German, French and British Leaders to Meet Over Iraq

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The leaders of Germany, France and Britain will meet in Berlin this weekend to try to coordinate their stands on Iraq and put their differences behind them, government officials said Tuesday.

Saturday's session will bring together German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) and French President Jacques Chirac (search) -- ardent opponents of the U.S.-led Iraq war -- and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search), who fell out with the other two in the buildup to war.

A likely topic will be the U.S. push at the United Nations for more peacekeeping troops and money for Iraq, where Washington is at odds with France, Russia and China -- veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council (search), as is Britain.

"The aim of the meeting is to agree on common foreign policy positions, after views diverged in the run-up to the Iraq war," a German government statement said.

Blair's government was particularly scathing about Chirac's opposition to military intervention. Asked whether Saturday's meeting was meant to mend fences, Blair's spokesman said: "I won't deny that part of the rationale of having this summit is to look forward on Iraq."

President Bush spoke with Blair on Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"They did discuss the ongoing diplomatic efforts, including at the United Nations," and touched on Blair's upcoming meeting with Schroeder and Chirac, he said.

Schroeder and Chirac will meet Thursday for a regular German-French summit in Berlin. Including Blair a few days later is an effort by Berlin and Paris to reach out to the pro-war camp and seek European unity, though how much common ground the three can find on Iraq is unclear.

Schroeder and Chirac last met two weeks ago and rebuffed a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, saying it failed to offer a clear perspective for turning over power to a new Iraqi government and didn't give the United Nations a strong enough role in postwar Iraq.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and foreign ministers of the four other veto-wielding Security Council members met last weekend in Geneva but failed to bridge gaps on the resolution.

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday that the weekend meeting between the European leaders "would also be an opportunity to build on the points of convergence discussed in Geneva and work toward a consensus resolution on the issue, which is still our goal."

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry reiterated the need for a quick transition to Iraqi rule and suggested there should be nothing "symbolic" about the transfer of power as France's ambassador in Washington had suggested in a television interview.

Blair's spokesman, who briefed reporters in London on condition of anonymity, acknowledged past differences but said the three leaders now want to focus on "how we achieve objectives that we all share -- a democratic and economically prosperous future for the country."

He said the agenda called for a "fairly wide-ranging discussion on economic matters, and international affairs."

The spokesman said the meeting was called "by consensus rather than anybody taking the initiative." The topic of the U.N. resolution proposed by the United States might arise, depending on progress in New York, he said.

Saturday's talks are part of a flurry of diplomacy before next week's U.N. General Assembly, where Bush is expected to make his case on Iraq.

Bush and Schroeder, estranged after the German leader won re-election last year on an anti-war platform, may meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly, officials on both sides have said.