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US to alter troop semantics, not substance

United Nations, Aug. 21 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell said today he was exploring a new UN resolution that would encourage nations “to do more” in Iraq but said Washington would not surrender military control.

“Perhaps additional language in a new resolution might encourage others,” Powell said after a meeting with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, mainly on the devastating attack against UN headquarters in Baghdad.

“We’re looking forward to language that might call on member states to do more,” Powell said. But France immediately said the US would have to broaden the political role of the UN if it wanted nations to pitch in.

“To share the burden and the responsibilities in a world of equal and sovereign nations, also means sharing information and authority,” French envoy Michel Duclos told a Security Council discussion on Iraq.

A truck bomb blew up UN headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 23 people including the chief of mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, and his chief of staff, Nadia Younes of Egypt. Dozens are still missing.

But Powell, in answer to questions, said there was no need to share any military control. One purpose of a new resolution would be to get Muslim troops into Iraq, both from Pakistan and West Asian countries, who have refused to send soldiers without a UN mandate.

Powell said some 30 nations outside the US have contributed 22,000 troops, and more were expected.

“I think anybody making a contribution, a military contribution, sending their young men and women into harms way, want them to be under solid, responsible, competent military leadership of the kind that is being provided by the coalition and the military component of the coalition under General (John) Abizaid’s command,” Powell said.

Annan, for his part, repeated there would not be a UN force of blue helmeted peacekeepers. But he emphasised that despite differences among Security Council members, there was a willingness to see that Iraq was stabilised. “I think the issue of Iraq is of great concern to everybody, regardless of the divisions that existed before the war,” Annan said in reference to the Security Council's refusal to authorise the invasion of Iraq.

Separately, Annan was to meet British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who was scheduled to see Annan but British officials said he was arriving late and would see the secretary-general tomorrow instead.

Britain, diplomats said, was more amenable to a wider UN political role as well as giving international troops some control over certain areas of Iraq while keeping a unified overall command. Powell and Annan did not touch on the controversy of security in Baghdad around the UN compound. US defence officials in Baghdad had said the UN rejected offers for US troops and hired their own security firm, but UN officials said the United Nations took care of security inside the compound, not on the streets. Annan yesterday emphasised that it was the duty of the US to offer protection as the occupying power as they had the intelligence about the dangers of attacks.

Bombing claim

A previously unknown Iraqi group claimed responsibility for the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad this week, an Arabic television channel said today.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya said it received a statement claiming responsibility for the truck bomb attack from an Iraqi Islamist group calling itself the “Armed Vanguards of the Second Mohammed Army”.

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