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Russia Meets With French, German Leaders About Iraq War

The leaders of France, Russia and Germany -- chief European opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq -- will be in St. Petersburg this weekend for meetings on Iraq's reconstruction.

French President Jacques Chirac will be in St. Petersburg on Friday and Saturday, the Kremlin said. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was already slated to meet with President Vladimir Putin in the former imperial capital on those days. The schedule of meetings, or whether all three leaders would meet at once, wasn't clear.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also was planning to visit at Putin's invitation, but he canceled those plans Tuesday.

Instead, he accepted an invitation to next week's European Union summit in Athens, Greece. A U.N. announcement said the change means Annan can meet with EU leadership as well as representatives of EU member nations.

Chirac said Putin had invited him and Schroeder "to discuss all aspects of the situation" in Iraq. The visit will also be "an occasion to discuss postwar Iraq," he said.

The visits come amid international discussion of the role of the United Nations -- and of countries not participating in the U.S.-led coalition -- in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The United States remains at odds with much of the council on what that role should be.

France, Germany and Russia oppose war in Iraq, and pushed for extended U.N. weapons inspections as an alternative to military force.

President Bush says the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq must lead efforts to rebuild Iraq. The European Union wants the United Nations to be a major player.