Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bush: UN Could Play Key Role in Rebuilding Iraq

President Bush says the United Nations could play a major role in the aftermath of a war, although the world body has not lived up to its responsibility to disarm Iraq.

But how the international community gets involved in Iraq's reconstruction may be affected by the acrimonious debate that took place in the Security Council.

Looking beyond the war that appears to be imminent, President Bush says the U.S. vision is a rebuilt, unified, democratic Iraq. "To achieve this vision we will work closely with the international community, including the United Nations, and our coalition partners," he said. "If military force is required, we'll quickly seek new Security Council resolutions to encourage broad participation in the process of helping the Iraqi people to build a free Iraq."

The State Department says in the aftermath of a war, the United States would ask the U.N. Security Council to affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure humanitarian relief, and endorse a postwar administration.

But international affairs professor Charles Kupchan, at Georgetown University in Washington, says the bitter divide in the Security Council has left a residue of ill will between the United States and some of its allies, which may linger into postwar debates. "[It is] difficult to see exactly how that ill will will play out," he said. "But no question that there will be more jockeying, more resistance, especially from Europe, for picking up a lot of responsibility for the damage done during the war."

Mr. Kupchan says that may be especially true when it comes to paying the bill. "The Europeans may very well say to the United States, you broke it, you fix it."

In a recent interview with French television, French President Jacques Chirac said his country would help to rebuild Iraq. But he said reconstruction could only be done through the United Nations. In Washington, French embassy spokeswoman Natalie Loiseau says European public opposition to war may affect attempts in the European parliament to win financial help. "European public opinions needs to be convinced to support an international effort after a military operation that has not won the support of the Security Council. And this is a concern," said Ms. Loiseau.

Policy analyst John Hulsman at the Heritage Foundation says the United States will have to pick up more of the reconstruction bill. But, he says, Security Council members will have an interest in helping. "We're going to have a coalition of the willing to fight in Iraq, and I imagine we'll have a much larger coalition in the postwar Iraqi settlement, where countries like France, despite making a stand against us on the military angle, certainly don't want their commercial interests to be neglected and will be involved in the postwar process," said Mr. Hulsman.

Paris says international law, not commercial interests, drives its objection to war in Iraq.

The biggest commercial interest in Iraq is oil. In comments Sunday, after the summit meeting in the Azores, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged the United Nations would handle Iraq's oil wealth after a possible war. "That wealth should be used for the Iraqi people," said Mr. Blair. "It is theirs, and will remain so, administered by the U.N. in the way we set out."

The Bush administration pledges to reinstate the U.N. Oil-for-Food program. The United Nations suspended the program Monday when it withdrew all its personnel ahead of a possible invasion of Iraq.

But the Heritage Foundation's John Hulsman says the details of Iraq's postwar oil industry are unclear. "How the oil money will be distributed in the immediate aftermath of the war, I think, will be an area of great controversy," he says. "You certainly want an international involvement in that. You want the money to go to the Iraqi people. But how that's worked out I think is still very much up in the air."

But international affairs professor Charles Kupchan says there may not be much international involvement. "My guess is that the United States is probably going to make the key decisions on that issue, because it will effectively be in control once Saddam Hussein falls from power."

Mr. Kupchan says he does not think the war is just about oil. But he acknowledges critics will see it that way if Iraq's oil is controlled by the United States and not the United Nations.