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Congressional Leaders Offer Bush Advice on Iraq Diplomacy - 2003-09-21

U.S. President George W. Bush goes before the United Nations this week to urge more countries to contribute troops and money to the reconstruction of Iraq. Members of Congress and foreign policy experts are talking about the challenge facing Mr. Bush when he addresses the General Assembly on Tuesday.

It is a critical time for the United States, which is trying to drum up support for a new Security Council resolution that could pave the way for greater international participation in peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

But France and Germany, which opposed the U.S.-led military operation to oust Saddam Hussein, have another goal in mind. They say the resolution should result in a quick transfer of control from the U.S.-led coalition to local authorities within months.

The Bush administration leaves no doubt it believes it will take some time before a new Iraqi government is ready to assume total power. But President Bush has said he is willing to listen to suggestions from other countries, and administration officials have stressed they are ready, willing and able to negotiate.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says he thinks the White House can overcome the objections raised by France, which has a veto on the Security Council. Delaware's Joseph Biden told the Fox News Sunday television program that the United States could offer to let the United Nations set a timeline for Iraqi self-government. "I think the French are playing a game here, a gambit here. But look, that does not mean we can not out-negotiate them," he said.

Appearing on the same program, Senator Chuck Hagel was asked if self-governance in Iraq is achievable in a year. The Nebraska Republican, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said it will be difficult, noting that there is no infrastructure in place. "You have got to have a means to support that structure. You have to have a constitution, elections. That is why we should, for example, look at what the secretary-general of the United Nations is talking about. Maybe, we should go back and look at the 1958 constitution of Iraq as a starting point. Maybe we could save some time, if we go there," he said.

President Bush also got some advice from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served as U.N. ambassador during the Clinton administration. She urged Mr. Bush to remember the key role played by the world body. "That is where the action has to come, in terms of getting some support for this internationally," she said.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, she called on President Bush to reach out to other countries. She said Mr. Bush should, in her words, mend diplomatic fences and cede some political control of Iraq to the United Nations.