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Powell pushes for troops with UN pitch

New Delhi, July 22: India’s refusal to participate in the American stabilisation effort in Iraq has nudged the US leadership to consider the view that perhaps a UN mandate is needed to garner the involvement of other countries in restoring normality and peace to the war-torn country.

Speaking to foreign minister Yashwant Sinha last night on phone, US secretary of state Colin Powell said as much and hoped that the Security Council would come out with a broader mandate soon, enabling other countries to send troops to Iraq.

Powell, who made the call, also briefed Sinha on the developments in the West Asia peace process and the latest situation in North Korea.

After mulling over the US request to send soldiers to Iraq, India finally announced last week that it would not act only on the basis of the American plea. Instead, it decided that if “an explicit UN mandate” was moved asking members to join in the stabilisation effort in Iraq, Delhi would review its decision.

Coincidentally, several other countries such as France, Germany and Russia have expressed similar views soon after Delhi’s decision. This has increased the pressure on the US, which is desperately looking for a way out of the sticky situation in Iraq.

The heat has been turned on now with domestic opinion shifting against the Bush administration as regular reports of US casualties to sniper fire come in.

Although the US secretary of state had always favoured greater involvement of the international community, namely the UN, other senior members of the Bush Administration, such as Vice-President Dick Cheney and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have been staunchly against such a move.

But with President George W. Bush and his team gearing up to campaign for the next elections within a few months, there is a growing sense of urgency in Washington to find an amicable solution to the Iraq mess. The only way out seems to be a broader and fresh mandate from the Security Council mobilising its members.

Powell told Sinha that UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and his special representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, are scheduled to address the Security Council in a day or two.

It is likely to trigger a fresh debate among the members and could lead to a broader mandate for participation in Iraq.

He hoped that once the fresh resolution is passed, countries like India would find it easier to participate in Iraq.

Though Sinha briefly explained the logic behind India’s decision, South Block mandarins are unwilling to form any opinion in a rush on whether Delhi would definitely send troops to stabilise the war-torn country after a Security Council resolution.

“It is a decision which the Indian leadership will have to take after the UN gives a broader mandate for participating in the stabilisation effort,” a senior official of the ministry of foreign affairs said.

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