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Uphill Fight For U.S. Iraq Plan

France, Germany and Russia are demanding that Iraqis and the United Nations play a much more important role than the one outlined in the draft U.N. resolution circulated by the United States last week.

According to documents obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the three countries — which strongly opposed the war on Iraq and were at first reluctant to endorse the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council — now want the 25-member body to quickly take over administration of the country from the United States and Britain.

The shift, revealed in proposed amendments to a U.S.-backed draft resolution, comes ahead of a meeting on Saturday called by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to try to get the five veto-wielding council nations to unite behind a plan to stabilize Iraq.

It also comes as U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq marked the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which set in motion events that eventually led to the war.

In other developments:

  • Prime Minister Tony Blair's government did not deliberately "sex up" a dossier on Iraqi weapons by including a disputed claim about chemical and biological weapons, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee reported Thursday. But the committee criticized the government's presentation of the claim that Iraq was prepared to launch some chemical and biological weapons on 45 minutes notice.
  • The Qatar-based Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported Thursday that one of its correspondents, taken into custody by American forces the day before, had been released. The U.S. military had said early Thursday the reporter was arrested for having broken unspecified "ground rules."
  • In Baghdad, the U.S.-led civilian coalition announced the Baghdad city council had chosen a new chairman, calling it the "first orderly, democratic transfer of power for any public office in Baghdad in more than 35 years."
  • A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said the number of American troops deployed in Iraq was nearly 116,000. That is at least 10,000 less than previously believed. As recently as last week, the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq was believed to be between 125,000 and 130,000. The coalition spokesman, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, did not explain the reduced figure.
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was heckled Wednesday by two protesters, who yelled, "Your foreign policy is based on lies," and held a sign reading: "Bloody Hands."
  • Democrats are targeting the White House-connected firm Halliburton, Roll Call reports — insisting it not profit from the massive increase in reconstruction aid sought by the president.
  • An audiotape containing the voice of Osama bin Laden's chief deputy threatens more attacks on Americans and calls on Iraqi guerrillas to "bury" U.S troops.

    The U.S. administrator for Iraq and the commander of American forces in the country joined about 100 civilians and soldiers for a moment of silence Thursday at Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace in Baghdad to mark the 9-11 anniversary.

    L. Paul Bremer and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez stood with the others to bow their heads as a Scottish bagpiper played "Amazing Grace."

    "Let us attune our hearts to the voices crying out from the Sept. 11, 2001, compelling us to eradicate terrorism in our world and restore justice and dignity to creation," said U.S. Army chaplain Col. Frank Wismer.

    In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, the 4th Infantry Division held a similar memorial service.

    The United States decided to seek a new resolution to get more troops and money into Iraq, but the debate is focusing far more on how fast an internationally recognized Iraqi government can be established, who should be in charge of the political process leading to elections and how much power the Governing Council should have in the interim.

    The United States believes the Iraqi Governing Council must remain in charge of the timetable leading to elections and a restoration of sovereignty

    Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. aim was "the ability to transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqi people and to do it in a responsible way."

    But France, Germany and Russia want the United Nations to take charge of the political process and speed up the handover to the Iraqis.

    The French-German amendments endorse the Governing Council and newly named Cabinet "as the trustees of Iraqi sovereignty" and calling for them to take over administration of the country from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

    Russia's proposal is less sweeping, calling for Annan to submit a timetable for the specific steps needed to adopt a constitution and hold elections, in cooperation with the Governing Council and in consultation with the U.S.-led coalition.

    The United States and its closest ally Britain want a vote before President Bush addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 23, but some council members believe that's too optimistic.

    The U.S. draft resolution maintains U.S. political and military control of Iraq.

    It would transform the U.S.-led coalition force into a U.N.-authorized multinational one under a unified command to help maintain "security and stability in Iraq" and urge the 191 U.N.-member states to contribute troops.

    Blair's government has been under increasing pressure because coalition forces have not found evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — which was the heart of the government's case for military action.

    The government has been embroiled in a dispute with the British Broadcasting Corp. over a report, which cited an unidentified source as saying the government overruled intelligence advice to "sex up" the dossier by including the 45-minute claim, and that it probably knew the claim was wrong.

    The Intelligence and Security Committee rejected those charges, and accepted the government's assertion that the Joint Intelligence Committee which prepared the dossier did not come under political pressure.

    However, the committee criticized the way the 45-minute claim was presented, saying no context was provided.

    The committee was also critical of Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon and said his Ministry of Defense had been "unhelpful and potentially misleading" by initially failing to disclose that some of its staff had expressed concerns about the dossier.

    A separate inquiry into the suicide of a weapons expert has hear testimony more damaging to Blair.

    Brian Jones, who until recently headed a section of the Defense Intelligence Staff, told the inquiry that some of his staff felt that the dossier was "over-egging certain assessments."