Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the Bush administration is ready to work with other U.N. Security Council members on its draft U.N. resolution on Iraq. That resolution is aimed at expanding the international security presence in Iraq. But he said the U.N.-sanctioned force must be under United States command.
The U.S. draft resolution has already drawn criticism from the French and German leaders who say the plan would not transfer governing powers to Iraqis quickly enough or give enough authority to the United Nations.
But in a foreign policy address at George Washington University, Mr. Powell sounded a conciliatory note. He said the United States is ready to listen to critics and amend the draft, provided that it helps reach what he said is the Bush administration's sole objective for Iraq, the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people based on democracy and peaceful relations with neighboring states.
"This has been the president's goal from the very beginning," he said. "And this new resolution will move us further along toward that goal. There are some of my Security Council colleagues who would like to move faster. Some who say be a little more careful. We will listen to all of the comments that will be coming in. And we will try to adjust and adapt to those comments as long as it is consistent with what I have just described as our overall goal."
Mr. Powell said that as the largest contributor of troops to the envisaged U.N. force in Iraq, the United States should be in command. He said there is nothing unusual about the stipulation, and that the model has worked many times in the past and that U.S. officials are "confident it will work now."
The Secretary of State stressed the progress being made in restoring normal life and services in Iraq. He said a new spirit of freedom is being born in the country that will become "unstoppable" and that die hard Saddam Hussein loyalists and others staging terrorist attacks "will be dealt with."
He expressed similar confidence about Afghanistan, saying that while the challenges facing the country are "too great to be overcome overnight," the United States will accelerate its assistance to the Hamid Karzai government and is determined to provide help "as long as it takes."
In the wide-ranging policy address, dedicating a new school of foreign affairs at the university just a few blocks from the State Department, Mr. Powell also reaffirmed U.S. backing for the international "road map" to Middle East peace and for the politically-embattled Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
"We support Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas's efforts to consolidate security forces all under his authority so he can go after those terrorist organizations within the Palestinian community who are destroying the dreams of the Palestinian people," he said.
"We support Prime Minister Abbas's efforts to make sure that all financial authority and all financial resources are under his office so they can be used to benefit the Palestinian people and not be diverted to other purposes. This is the way to stop, once and for all, Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from making peace itself a hostage to their hateful ambitions."
Mr. Powell said the Prime Minister's rival for power, Yasser Arafat, has not played a helpful role in the peace process. Urging a redoubling of international pressure on both the Palestinians and Israelis to meet the terms of the "road map," he said that if either side turns away from its obligations under the plan, both will "slide into a ditch or tumble over a cliff."
The secretary also hailed progress in U.S. relations with Russia and China and again welcomed Beijing's brokering of multilateral talks on the North Korean nuclear program.
On North Korea, he said the United States will not yield to threats or blackmail and will not take any options off the table in dealing with the situation. But he said the U.S. administration has no intention of invading that country and wants "peace not war" and "security, not fear" for Korea and its neighbors.