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US-French Talks Provide Opportunity for Rapprochement Over Iraq - 2003-05-22


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell hailed a U.N. Security Council vote to lift more than a decade-long sanction on Iraq. Mr. Powell spoke in the French capital at the start of a two-day foreign ministers meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

Mr. Powell got news of the 14-0 Security Council vote to lift sanctions in the middle of a press conference in Paris. But even before the results, he told reporters he knew the U.S.-sponsored resolution would pass.

"It is a resolution that will lift sanctions after 13 years off the backs of the Iraqi people," he said. "It's a resolution that will bring back together the international community that helped liberate the people of Iraq, build a better society, a better country. To prepare the infrastructure that was devastated, not by war, but by 30 years of dictatorial rule. It will show to the Iraqi people that the international community is there for them."

The Bush administration received a clear indication of the vote Wednesday night, when French, German and Russian foreign ministers in Paris said their countries would back the U.N. resolution. Mr. Powell downplayed Syria's decision to remain absent.

At a separate press conference a few blocks away, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin also praised the decision to lift sanctions.

France is pleased, Mr. de Villepin said, that the United Nations would play a key role in reconstructing Iraq, and he suggested there was a role for France to play in matters of disarmament and establishing a transparent system of dealing with oil revenue.

Mr. de Villepin and Secretary Powell spoke at the start of a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven of the world's richest countries, plus Russia. Together, the eight nations account for 80 percent of the world's wealth.

On the agenda are discussions about drug trafficking and terrorism, along with other hot-button issues, including the Middle East peace process, Iraq's reconstruction and North Korea.

The meeting provides another opportunity for France and the U.S. to mend ties badly frayed by bitter disagreement over the war in Iraq. Mr. de Villepin said President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac had spoken by phone earlier in the day.

Athough Mr. Powell had said earlier Washington would not soon forget France's inflexibility on Iraq, he added that, in the long term, the United States and Europe will agree on a lot more than they will disagree.

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