WASHINGTON – The bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was "a breakthrough, a sad one" that changed attitudes at the United Nations and is allowing the Bush administration to seek a resolution for more international support in Iraq, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search) said Thursday.
Wolfowitz said the issue of a U.N. resolution "didn't sort of emerge out of nowhere a few days ago. It's been on our agenda ever since the fall of Baghdad (search)."
Wolfowitz and the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid (search), spoke to reporters in two brief Capitol Hill news conferences after holding separate closed-door meetings with senators and House members.
The Bush administration's offer on Wednesday to share power with the United Nations was widely seen as a change of tactics resulting from the rising costs, mounting casualties and growing criticism of slow progress in rebuilding Iraq. The Pentagon was considered particularly wary of a big U.N. role.
But Wolfowitz said the administration always understood a U.N. resolution would be important in attracting international support.
"I think we had a breakthrough, a sad one, but the bombing of the U.N. headquarters I think changed the atmosphere" at the United Nations, he said. "And it looks like we can move forward in that area."
He said when Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed last week that a multinational force would have to be under U.S. command "that really solved our principal concerns on the military side, and we embrace that quite eagerly."
Asked if the decision to seek a resolution was a "midcourse correction," as it had been described by Sen. John Warner, R-Va. and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Wolfowitz said "we are making course corrections virtually on a weekly basis."
"We've been trying for a long time to get the U.N. to where I'm hopeful we're now going to go, to an understanding that, yes, we need the U.N. to ask for forces," he said.
Wolfowitz said "we're at a place where we would have been happy to be a month ago or two months ago. But it's better late than never."