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Deaths force US to seek UN mandate on Iraq

United Nations, July 19 (Reuters): With US troops being killed every week in Iraq, the US is considering returning to the UN to persuade countries to send in soldiers or share costs, running about $4 billion a month.

But at this stage, diplomats say, no one knows what kind of a UN mandate would bring in help from such nations as India, France, Germany or Russia. Politically, seeking UN help would be an admission by hard-liners that the oft-mentioned “coalition of the willing” was indeed a slim one, they said.

A US spokesman said today a soldier was attacked in the early hours as he guarded a bank in western Baghdad. He was the second soldier killed in Iraq in 24 hours, bringing the number of US troops to die from hostile fire to 149 — more than the 147 killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

Thirty-five American soldiers have been killed since hostilities were declared officially ended on May 1.

No resolution is expected to emerge until well after UN Security Council members hear a report on Tuesday from Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN special envoy for Iraq.

He appears before the 15-nation body along with three members of the new Iraqi Governing Council, who could appeal to members to join a peacekeeping effort.

“We’ve got to get around the problem that we are the occupying power, and people don’t want to join the occupying powers,” said Britain’s UN ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, who will become the chief British envoy in Iraq in September.

“There needs to be probably some development in Iraqis taking over responsibility for their own affairs before the situation changes,” Greenstock said late yesterday.

But UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, in a new report submitted to the Security Council, made clear the UN was not seeking to take over peacekeeping functions from the US and Britain.

Instead he said the US and Britain had to move quickly to set out a timetable for the end of US military occupation and at the same time restore order in Iraq.

In a major report on postwar Iraq, Annan wrote it was important “that Iraqis are able to see a clear timetable leading to the full restoration of sovereignty. There is a pressing need to set out a clear and specific sequence of events leading to the end of military occupation.”

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