Powell sees French troops for UN staff in Iraq

30th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, April 30 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that French troops could be used to provide security for United Nations officials who are likely to oversee the electoral process in war-torn Iraq.

LONDON, April 30 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that French troops could be used to provide security for United Nations officials who are likely to oversee the electoral process in war-torn Iraq.

"I'm not expecting any French troops, but there might be other things that France would be able to do," Powell said in an interview with the Times newspaper in London.

"We will have a need for the protection of UN personnel in the country, in order to have that vital presence that we've all talked about and everybody has encouraged," he said.

"We will need security for the UN electoral officials who will be going through the country to register people and get ready for the elections at the beginning of next year," he said.

The comments were seen by the Times as an attempt to patch up the rift between Washington and Paris, which has consistently opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The United States is hoping that France will not block an imminent UN Security Council resolution to lend legitimacy to its transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30.

However, French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday he was doubtful the body would agree on a resolution.

Powell's comments came after a new poll showed US support for the war and US President George W. Bush's handling of the crisis had fallen sharply in the last month, one of the worst months for American forces there, with more than 120 killed.

Powell dismissed talk that the US-led coalition was flagging.

"When people start talking about quagmires - one thing that is not a quagmire is Saddam Hussein. He's gone. Horrible man. Horrible regime," he told the Times.

He admitted that the encirclement of the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, had made it a symbol of resistance to the might of the US military.

"It has that image, but it will go away quickly as soon as it's resolved and it can't go on indefinitely," he said.

"If you see what we have done in the last three weeks - we have been moving with caution," Powell said, countering accusations that heavy-handedness by US forces had enflamed the situation.

"Even though on televison you see action, you see firefights take place, for the most part, these firefights have been on the edge of the city and the suburbs," he said.

Powell said he expected the situation to improve after the end of June and the transfer of authority to the Iraqi people.

"Returning sovereignty is going to help because it puts an Iraqi face on the situation and the people can see not Americans and not Brits, but Iraqis increasingly in charge of the country and in charge of their destiny," he said.

"The thugs, they will go after the Iraqi interim government just as they are going after coalition representatives now," he said.

Amid speculation that the US wants Britain to provide more troops in Iraq, with Spain pulling out its 1,300-strong force by May 27, Powell said additional troops "would be useful in a situation like this".

"I would not deign to suggest what the British might do or might be able to do," he added.

Powell did, however, point to a potential role for NATO in Iraq.

"I think it would be an important signal if NATO were to show that as an alliance and not just as individual members of the alliance, it is involved and committed to the future of a democratic Iraq," he said.

"How that manifests itself... discussions are underway now and perhaps something will be ready at the time of the Istanbul NATO summit" he said.

© AFP

                                                Subject: French news

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