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European Leaders Support UN Role in Post-War Iraq Reconstruction - 2003-04-12

The leaders of Russia, France and Germany have completed a two-day summit in Saint Petersburg Saturday, where they emphasized that the United Nations should have the lead role in Iraq's post-war reconstruction.

The summit's host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, said, after two days of talks on the Iraq issue, all three nations agree that only with the United Nations at the helm will the post-war reconstruction process in Iraq have any "legitimacy."

In remarks Saturday, President Putin said the U.S. led war in Iraq has undermined the United Nations and international law as a whole.

The Russian president was speaking at a conference on international security in Saint Petersburg, also attended by French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

All three leaders agree the United Nations must play a "central role" in Iraq's post-war reconstruction process.

"What is at stake today is our capacity to give a solid foundation to a new world order," Mr. Chirac said. He also said no lasting international order can rest on a logic of power.

The German chancellor stressed the need to exert maximum effort to prevent a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq, and he said the United Nations had good experience in dealing with such crises, from Afghanistan to Cambodia to Sierra Leone.

The three leaders, the main European opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, also signaled they might be willing to forgive Iraq's debts, but all said the issue should be decided within the Paris Club of creditor nations. That is a loose grouping of nations that reschedule various nations' debts on a case-by-case basis.

Russia is owed about $8 billion in back debt by Iraq.

President Putin said that the two-day Saint Petersburg Summit was ending with more questions than answers, especially on the issue of how to strengthen the United Nations' role in solving global problem. But he stressed that the leaders of Russia, France and Germany were meeting in, what he called, a "non-confrontational spirit."

All three nations have experienced tensions recently in their relations with the United States because of their opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.