UNITED NATIONS – John Negroponte (search), the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the Bush administration's nominee to be the first U.S. intelligence chief, came to the United Nations on Friday with a plea to the international community to do more to help Iraq after its first democratic elections in half a century.
Negroponte told reporters he would not talk about his appointment to the new post of national intelligence director (search) until he is confirmed by the Senate. But when Secretary-General Kofi Annan congratulated him, Negroponte thanked him and told him it was "a bit of a surprise."
His meeting with Annan and his breakfast with ambassadors from the four other permanent Security Council (search) nations — Britain, France, Russia and China — were planned long before President Bush chose him for the intelligence post, and the topic at both sessions was helping Iraq after the elections.
"I think the election on Jan. 30 was a real watershed," Negroponte said. "And I think it presents an opportunity to the international community to take another look at what it can do to be helpful to Iraq at this critical juncture in their political development.
"It may be a turning point, and obviously the more assistance that can be generated from the rest of the international community, I think the better for the people and the government of Iraq," he said.
"I think they deserve the help and support of the international community. So I hope everybody takes a hard look at what the possibilities are."
The United States has been pressing for a larger international role in Iraq, particularly in training the country's military and police. But U.S. hopes for a larger NATO role suffered a setback Sunday when Germany rejected calls for the alliance to protect U.N. operations there.
France and Germany, which opposed the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein, have prevented the alliance from developing a wider role in Iraq, and have refused to send their own troops, even on the training mission in Baghdad that NATO has authorized.
Germany has emphasized its efforts to help Iraq in other ways — through military and police training outside the country, economic aid and debt relief. France has stressed its command of NATO peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Negroponte stressed the importance of international help to build up Iraq's own security forces.
"Regrettably, there are acts of violence in Iraq every day, but hopefully with the election of a new government and the efforts that are being made to train and equip and motivate the Iraqi armed forces, that situation will improve over time," he said.
"I'm hopeful that that will happen. But in the meanwhile, I think it would be extremely helpful if other members of the international community could join us — join the coalition in providing whatever assistance is possible to the government and people of Iraq."
Negroponte is expected to return to Baghdad before hearings on his confirmation to be the nation's first intelligence chief.
In that role, he will have the job of implementing the most sweeping intelligence reform legislation in 50 years and getting 15 highly competitive spy agencies, which have been under fire since the Sept. 11 attacks, to operate under a single umbrella.