INTERNATIONAL

Powell hopeful of accord on Iraq resolution

UNITED NATIONS SEPT. 26. The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has stressed that there is some "some convergence" of opinion on a new Security Council resolution which still seems to be days away from being formally presented in the chamber.

At the end of the luncheon of the Permanent Five with the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the top Cabinet official of the Bush administration said, "I am pleased and I think my colleagues on the P-5 are pleased that we are seeing some convergence of views with respect to a new resolution on Iraq. We'll be working on language in the days ahead that tries to capture as much of the convergence as possible and to see what we are able to come to an agreement on. We also had a good discussion on the role of the Secretary-General and his representatives in the political process in Iraq and how it should be captured in a resolution," Gen. Powell said.

Commenting on the time-table, over which differences persisted within the P-5, Gen. Powell said, "I think we did converge on the understanding that you did need a democratic political process that rests on a constitution and elections that flow from that constitution, and that's been a subject of some debate over the last week or so, but I think we all have a common understanding. Remember that the resolution would invite the Governing Council to come up with a plan or a time-table. I wasn't looking for a time-table today," Gen. Powell argued. On Capitol Hill, apprehensive members of the Congress asked the Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, whether the administration planned to withdraw the American troops before the November 2004 Presidential elections.

Mr. Wolfowitz argued before a Congressional panel that "significant forces" from the U.S. would remain in Iraq through the end of next year.

Rejecting the notion that any decision on troop withdrawal could be made on political grounds, Mr.Wolfowitz remarked, "These are national security decisions, they have to be made on that basis." Meanwhile, Democratic candidates at a debate here sharply criticised the President, George W. Bush, for his Iraq policies including the fact that he came away from the United Nations empty handed.

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