WASHINGTON – Responding to an unusual rebuff from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search), Secretary of State Colin Powell has personally assured him that the Bush administration is trying to assign the United Nations a significant role in Iraq's future.
In a telephone call to Annan on Friday, Powell also told him that a proposed U.S. resolution would go a long way toward helping Iraq and smoothing the way for U.N. involvement in the country's future, a U.S. official said.
The Bush administration is trying to win passage by the U.N. Security Council (search) of a resolution designed to attract more peacekeeping troops to Iraq. The White House will also be seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in financial contributions at a donors conference Oct. 23-24 in Madrid.
The administration proposes to enlist the United Nations in the holding of elections and the training of civil servants.
Annan on Thursday raised questions about the United Nations' ability to facilitate Iraq's transition to democracy and said he would prefer a quick transfer of sovereignty to Iraqi civilians.
Powell renewed assurances the United States would end its occupation as soon as possible, but has said it would take at least several months for Iraq to prepare a constitution, hold elections and otherwise install democratic institutions.
Trying to smooth over the differences, Powell told reporters Friday that "we are anxious to receive specific suggestions" to improve the proposed resolution. He acknowledged the pace of transition was a subject of ongoing debate.
"We are anxious to remove the burden from ourselves," Powell said. "It is a burden that we picked up because we felt it was necessary to remove the Saddam Hussein regime for its violation of U.N. resolutions."
France, Russia and Germany, like Annan, all want a quick transfer of power to a provisional Iraqi government that would then draft a constitution and hold elections.
"Obviously, it's not going in the direction I had recommended, but I will still have to study it further," Annan said Thursday of the new U.S. draft.
The resolution endorses a step-by-step transfer of authority to an interim Iraqi administration but sets no timetable for the handover of sovereignty, which would come after elections.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (search) said Friday that his country has expressed willingness to work with the United States in postwar reconstruction. But Russia has pushed for a stronger U.N. role and a concrete timetable on the transfer of power to the Iraqi people.
Putin said he thought the new draft being circulated at the United Nations could be improved. "We see a desire on their side to compromise," Putin said.