But in a press conference, it became clear that the Iraqis hand-picked by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority had a very different message for foreign leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly this week than the U.S. delegation led by President Bush.
An official with the Iraqi delegation told United Press International that Rice pressed the Iraqis to coordinate their efforts with the White House in the meeting. This source said, "She said we all have to work together. Let's coordinate."
While Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi delegation, opened his remarks by thanking Bush, the U.S. Congress and the American people, for intervening to remove "the scourge of Saddam Hussein," he also explained key differences he had with the American plans for proceeding in his country's reconstruction. On the question of whether Iraqis would welcome foreign peacekeepers and what powers should be handed over in the short term to the Iraqi Governing Council, a rift has clearly emerged between Washington and Baghdad.
Consider Chalabi's comments on his meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Wednesday. "He certainly does not intend Pakistan to be part of any occupation force in Iraq," Chalabi said. "We welcome the concern that these countries are showing about the opinion and views of the Iraqi Governing Council, about their participation, about any force in Iraq."
Pakistan is one of the countries the U.S. delegation was hoping to persuade to pony up troops for the peacekeeping force in Iraq. But Chalabi said, "it is interesting that they are doing this because they recognize that the success of peacekeeping means there is consent and welcome for them in Iraq. Without this, they correctly see their venture is not a successful one."
A source with Chalabi's delegation said that Chalabi is not against more foreign troops, but he only wants the troops if they are invited by a provisional government, something U.S. officials have rejected for some time.
One of the prime objectives for the U.S. delegation in New York this week is to persuade jittery allies to send troops to Iraq and provide them with the political cover of a U.N. Security Council resolution that encourages them to do so. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Kim Holmes told reporters Wednesday, "many countries are looking for this resolution to provide greater political space. Most countries have national imperatives on this."
The United States tried to enlist more foreign troops for peacekeeping in Iraq as early as July, when the State Department sent nations a detailed questionnaire on the kinds of military support different capitals could provide. The tepid response to these requests contributed to the Bush administration's decision to seek a U.N. resolution encouraging more peacekeepers.
The question of foreign troops is not the only area where the Iraqi delegation parts ways with the Americans. On Wednesday, Adnan Pachachi, another member of the Iraqi Governing Council, told reporters at a press conference that his delegation believed the recently created Iraqi government ministries should be directly accountable to the 25-member body on which he serves. "There should be direct contact between the ministers and the Governing Council and we do not think it is advisable for the ministers to ignore the council and discuss matters with the CPA," he said. "Their contacts have to be restricted to the Governing Council."
The United States, however, has been adamant that no serious authority be handed to the appointed Governing Council until an Iraqi constitution is drafted, approved in a referendum, and then elections are held afterwards. While all members of the Iraqi delegation Wednesday said they agreed, more or less, to this sequence of events, they also made clear that they sought greater authority for their council in the short term.
The Iraqi delegation will travel to Washington next week where they will meet with the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate's Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. They are also expected to meet with high-level officials next week at the White House.