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European Leaders Meet to Discuss Rebuilding of Iraq


The reconstruction of post-war Iraq is the main topic for a two-day summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. The leaders of Russia, Germany and France are there. The three countries have opposed the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign to disarm Saddam Hussein and bring about a regime change in Iraq. Amy Katz has more.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the talks, met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and was also to meet with French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac Friday, before the three-way talks were to get underway.

NATURAL SOUND VLADIMIR PUTIN SPEAKING

At a conference in St. Petersburg Friday, with Mr. Schroeder at his side, Mr. Putin said the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, but he said it was wrong for the U.S. to bring the Iraqi leader down by force.

The U.S.-led coalition is in Iraq to disarm the country of its weapons of mass destruction and bring about a regime change.

Mr. Putin also said he and Mr. Schroeder agree the Iraqi reconstruction process should be led by the United Nations, a position supported by France as well. The Bush administration says the U.N. should play a part, but the nations of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the war, should have the leading role.

Russian, German and French officials are also rejecting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s suggestion that Iraq’s debts to those countries be canceled. Germany and France say that is an issue that needs to be dealt with on a multi-lateral basis.

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