Leaders, split on war, now debate peace
By Brian Whitmore, Globe Correspondent, 04/10/2003
PRAGUE - As jubilant Iraqis danced in the streets of Baghdad, European leaders yesterday turned their attention to the thorny issue of who will control the peace. Governments across the continent focused on addressing the privation of Iraqi civilians and mending diplomatic relations tattered by the war.
"The international community has to act to counter the humanitarian risk," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France told reporters yesterday, after meeting with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain to hammer out consensus on Iraq's reconstruction and new government. "The United Nations has got to play an essential role," de Villepin said. The White House has insisted throughout the conflict that the United States and its coalition partners will take the lead in running a postwar Iraq, with the United Nations playing a supporting role. France, Germany, and Russia, the main opponents of military action, have called for a UN-led administration. Britain, Washington's closest ally on the continent, has tried to stake out a middle ground. "Both we and the United States obviously wish to see as quickly as possible the creation of a representative democratic Iraqi government, carrying the consent of its people, responsible crucially for its own security," Straw said. He stressed that the new government must "be from the people of Iraq and by the people of Iraq, of course, with the support of the coalition and with the support of the United Nations and the international community." France, which led the continent's antiwar bloc, has seen its relations with Britain deteriorate over the Iraq crisis. And as the war wound down yesterday, both stressed that they were now mending their battered ties. "Life would be very boring if friends always agreed," Straw said. "This is a grown-up relationship." Villepin agreed. "What unites us is stronger than what divides us," he said. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain spoke about Iraq's fall by telephone with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Jacques Chirac of France, to discuss the future of Iraq. "The prime minister underlined the vital role for the UN in this process," Blair's spokesman said of the conversation with Chirac. "Both agreed on the need for Iraq to be governed by the Iraqi people as soon as possible. They also agreed that the international community needed to work together to help achieve this." Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, who has strongly opposed the conflict, welcomed what he called the "joyous signs" of what "could soon be the end of the war in Iraq." "Each day that shows the end of the war is approaching is a good day," German media quoted Schroeder as saying. "We also think that the goal now should be to transform a probable and hoped-for military victory into a political gain." In Moscow, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered at the US Embassy to protest military action.