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Bush to Urge World Community to Support Reconstruction in Iraq - 2003-09-23

U.S. President George W. Bush goes before the United Nations Tuesday for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In a speech to the General Assembly, he will urge the world community to come together to tackle global problems, including the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice describes the speech as a call to action.

"In his remarks, the president will discuss many of the challenges the world faces today," he said. "He will call on the international community to take action to make our world a safer and better place."

She says President Bush will focus on three areas: the need to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction, to stop slavery and other forms of human exploitation, and to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He will also discuss the many ways the world will benefit from an Iraq and Afghanistan that are free, prosperous, modern and democratic," she said.

In an interview with the Fox television network that aired on the eve of the speech, the president made clear there will be no apologies for his decision to invade Iraq without a U.N. mandate. He said it is time for everyone to put past differences aside and move forward.

The interview aired shortly after he met at the White House with two members of the Iraqi Governing Council. He called them pioneers for a free people.

"I love their spirit. I love the fact that they are dedicated to doing their jobs. And I also appreciate the appraisal of what is going on in Iraq and the assessment that we are making good progress," he said.

Just who should run Iraq during the transition period and how is now a matter for negotiations at the U.N., where work is underway on a new Security Council Resolution that the White House hopes will prompt more countries to contribute troops and money.

It calls for an international force under American command, and keeping the current civilian structure largely intact.

Other countries, particularly France, want the resolution to mandate a quick transition to self-governance.

Condoleezza Rice told reporters the French plan will not work. "The most important thing is that now having liberated Iraq, that the transfer of sovereignty - which is a day everybody looks forward to - that that sovereignty transferred to the Iraqi people be orderly and that it be done in a way that is going to work," she said.

As world leaders began to gather in New York for the General Assembly debate, there were a few signs of compromise. President Bush told Fox television that he thinks the U.N. could help draft a new Iraqi constitution and oversee elections. Meanwhile French President Jacques Chirac told the New York Times that his country would not veto a resolution that omits a deadline for self-governance and a key political role for the U.N. He indicated France will probably abstain and let the measure pass.