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US Talks with NATO, EU to Focus on Post-War Iraq

Reconstruction and security in post-war Iraq are expected to be the theme of discussion as Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with European Union and NATO officials Thursday in Brussels.

EU officials have played down expectations for the visit. While welcoming the move as an important opportunity to hear the American position on post-war Iraq, directly from Secretary Powell, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin cautioned against expecting much to come out of the talks.

"This meeting, just so there is no confusion, I think comes too early for us to be discussing concrete plans," said Ms. Udwin. "I think it is a moment to listen to the Americans to find out what they have in mind."

The spokeswoman repeated the European view that the United Nations must be at center stage in efforts to rebuild a post-war Iraq.

Secretary Powell has said he supports a U.N. role. But he has also made it clear that the United States will lead efforts to rebuild Iraq after hostilities have ended. He says America and its coalition partners did not take on the huge burden of conducting a war without having dominant control over how things unfold in the future.

Before Secretary Powell left for his trip, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also said, "We have allies with different views. We will be talking about them."

France, Germany and Belgium have strongly opposed the war while Britain, Spain, and Portugal support the action.

Secretary Powell is to meet with an EU delegation led by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, as well as with NATO ministers.

Meanwhile, Russia says its foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, is also to meet with Mr. Powell in Brussels. Russia is another strong critic of the Iraq war.