France and Germany refused Thursday to support a U.S. draft resolution that would spread the burden of running postwar Iraq, but said they believed a compromise was possible.
French President Jacques Chirac (search) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) demanded that Washington give the United Nations more influence in Iraq's political future. Their stance threatened to reopen a barely healed trans-Atlantic rift over their ardent opposition to the Iraq war.
Under the draft resolution circulated Wednesday at the United Nations, Washington seeks money and troops from other countries but would not cede political or military control in Iraq (search).
Chirac seemed particularly critical of the U.S. initiative and was adamant that the draft foresee the United States' giving up control of the political process in Iraq.
Yet Chirac and Schroeder, meeting in Dresden (search) for informal consultations, struck a conciliatory note. They said they saw a chance to negotiate a compromise at the United Nations, where talks over the draft are expected to be tough and lengthy.
Schroeder also said the proposal fell short, but welcomed it as "showing there is some movement."
"We are naturally ready to study it in the most positive manner," Chirac told reporters. "But we are quite far removed from what we believe is the priority objective, which is the transfer of political responsibility to an Iraqi government as quickly as possible."
Schroeder added: "I agree with the president when he says: Not dynamic enough, not sufficient."
Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) noted that Chirac and Schroeder didn't present a timetable for Iraqis to take control of their country. Still, he said Washington is "more than happy to listen to their suggestions."
"I don't sense from their statement that they said what exactly they are looking for or who they would turn it over to if we were turning it over right away," Powell said in Washington.
The draft resolution invites the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the United Nations and U.S. officials in Baghdad to produce a timetable for a new constitution and elections.
But it contains no timeframe of when this should happen, and it leaves the key decision in the hands of the Governing Council, which has taken months just to form a Cabinet. The United States believes the Iraqis must remain in charge of this process -- but France and Germany want more Security Council control.
Chirac and Schroeder sidestepped questions about whether they might send troops to Iraq under any condition.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday he would not rule out sending peacekeepers to Iraq as part of an international force, a strong signal that Moscow's stance was edging closer to Washington's.
"It all depends on a specific resolution. I wouldn't exclude it outright," Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
France, Russia, India and other countries, including Arab nations, have ruled out contributing soldiers to Iraq unless the United Nations authorizes a a multinational force.
Germany has said it is ready in principle to help rebuild Iraq but has no plans for a military engagement in Iraq.
Addressing the point more directly, German Defense Minister Peter Struck, speaking in Strasbourg, France, said no German troops would be sent in under the current U.S. proposal.
"For the German side, I can say that the situation has not changed even with this reflection by the Americans," Struck told a news conference. "So long as the legal situation in Iraq has not changed ... there is no point in discussing this subject" of German troops.
Syria, a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq and the only Arab member of the Security Council, cautiously welcomed the U.S. proposal, saying it should be looked at positively. But the commentary on state-controlled Damascus Radio also called the draft "inadequate" for insisting on keeping U.S. military control of postwar Iraq and refusing to give the United Nations a "full role."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the United States has wanted U.N. support since the fall of Baghdad to bring in more international troops.
"I think we had a breakthrough, a sad one, but the bombing of the U.N. headquarters I think changed the atmosphere in New York. And it looks like we can move forward in that area," he said in Washington, referring the Aug. 19 attack in Baghdad that killed 22 people and injured 164 others.
The five veto-wielding permanent council members -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China -- met Thursday afternoon to discuss the draft. An informal meeting of all 15 council ambassadors was scheduled Friday, and talks were also taking place in capitals. Powell said Wednesday he would assess where negotiations were early next week "and push it as aggressively as we can."
Germany's Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the U.S. draft was a good basis for negotiations, a view shared by many other Security Council members.
"We will see in the negotiations in the next days how far we can get," Pleuger said. "It's a good working basis but it certainly can be improved."
The British, Bulgarian and Spanish ambassadors to the United Nations said it was a positive move. Chile also supported it.
Echoing the French and German position, many council nations stressed that the key issues will be the U.N. role in Iraq and the degree of power the United States will be prepared to relinquish.
Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, whose country opposed the war, said the thrust of a new resolution must be "the restoration of the full sovereignty of Iraqis."
"I think the issue of the U.N. role is going to be an important source of discussion," he said. "The philosophical view of Mexico is that this is a job for the United Nations."