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Ironduke
24 Sep 03,, 01:49
UN highlights France and US rifts

The French and American presidents have given speeches at the United Nations which reveal the continuing gulf between their positions on Iraq.
In a defiant address on Tuesday, US President George W Bush defended the war, said the world was better off without Saddam Hussein and urged all countries to help rebuild Iraq.

However, President Jacques Chirac of France criticised the US for launching the war without UN authorisation and called for the UN to play a "full part" in Iraq.

France - which had led international opposition to the war - is now seeking a much faster handover of power to the Iraqis than the US is prepared to accept.

In his speech to the General Assembly, President Bush said Iraq was now free "because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace - and the credibility of the United Nations".

The president urged the UN to put divisions over the war in Iraq behind it and "move forward" with stabilising and rebuilding the scarred country.

"Now the nation of Iraq needs and deserves our aid and all nations of good will should step forward and provide that support," he said.

Mr Bush said the UN could "contribute greatly to the cause of Iraqi self-government", but he did not see the need for a greater UN role in Iraq.

"As in the aftermath of other conflicts, the United Nations should assist in developing a constitution, training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections," he said.

The BBC's Rob Watson, in New York, says there was little applause for Mr Bush's words, with the speech falling decidedly flat.

Stalemate


In his address, Mr Chirac openly criticised the US.
"The war, launched without the authorisation of the Security Council, shook the multilateral system," he said.

"The United Nations has just been through one of the most grave crises in its history."

Mr Chirac told delegates the problems facing the world - including Iraq - could only be addressed in a multilateral forum like the United Nations which guarantees "legitimacy and democracy, especially in matters regarding the use of force or laying down universal norms".

"No-one should assign themselves the right to use force unilaterally and pre-emptively. No-one may act alone," he said.

After their speeches, the two leaders met on the sidelines of the assembly, but failed to resolve their differences.

However, Mr Chirac said he wanted to express his view point "in a very positive way".

"We very much want the Americans to succeed (in Iraq), and we are trying to make a contribution to their thinking," he said.

No veto

The Americans have circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution mandating a multinational force in Iraq and supporting the US-backed Governing Council there.

Paris has criticised the draft, saying the UN should play a leading role, and calling for an immediate, symbolic transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi Government - a plan which Washington says is "unworkable".

Despite their opposition to the US draft, the French have made clear they will not veto it if comes to a vote.

In Iraq itself, there are mounting concerns that the US military is getting bogged down in a widening guerrilla war, hampering reconstruction efforts.

And in a report coinciding with the meeting, UN food agencies said several million Iraqis remained desperately hungry despite a better cereals crop and the lifting of economic sanctions.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3134200.stm