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Coalition Will Retain Decision-Making Ability in Iraq, Says Straw - 2003-08-22

Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, says the British and U.S.-led Coalition will not relinquish decision-making responsibility in Iraq, despite efforts to broaden the United Nations role in Iraq's reconstruction.

Mr. Straw was in New York for talks on Iraq with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. After meeting with Mr. Annan, the British foreign secretary then met with reporters and underscored the need for a broader international role in Iraq's economy and politics. However, Mr. Straw also stressed that the Coalition Authority will not, as he said, "surrender" control in those areas.

"It is not an issue of surrender," he said. "It is a question of strengthening the work of the Coalition Provisional Authority, strengthening the work of the Governing Council and, at the same time, improving and broadening the authority of the United Nations."

Since Tuesday's deadly terrorist attack at the U.N. Baghdad headquarters, Britain and the United States have pressed for greater United Nations involvement in Iraq.

After a meeting with Mr. Annan on Thursday at the United Nations, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the United States is working on a possible new resolution to encourage other nations to contribute troops.

But critics of the Iraq war, including Security Council members France and Russia, believe the international community should have a greater role in Iraq than the Coalition Authority is willing to give.

During an open council meeting on the issue Thursday, France's Deputy Ambassador Michel Duclos said that Washington must share responsibility, information and authority in Iraq if it wants economic and political reconstruction to succeed.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr. Straw, secretary-general Annan also expressed doubts that the council will reach a consensus on a possible new resolution in Iraq without changes in the decision-making process in that country.

Mr. Annan again ruled out the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to Iraq. But he did tell reporters that the Security Council may authorize sending a multinational force to Iraq, under certain conditions.

"It is not excluded that the council may decide to transform the operation to a U.N. mandated multinational force operating on the ground with other governments coming in," said Mr. Annan. "It would also imply not just burden sharing but also sharing decisions and responsibility with the others. If that does not happen, I think it will be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everybody."

The secretary-general also met Friday with Spain's foreign minister, Ana Palacio, who offered condolences for Tuesday's blast at the U.N. offices in Baghdad that killed more than 20 people, including the top U.N. official there, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Mr. Annan has sent a security team to Baghdad to investigate the bombing, as the United Nations reassesses security at its offices worldwide.