White House Seeks to End Rift Over IraqBARRY SCHWEID , Associated Press
Mar. 20, 2003 2:08 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Looking past war with Iraq, the Bush administration has begun trying to mend differences with friends and allies and to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people.
But France's pivotal role this week in stopping a U.N. resolution designed to bolster the U.S. case for war to disarm Iraq could be an irritant for some time.
In fact, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the Iraqi people ``will see who has been there for them, who brought about their liberation and who was for them and who was not for them.''
The administration hopes a quick military success that ousts Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and steers Iraq toward democracy will erase the troubling divisions with France and other anti-war nations.
But former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for one, faults the Bush administration to a large degree for the rift. ``We are isolated from the rest of the world by our own actions,'' she said Wednesday in an interview.
Accusing the administration of ``creating the wrong atmosphere'' and some members of ``putting their foot in their mouth,'' she said Bush officials have operated as if many rules and laws did not apply to the United States.
``I do believe the United States is an exceptional country and has special responsibilities,'' Albright said. ``But I also do think that we are better off if we respect the rule of law.''
Relations can be improved with hard work, Albright said. But she said the administration's ``allergy'' to rules and treaties is a complication.
After the war there still will be a lot of questions around the world about U.S. behavior, Albright said. ``Whether we find strength in partnership or see ourselves as Gulliver tied down by Lilliputians is the basic question,'' she said.
Leslie H. Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, ``Getting rid of Saddam Hussein will go a long way to solving the problem in Iraq but it won't solve the problem we have with the world.''
For one thing, Gelb said in an interview, ``The Europeans and most other countries are much more patient and much less inclined to force than we are.''
And yet, he said, ``There is a real common interest in dealing with Iraq, terrorism, Korea and whatever.''
And Edward S. Walker, president of the Middle East Institute, said that with Iraq ``we are coming to a point that would have been inevitable in any other administration.''
The former assistant secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt said he thought ``we could have gotten the French aboard if we had gone about it differently.''
``We love to fight the French and they love to tweak our nose,'' Walker said. ``But we have common interests, like the Middle East, and we are not going to walk away from Europe.''
Stung by suggestions in congressional and other circles that U.S. diplomacy has failed, Powell and other senior American officials proudly point to the unanimity they won in the U.N. Security Council in November for a resolution that threatened Iraq with ``serious consequences'' if it defied U.N. demands to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
That resolution is being cited as the legal foundation for going to war, even after a proposed resolution to bolster the U.S. case had to be withdrawn this week under threat of a French veto.
France and other governments that fought the second resolution knew in November they were approving the use of force as a last resort, administration officials insist.
Much of the world is vehemently opposed to war, at least before U.N. weapons inspectors are given more time to look for Iraqi biological and chemical weapons. Anti-war protests have attracted tens of thousands of people globally.
The new surge of anti-Americanism will take care of itself, especially if Saddam is replaced by a democratic government that treats the Iraqi people fairly, Powell says.
``People still have enormous admiration for America,'' he said recently. ``People still look at us and see a place of hope.''
Russia, France and other nations also have a stake in countering terrorism. And common interests with the United States will bridge differences over U.S. war policy, Powell said.
In the past few days, President Bush has stayed in touch by telephone with leaders critical of U.S. policy on Iraq, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao, and also with allies, such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
But Bush has not spoken with French President Jacques Chirac, the leader of the anti-war bloc, in more than six weeks or with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder since last November.
On the diplomatic front, the United States and Britain are drafting a plan to use Iraqi oil proceeds from a $40 billion account to pay for humanitarian relief supplies to the Iraqi people.