Berlin, Sept. 21 (Reuters): Europe’s Big Three powers failed to resolve differences on Iraq at a weekend summit, casting doubts on whether talks with the US this week will make progress on a UN resolution to rebuild the ravaged country.
Despite a show of unity on European issues, the leaders of France and Germany, opponents of the US-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein, stood firm on Iraq in the talks with Britain’s Tony Blair, demanding a fast handover of power to the Iraqis.
The disagreements with US ally Blair were so evident that analysts said meetings in New York this week between President George W. Bush, France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder will fail to break much ice. “Our views are not quite convergent,” President Chirac said after the summit in Berlin. “On the technicalities and timetable, we are still not fully agreed.”
France and Germany are both members of the UN Security Council, where Washington is seeking a fresh resolution to persuade other countries to share the financial and military burden of stabilising and rebuilding Iraq.
Bush, under growing pressure at home as US troops suffer almost daily casualties from guerrilla attacks, wants a new UN resolution creating a multinational force for Iraq.
But France and Germany say a US-written draft resolution does not cede enough control to the UN nor transfer Iraqi sovereignty to its people quickly enough.
Chirac repeated yesterday that France wants the US to hand sovereignty to the Iraqis within months. Washington has warned a speedy power transfer would lead to failure and has recast the draft to help bridge the differences.
Bush meets Chirac on Tuesday and Schroeder on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
It will be the first substantive meeting between Bush and Schroeder in 18 months. There have been signs of a thaw for several weeks as Bush has praised Germany’s role in Afghanistan and Germany has committed more troops there.
But Frank Umbach, security analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said: “I’m sceptical that personal relations between Bush and Schroeder can be repaired. Too much has been wrecked on a personal level.”
Bush is said to have been deeply disappointed that Schroeder attacked US policy on Iraq in his 2002 re-election campaign, and that he failed immediately to remove a cabinet minister for comparing Bush’s political tactics to those of Hitler.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin, preparing for a summit with Bush, yesterday said that Russian troops would not serve in any international force in Iraq.