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Cool Reception For Bush Speech

U.S. President Bush addresses the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
AP
President Bush's speech to the United Nations appeared Wednesday to have made little headway against opposition to U.S. postwar plans.

Mr. Bush did win a commitment from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to set aside differences and work together for a strong and stable Iraq. "We both agree that we want to look into the future together," Schroeder said.

"It is very important, not just for Iraq, but for the whole of the region, for Germany and therefore for the whole of Europe," Schroeder said.

Still, there was no indication Germany would contribute peacekeeping troops, as it has to Afghanistan, or that Schroeder would retract his support for France's call for a quick end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Overall, the speech received a cool reception, both in the U.N. General Assembly and among the president's Democratic critics.

On Tuesday, President Jacques Chirac of France insisted on a "realistic timetable" for returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people. While Chirac promised not to veto a stalled U.S. resolution designed to attract more peacekeeping troops, he also insisted steps begin immediately to end the U.S. military occupation.

"In an open world," Chirac said, "no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules."

As Chirac stood against unilateral U.S. action in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized Mr. Bush's "pre-emptive" attack on Iraq.

Such strikes "could set precedents that result in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification," Annan said.

A year ago, Mr. Bush began the push toward war with a speech to the U.N. Ultimately, he drew only some support from the Security Council and went to war without direct authority. On Tuesday, he called on those who opposed the invasion to help in its aftermath.

"I also recognize that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions. Yet there was, and there remains, unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations," he said. "So let us move forward."

But the president also defended the war, insisting Saddam Hussein possessed illegal weapons — which have yet to found — and asserting that the U.S.-led invasion made the world more secure.

Mr. Bush offered the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's reconstruction. But he did not budge from his plan for step-by-step transformation of Iraq to democracy.

"This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis — neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties," he said.

Mr. Bush's remarks did not overcome the gap between the United States and skeptical leaders, and a senior administration official made clear afterward that the United States intends to remain in charge of reconstruction as it insists on being in charge of the peacekeeping operation.

"There is an important role for the U.N. to play," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But, the official said, the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by American L. Paul Bremer "has to get the job done" and whatever resolution the Security Council may adopt must reflect "what really are the facts on the ground."

One main reason for delaying the handover of power — unspoken by the president but admitted by a senior official — is that Mr. Bush is reluctant to ask Congress to give $20 billion to an unelected group of Iraqis.

The administration's plan for Iraq is enshrined in a resolution calling for a multinational force with the U.S. in charge. Work on the resolution has stopped, at least until Mr. Bush concludes his meetings with foreign leaders on Wednesday.

CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante reports the president's speech was as much or more for American's ears as for the rest of the world.

With chaos in Iraq and his popularity dropping, Mr. Bush wanted to make the point he has a policy, and that he intends to hang tough. But in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said he thought Bush "lost an opportunity."

"He came before the international community and he could have made the case for more troops, more resources," the South Dakota Democrat said. "He didn't do that."

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said he was encouraged by Bush's private meetings with world leaders. "If our alliances were damaged by the Iraq war, let the liberation of Iraq be the reason for repairing and strengthening those alliances," Hagel said.

Democrats say a Bush administration timetable for the rebuilding of Iraq lacks detail and seems to impose on Iraqis a U.S. view of what their country should look like — with an emphasis on a "market-based economy.