
Injured Iraqi in Nasiriya hospital
Dozens of Iraqis were wounded in the attack on the Italian base
France has called for an urgent change of American strategy in Iraq to end what it called a spiral of violence.

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said a provisional Iraqi Government should be set up to run the country by the end of the year.

His comments came as US President George W Bush said steps were being taken to speed up the transfer of power in Iraq.

France led opposition at the United Nations to the US-led invasion of Iraq.

In other Iraq developments:

  • The top American military commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, says forces opposing US-led troops in the country total no more than 5,000 mostly loyalists of the ousted Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein

  • Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino visits the scene of the suicide bombing at the Italian police headquarters in Nasiriya in southern Iraq, which killed 18 Italians and nine Iraqis

  • Japan delays sending troops to join the US-led coalition in Iraq because of the worsening security situation

  • South Korea confirms that it will limit its promised troop deployment in Iraq to 3,000, despite American requests for a larger force

  • The US military reports that another of its soldiers has been killed in Baghdad by a roadside bomb.

Mr de Villepin told Europe-1 radio that an American goal of setting up a provisional government by mid-2004 was too distant.

How many deaths does it take to understand that it is essential to change the approach?
Dominique de Villepin
He said a UN representative should be appointed to work alongside Paul Bremer, the lead US administrator in Iraq, with the aim of handing power a representative assembly of Iraqis by the end of 2003.

"The international community cannot wait any longer," he said.

"How many deaths does it take to understand that it is essential to change the approach?"

Mr de Villepin said France was ready to contribute to the development of Iraq, once an Iraqi Government was in place.

"Our hand is held out to our American friends because the challenge affects us all. The security of the world is at stake."

'More responsibility'

Dozens of American troops have been killed in Iraq in guerrilla-style attacks which have intensified recently.

An Italian soldier guards the wrecked carabinieri building

Mr Bremer was hurriedly summoned to Washington earlier this week to meet President Bush.

Reports said they discussed concerns that the US-appointed Iraq Governing Council was taking too long to make decisions.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Bush said he had asked Mr Bremer to "develop a strategy" designed to accelerate the transfer to self-rule in Iraq.

"We want the Iraqis to be more involved in the governance of their country," he told reporters at the White House.

Asked if one option was the creation of an interim government in Iraq, Mr Bush said: "What I'm interested in doing is working with Ambassador Bremer and the governing council to work on a plan that will encourage the Iraqis to assume more responsibility."

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