World View Mixed On U.S. Iraq Plan

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The United States and Britain on Tuesday won praise for their blueprint for post-occupation Iraq — but few if any new troop contribution offers to help ease the burden on the U.S.-led international force.

France repeated its staunch refusal to ever send in soldiers, a decision likely influenced by Iraq's unrelenting violence and the French government's vehement opposition to the war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

"This is out of the question today and tomorrow," Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said. "But France wants to be counted in when it comes to working on reconstruction."

Pakistan said it might contribute troops — but limit them to a special force tasked with protecting U.N. facilities in Iraq, officials in Islamabad said.

Still, it was the first sign that the U.N. draft resolution submitted by Washington on Monday might bring some new troops for the harried U.S.-led international force in Iraq that includes 138,000 American soldiers.

Washington's calls for more contributions in past months have largely been rebuffed, and suggestions that Muslim or Arab nations should play a military role in Iraq have not yielded positive responses.

The resolution would create a U.N. mandate for U.S.-led forces in Iraq that would be reviewed after a year — or earlier if a transitional government due to take power after January elections requests it.

War opponents like Germany and China praised the draft resolution as a positive step toward giving Iraqis power to run their own government after more than a year of unrelenting violence under an American-led occupation.

"It is crucial that we press ahead in the Security Council with putting the resolution into action," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Berlin. "I think it is a very good foundation on which we will seek consensus and I believe can also reach it."

France and Russia, which have all-important veto power on the U.N. Security Council, expressed reservations about the blueprint, with French leaders complaining the measure may not go far enough in handing future Iraqi leaders real authority.

French President Jacques Chirac spoke to U.S. President George W. Bush by telephone Tuesday and told him that France viewed the proposal as "a good basis for discussion," according to a statement released by the French presidential palace.

But while France would examine the proposal closely and in a "constructive spirit," Chirac said the degree of control the new Iraqi government will have over security and the nation's vast oil reserves must come under greater scrutiny.

"The extent of the responsibilities of the future interim Iraqi government, especially over its oil resources, must be studied closely," the statement said, quoting Chirac. He also said questioned the duration of the multinational force's mandate.

In an address Monday night at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush offered no exit strategy for bringing American soldiers home, pledging instead to send more, if necessary.

Poland, which commands a 6,200-strong multinational force in Iraq, called on more nations to send troops. But Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said his country wants to scale back its own troop levels after elections in Iraq are held in January. The number of Polish troops in Iraq at any one time is not higher than 2,500.

During its annual summit in Tunis last weekend, the Arab League said Arabs would not send troops to Iraq unless specifically asked by the U.N. Security Council and Iraqis themselves. But even under those conditions, Arabs were skeptical.

"Sending troops is a sensitive issue, and several conditions should be met before Arab countries start considering this issue," said Hossam Zaki, an Arab League spokesman. "It is not an issue that is being examined right now."

Ali Hamadeh, a political analyst with Lebanon's leading An-Nahar newspaper, said Arab leaders did not want to appear to be cooperating with the United States.

"No Arab country would want to give a cover for the U.S. occupation," Hamadeh said. "Arab soldiers could be used by the coalition forces as sandbags to guard against attacks by anti-U.S. groups."

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said the U.S.-British blueprint leaves many issues unresolved, such as how long American and other foreign troops will stay in the country, and the precise relationship between the proposed interim government and the U.S.-led multinational.

"There are a lot of ambiguities, many questions that have to be resolved because the people of Iraq, Iraq's neighbors and the whole world need to understand what is going to happen," Kharrazi said at a news conference in Madrid after talks with senior Spanish officials.

Russian officials have said Moscow — a strong opponent of the war — is not considering sending troops. On May 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would only consider dispatching officers if the interim government requested — but that he strongly doubted it would do so.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his nation's troops would remain in Iraq even though opinion polls showed support for the deployment was slipping. Australia sent 2,000 troops to take part in the invasion of Iraq and still has 850 military personnel in and around the country.

Denmark, a key U.S. ally in Iraq, will keep its nearly 500 soldiers in southern Iraq for another six months, the Foreign Ministry said earlier this month. The assignment was scheduled to end on June 30, coinciding with the scheduled handover of control in Iraq to an interim government from the U.S.-handpicked Iraqi Governing Council.

Governments in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — outspoken supporters of U.S. policy in Iraq — have not announced any new plans to increase the number of troops each nation has stationed there.

Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Tomaga said his nation stays committed to its small deployment in Iraq, but that there were no immediate plans to send more troops.