WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is now open to the possibility of establishing a U.N.-endorsed multinational force in Iraq if it is headed by an American commander, a top State Department official says.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (search) acknowledged that the idea is one of many being weighed by the administration as it attempts to deal with continuing violence in that country almost four months after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations.
Armitage outlined his thoughts in an interview with regional U.S. newspapers on Tuesday. A text was made available by the State Department.
Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) traveled to New York City last week to issue an appeal for a new U.N. Security Council (search) resolution that would reinforce U.N. support for the deployment of additional foreign forces in Iraq.
But initial soundings by administration officials suggested minimal support for that approach, taking into account continuing resentment among many Security Council members about the U.S. decision in March to go to war in Iraq without U.N. endorsement.
Since then, the administration has been trying out other ideas that would address U.S. concerns about continuing instability in Iraq without yielding to American insistence on retaining command over international forces in Iraq.
On Monday, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte highlighted the distance to be traveled before a consensus could be reached when he said, "We are nowhere near a resolution on Iraq."
French officials have said a genuinely international approach to Iraq with a sharing of authority would be the best way to bring stability to Iraq and enable the country to move forward.
The proposal outlined by Armitage would not entail the deployment of U.N. forces to Iraq but would simply provide the U.N. endorsement for the deployment of a multinational force.
The most recent example of this type of action occurred this past spring with the U.N. approval of a French-led multinational force to eastern Congo in a bid to bring an end to widespread violence in that region.