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France, Russia, Germany Want UN to Play Important Role in Reconstruction of Iraq - 2003-04-04

The foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany say the United Nations should immediately be given a key role in Iraq, starting with humanitarian assistance.

One day after clashing over the future of Iraq with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at a meeting in Brussels, the foreign ministers of France and Germany met with their Russian counterpart to press their view.

The three countries, which failed to prevent the U.S.-led attack on Iraq through the United Nations, want to re-establish the organization's importance. France and Russia hold veto power in the U.N. Security Council. In addition, companies from all three countries hold lucrative contracts with the Saddam Hussein government, and also want a share of reconstruction contracts.

They said the first priorities are ending the fighting and addressing what they called a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, which they said the United Nations should deal with immediately.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin criticized Bush administration plans to give reconstruction contracts in Iraq to American firms.

France holds a number of lucrative contracts for oil, telecommunications and other business with the current Iraqi government, which might not be valid under a new government.

In Brussels on Thursday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the coalition fighting in Iraq should play the leading role in rebuilding the country.