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Powell: Gap On Iraq Narrowed

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday after conferring with fellow members of the U.N. Security Council that there was a basis for finding consensus on a new council resolution on Iraq.

It was also announced in Geneva that Powell would be visiting Iraq and Kuwait before returning home.

Powell said there had been some narrowing of differences in Geneva and he hoped there could be an additional convergence of views when the issue is taken up again during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session in New York.

However, Powell acknowledged that an agreement had yet to be reached on sharing power with other nations on governing Iraq.

He told American reporters who accompanied him on his trip that there was some narrowing of differences during the discussions.

"There was convergence," he said. "But there are still differences."

Powell told a news conference that he focused on areas of both agreement and disagreement during talks with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

"Dominique and I had excellent discussions," Powell said. "There is a basis for our representatives in New York to undertake discussions next week to see if we can find consensus."

Earlier, Powell had rejected as "totally unrealistic" a French proposal for U.S.-led authorities in Iraq to surrender control within a month to a provisional Iraqi government.

"We have invested too much to consider such a proposal," Powell said on the flight to Switzerland.

CBS News Correspondent Stephanie Lambidakis expalains that, "For now, the Bush Administration wants to keep things as they are, with American troops fully in charge. It wants allies to contribute soldiers and money, without having a decision-making role. That's something the allies so far have been unwilling to accept."

Josh Mandel of the Control Risks Group told CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer Powell is really engaging in an urgent appeal for military aid. The U.S. "needs these extra troops," Mandel said.

"Where they are going to have to compromise is on the political side," Mandel continued. "They are going to have to make room for the UN to come in and have a much more active role in running the country."

Palmer called it "the price of crucial European backing in the Security Council for badly needed foreign troops in Iraq."

"It's unlikely France of Germany will send soldiers of their own," Palmer points out. "But they might back a resolution to allow troops from countries like India, Pakistan and Turkey to go.

"President Putin of Russia, who meet with President Bush this week, also opposed the war," Palmer added. "Now Russia is hinting it might send peacekeepers. But it too has a price: a generous share of Iraq's oil industry."
Palmer sums it all up by saying the U.S. has to persuade European leaders "to help mop up what htey see as the mess of America's meddling in Iraq."

Powell had said earlier he believes he has the nine votes necessary for approval of the resolution, assuming there is no veto by France or another permanent member. Security Council members Russia - which has veto power - and Germany also have strong reservations about the U.S. draft.

It invites the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the United Nations and U.S. officials in Baghdad to produce "a timetable and program for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq and for the holding of democratic elections."

De Villepin sidestepped a question on whether he had assured Powell that France would not use its veto.

"We are here in Geneva as the permanent members of the Security Council with the secretary-general to try to find solutions, not to create new problems.

"It's in a constructive spirit that discussions took place with the concerns to ensure that we can contribute to advances on the ground in Iraq. Here we have the same objectives," de Villepin said.

Powell said, "What we are all committed is to ... put authority back in the hands of the Iraqi people for their own destiny and their own future as fast as is possible but in a responsible way."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the veto-wielding members see a chance to reach agreement in New York.

"We all share the aspiration to share power with the Iraqi people as soon as possible," Annan said.

On Powell's further plans, the brief statement said he will travel to Kuwait and Iraq but did not specify a date.

The visit to Iraq, the country that has been the major focus of his attention since he took office, will be Powell's first. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq last week, his second visit in four months.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell will meet with Iraqis and with members of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in order "to see firsthand the progress being made by the international community and by the Iraqi people in rebuilding their nation and society."

Powell, who arrived in Geneva shortly after midnight Saturday, said the huge U.S. investment in Iraq in lives and money would be at risk if France should prevail in its proposal for early transfer of authority from American to Iraqi control. Almost 300 American troops have died in Iraq since combat operations began, and President Bush has asked Congress for an additional $87 billion for his war on terror, mostly for postwar Iraq.