UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) launched a high-level diplomatic offensive Monday to get feuding nations to unite behind a plan to stabilize Iraq and said the United Nations is prepared to play a major political role to quickly restore its sovereignty.
Annan met late Monday with ambassadors from the Security Council (search) and planned to meet Saturday in Geneva with foreign ministers from the five veto-wielding council nations -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. He said he also has been talking to officials in many countries and plans to engage Mideast leaders and Iraq's neighbors.
"The discussions are at early stages yet," he said, "But my own sense is that Iraq is of such importance that all of us will have to find a way of working together to stabilize Iraq."
In a similar move Monday, the U.N. chief also urged leaders of all member states to come up with radically new ideas to deal with wars, terrorism, poverty and other threats to international security after a year of sharp divisions -- especially over Iraq.
The Security Council is starting to debate a U.S.-proposed draft resolution to get more peacekeeping troops and money into Iraq, but it faces tough opposition led by France and Germany.
It would authorize a multinational force to replace the current U.S.-led force, but the United States would command the force and continue to run the civilian administration. France and Germany, which opposed the war on Iraq, are leading demands for the quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty and a larger U.N. role.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, who confirmed that Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) would attend Saturday's meeting in Geneva, said the United States is waiting for suggested changes -- particularly from the four other permanent members.
The United States incorporated "a lot of ideas that have been given to us by other countries," he stressed, and "we think it's a constructive and important resolution."
But China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said there is a consensus among council members that the United Nations should be given "a vital role in the area of political and economic reconstruction."
Russia believes "that it is crucial to agree on a political process with a clear timetable leading to full restoration of sovereignty and that a real multinational force which should be a unified force should be mandated to support the process," said Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.
France has said it would like to see the United Nations take over the administration of Iraq from the United States. China's Wang said he believes this is "the common position of most of the members -- but it's up to whether the United States is ready. I think the shorter the transition the better."
The United Nations has been excluded from playing any substantive role in guiding Iraq to self-government -- the very area in which Annan said the United Nations had unique expertise after guiding East Timor to statehood and putting Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan back on their feet after long conflicts.
Despite the Aug. 19 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq which killed 22 people -- the most damaging attack in United Nations history -- Annan said the world body would be prepared to play the key political role in helping to restore sovereignty in Iraq.
"In situations where member states have come together to deal with a crisis situation and establish a new political order, the U.N. has often run the political facilitation process," Annan said, adding that the U.N. models used in Afghanistan, Kosovo and East Timor "are all on discussion on the table."
The secretary-general said economic issues including control of Iraq's oil production and oil revenue, and responsibility for awarding contracts and privatizing the oil industry are also "very much part of the discussions which are going on at the moment."
Meanwhile, in a new report, Annan urged supporters and opponents of the U.S.-led war to unite behind a new global agenda and agree on how to deal terrorism and provide for global peace and security.
"Events have shaken the international system," Annan said at a news conference. "We all agree that there are new threats, or rather that old challenges have resurfaced in new and more virulent forms. But we don't seem to agree what exactly they are, or how to respond, or even whether the response should be a collective one," he said.
Annan said he's urging attendance by all at the annual General Assembly later this month, saying all states need to take a hard look at whether the United Nations and other international institutions need "radical reform" to cope with growing challenges.
"They must set a higher priority on finding common ground and agreeing common strategies, rather than striking out on their own," he said.