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US Lawmakers Welcome Possible UN Help in Iraq - 2003-09-03

U.S. lawmakers are welcoming President Bush's decision to seek U.N. assistance in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. Opposition Democrats say the move is long overdue.

A key Senate Democrat says broadening the international coalition in Iraq should help reduce the risks to U.S. troops, who have suffered mounting casualties since President Bush announced an end to major combat operations on May 1.

Senator Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says U.N. assistance also should help convince Iraqis of international support for the presence of occupation forces, and promote the sharing of intelligence that is critical to stopping terrorist attacks.

But Mr. Levin, in a speech on the Senate floor, warned that the United States may pay a price for waiting so long to seek U.N. support.

"The delay in arriving at this new approach, along with too much Lone Ranger, 'bring 'em on' rhetoric, will make the effort to internationalize the situation in Iraq more difficult, and perhaps more costly in terms of the conditions exacted by the international community for its participation," Senator Levin said.

In the House of Representatives, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Bush's decision to seek a U.N. resolution is "a welcome admission that the current policy is not realistic and not sustainable."

Lawmakers were reacting as Secretary of State Colin Powell announced the United States is circulating a resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling for a political timetable in Iraq and a multinational force to be established.

Although Secretary Powell said any new force would bet under U.S. command, the Senate's top Democrat, Senator Tom Daschle, said the United States would have to be willing to make some compromises.

"Obviously, we cannot expect other countries and the United Nations to participate if they have no say in what it is these troops do once they get there," he said.

The military operation is costing the United States $1 billion a week.

President Bush soon is expected to ask Congress for more funding to pay for the mission through the end of the current budget year, which ends September 30.

Lawmakers, including Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, also would like to see more countries share the financial burden of rebuilding Iraq.

"It is very important that we try to fashion the supplement in a way that will allow American taxpayers to get some of their money back," said Senator Hutchison. "American taxpayers have footed the bill for the war on terror almost single-handedly so far, and it is time now for other countries to step up to the plate."

Senator Hutchison said other nations will have an opportunity to do just that at an international donors' conference on the reconstruction of Iraq, scheduled to take place in Madrid next month.