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Bush to Issue 'Call to Action' to U.N. on Iraq
Sat Sep 20,12:13 PM ET
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) will issue a "call to action" to U.N. member states to help out with postwar reconstruction in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites) when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, senior Bush administration officials said on Saturday.
The move comes a year after Bush challenged the United Nations (news - web sites) to back its anti-Iraq resolutions with the threat of force or risk becoming irrelevant, opening an ultimately doomed bid for a U.N.-backed resolution authorizing war against Iraq.
With U.S. military forces in Iraq under daily guerrilla attack, the costs of the U.S. effort swelling the budget deficit, and no conclusive evidence of weapons of mass destruction discovered, Bush goes before the U.N. General Assembly this year looking to put the bitter pre-war debate behind him and seek international assistance.
He faces increasing criticism at home about postwar Iraq, particularly from Democratic presidential candidates, and his popularity has eroded since a Sept. 7 speech in which he told Americans it will cost $87 billion to pay for the U.S. military deployment in Iraq and reconstruction over the next year.
Bush will lump his appeal for assistance for Iraq and Afghanistan together with efforts to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction, fight AIDS (news - web sites) as well as the trafficking in human beings.
"It really is an opportunity to say to the international community: We have real challenges, we can't ignore them, we have to meet them. It's a call to action," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bush will acknowledge the bitter disagreement within the U.N. Security Council, which eventually led the United States and Britain to go to war without U.N. backing, and will portray the current situation as an opportunity to have a stable Afghanistan for the first time in decades and a democratic Iraq in the center of the Middle East.
"The president believes we are all focused on the future now," the official said.
And he is not troubled by the fact that the promised weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found. In its defense, the United States has pointed out that 300,000 bodies have been found in mass graves and that Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was a brutal dictator who needed to be toppled.
Bush, said a senior official, goes to New York "proud that Iraq is liberated and that Saddam Hussein is out of power. That should be a source of pride not just for the coalition but for the entire world."
During his two-day trip, Bush will meet the leaders of the main anti-war coalition, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
He will also meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose assistance to the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was critical to the U.S. toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
It will be Bush's first substantive meeting with Schroeder in a year and a half, ending a feud triggered by the German leader's re-election campaign during which he argued against U.S. policy in Iraq.
There have been signs of a thaw for weeks, as Germany has been helping out in postwar Afghanistan.
The visit will be an opportunity for Bush to press his case for a new U.N. resolution creating a multinational force for Iraq, something that has been bogged down due to French and German concerns that a U.S.-written draft resolution does not cede enough control to the United Nations nor transfer Iraqi sovereignty to its people quick enough.
The United States has recast the draft and is hoping to bridge the differences.