EU push for UN role in Iraq

Britain will join three other EU nations on the Security Council seeking a central role for the United Nations in post-war Iraq, it has emerged.

Putting their differences over the war behind them, Britain, France, Spain and Germany have hammered out a draft statement which also saw a role for the EU in stabilising Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was due to meet France's Dominique de Villepin, Germany's Joschka Fischer and Spain's Ana Palacio at a dinner at the EU Summit in Athens.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Blair succeeded in narrowing divisions with those who had been opposed to military action, including French President Jacques Chirac who he met face-to-face for the first time since the war.

Mr Blair again stressed the importance of the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq, during a meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

It is expected that the statement from the four key European nations will be released tomorrow.

Mr Chirac told a news conference at the summit: "The UN is the only body which has the competence and legitimacy to end the crisis."

The initiative was an attempt to outline principles for the reconstruction and stabilisation of Iraq, he said.

"All this should be done... with a central role for the United Nations. We are all agreed on that," he said.

However he added that US and British forces in Iraq were responsible for ensuring immediate security and law and order in the country.

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