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France, Russia, Germany Back US Resolution on Iraq at UN

French, Russian and German foreign ministers said Wednesday they would back a U.S. sponsored resolution to lift United Nations sanctions against Iraq. The announcement was made after a meeting between the three in the French capital.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters in Paris the three countries would back U.S. efforts to lift more than a decade of sanctions on Iraq at the United Nations Security Council.

He said the draft U.N. resolution was not perfect, but it took into account the concerns of all three nations. He read a joint statement saying the resolution offered a "tangible and independent" role for the United Nations. France, Germany and Russia, Mr. de Villepin said, would now work to seek a consensus backing the text at the Security Council.

The announcement marks a change of heart by three of Europe's staunchest opponents to the war in Iraq. Only Tuesday, French President Jacques Chirac signaled he wanted the resolution to spell out a greater role for the U.N. in post-war Iraq. Paris had earlier called only for suspending sanctions, not lifting them altogether.

Mr. Chirac, who led international opposition to the war, had said he was adopting what he called a more pragmatic approach, now that the conflict was over. It was U.S. officials who had suggested that the first step toward mending frayed transatlantic relations would be for France and the two other countries to back Washington's resolution to lift U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

Russia and Germany had also backed a more prominent U.N. role than what was outlined by the Bush administration. France and Russia are permanent Security Council members wielding a power to veto any Council resolution. Germany currently holds one of the councils rotating seats.

The announcement by the three comes on the eve of the U.N. council vote and a day ahead of a Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting in Paris.

U.S. Secretary Colin Powell arrives at the French capital Thursday, marking the highest-level visit by a Bush administration official since the war. President Chirac and U.S. President George W. Bush are also expected to meet during an early June G-8 summit in Evian, France.