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Putin Calls for Larger UN Role in Post-War Iraq - 2003-09-25

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the United Nations to play a larger part in rebuilding post-war Iraq. But Mr. Putin's speech to the General Assembly avoided criticism of the U.S. for its dominant role in the process.

The Russian leader couched his comments about Iraq in vague terms, staying away from the argument about how and when power should be returned to Iraqis. Instead, he focused on the positive, noting that there is general agreement that the world body must eventually take the lead role.

"Despite sharp differences over how to resolve the Iraq crisis, the situation is ultimately coming back to the legal sphere of the United Nations," said Mr. Putin. "The position of Russia is consistent and clear. The direct participation by the U.N. alone in Iraq will allow the people themselves to decide on their future."

Mr. Putin underlined that U.N. leadership is essential in the process of transforming Iraq.

"And only with the active, and I want to stress this, practical, participation of the U.N. in its economic and civil transformation, only thus will Iraq take assume a truly new worthy place in the world community," he said.

Mr. Putin's conciliatory comments are in line with Moscow's policy of maintaining strong ties with Washington. Russian diplomats, however, have made clear that they favor an early return to civilian rule in Baghdad, though they have avoided any explicit support for France's insistence on a rapid timetable.

Mr. Putin is due to meet President Bush Friday and Saturday at Camp David. In an interview with U.S. reporters before leaving Moscow, the Russian leader opened the door to the possibility of sending troops to serve under a U.S. commander in Iraq. But he said the idea is still not under active consideration.