New York, Sept. 23: One year after warning the UN that it risked irrelevance if it did not support America’s plans for war against Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush returned to the world body today to seek its co-operation in drafting a new Iraqi constitution, conducting free and fair elections there and training civil servants for a new government.
Bush was on the defensive before the annual gathering here of heads of state and government, but certainly not contrite.
He rejected criticism from UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and French President Jacques Chirac in their speeches to the General Assembly and said the process of transferring power to Iraqis “must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis.… So let us move forward”.
He made light of his decision to return to the UN by saying “every young democracy needs the help of friends”.
But Annan, Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who were in the General Assembly hall as Bush spoke, were in no mood to let the US President get away with it.
Speaking before Bush, Annan said unilateral military actions like the ones by the US in Iraq “could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification”.
But he was also conciliatory when he said “whatever view each of us may take of the events of recent months, it is vital for all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq”.
Arriving for his address to the General Assembly, Schroeder told reporters Berlin would insist on power being passed on to the Iraqi people in a “matter of months”.
Chirac, who spoke 15 minutes after Bush, was equally stinging. “In an open world, no one can be isolated, no one can act alone in everyone’s name, and no one can accept the anarchy of a lawless society. There is no alternative to the UN.”
Bush will have separate meetings with Chirac, Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to narrow differences among Security Council members on a new resolution which will bring the UN into a stabilising role in Iraq.
Today’s address by Bush falls short of demands by India on conditions that should be met if Delhi is to send troops to Iraq.
India’s permanent representative to the UN, Vijay Nambiar, told reporters that any request for such troops should come from Iraqis through the UN and not from the “occupying power”.
He said such a request should be in the context of restoring Iraq’s sovereignty as part of an overall political process.
In order for India to consider troop deployment, any new Security Council resolution should reflect this, Nambiar added.
At least for the present, Bush is unwilling to concede this, though the situation may well change as negotiations continue here on adopting a new Security Council resolution.
Bush continued to insist that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and kept links with terrorists, despite growing scepticism on these scores.
“The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder and refused to account for them when confronted by the world,” he said.