San Diego Union Tribune

June 6, 2004

Bush, Chirac report progress on Iraq resolution
French leader voices skepticism on WMD


By FINLAY LEWIS
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

PARIS President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac reported progress yesterday on a U.N. resolution on post-occupation Iraq, but they were unable to smooth over long-standing differences on the eve of today's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

At a joint news conference that included some chilly moments, Chirac cast doubt on Bush's rationale for invading Iraq, saying the French government never had definitive evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"I have always said that I have no information that would lead me to believe that there were, or were not for that matter, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Chirac said.

The public U.S.-French divisions stood in contrast with the show of solidarity earlier in the day in Rome between Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Referring to the 3,000 Italian troops he has committed to helping quell Iraqi insurgencies, Berlusconi said he would keep his soldiers in Iraq until they are no longer needed.

France, on the other hand, has ruled out sending troops.

At yesterday's news conference, Chirac described the current situation in Iraq as chaotic and "extremely precarious."

Chirac also seemed to challenge Bush's claim in a commencement address last week at the Air Force Academy that the successful military effort to topple Hussein was part of the larger struggle against tyranny that typified the Allied effort in World War II.

"History does not repeat itself," Chirac told reporters yesterday. "It is very difficult to compare historical situations that differ, because history is not repetitive."

Nevertheless, both sides said they were making progress on the resolution.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route here from Rome yesterday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.N. Security Council was "very, very close to completing the work."

Powell told reporters that the breakthrough was a letter from Iraq's new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, setting out a plan to create committees within Iraq at the local and national levels to express the desires of Iraqi authorities and work out understandings regarding the presence of U.S. and other foreign troops.

Allawi's letter describes a process of consultations giving his government leverage over military decisions on its soil and makes it clear that the presence of U.S. military and its coalition partners is necessary to guarantee Iraq's security.

"Sovereignty means sovereignty," Powell said. "And this is an arrangement between this sovereign government and the coalition forces that are there at the invitation of that sovereign government."

Powell said that Allawi's letter and one from Powell in response would be attached to the resolution as annexes.

"The French, when they look at this, I think they will see that the Iraqis are pleased that we are there, are pleased that we are willing to participate in the instrumentalities of coordination and consultation," he said. "If the new sovereign government is satisfied, it would seem to me that should satisfy all of my colleagues on the Security Council."

Powell said John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the ambassador-designate to Iraq, was working with the other Security Council members yesterday to overcome the remaining differences. A number of nations have pressed the United States to agree to steps that would codify Iraqis' ability to have a say in how foreign military forces are deployed in Iraq and set at least a general timetable for their withdrawal.

"I think we have dealt with almost all of the issues that have been raised," he said.

Late yesterday, an urgent, closed-door Security Council session was called for today, with the United States expected to introduce a final draft of the resolution, diplomats said.

No vote has been scheduled, but the Bush administration and Britain, sponsors of the resolution, would like one this week.

Despite their differences, Bush and Chirac both seemed determined to put a positive gloss on the weekend's celebrations in Normandy marking the D-Day landings by Allied forces that led to Europe's liberation from Nazi occupation during World War II.

Today, Chirac will present medals to representatives of nearly a dozen nations that aided the Allied effort.

Previewing his speech, Chirac said he would express France's gratitude for America's contributions to the war effort six decades ago and "for the blood that they spilled, their own blood, for the liberation of our country."

Chirac added, "I will say to them that France says, 'Thank you,' and that France does not forget."

Bush depicted today's events as an opportunity to "remember the timeless lessons that D-Day teaches, that sacrifices must always be borne in the defense of freedom."

Following the Normandy ceremony, Bush will fly to Sea Island, Ga., where he will host a summit of industrial nations. Later this month, he will travel to Ireland for a European summit and then to Turkey for a meeting of the NATO powers.

The Associated Press and New York Times News Service contributed to this report.