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Bush, Blair see U.N. advisory role

From CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux

Bush and Blair talk in the gardens of Hillsborough Castle Monday.
Bush and Blair talk in the gardens of Hillsborough Castle Monday.

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British officials say they want British companies to win a fair share of contracts to rebuild Iraq. CNN's Robin Oakley reports. (April 7)
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CNN's John King reports on the meeting in Belfast between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush about the U.N.'s part in rebuilding Iraq. (April 7)
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BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair see an advisory role for the United Nations in a post-Saddam Iraq, a senior U.S. administration official has told CNN.

The two leaders will discuss details of their vision on Tuesday at a news conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Bush arrived in Northern Ireland on Monday for talks with Blair on the future of postwar Iraq as well as how to jumpstart peace efforts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

Earlier, at the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters, "I do expect the U.N. to play an important role" in postwar Iraq.

"U.N. legitimacy is necessary for the country, for the region and for the peoples around the world," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, traveling with the President, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the Bush and Blair positions on the U.N.'s role are "not as nearly as far apart as has been reported."

While Russia, Germany, and France have been pushing for the United Nations to play a leading role in shaping postwar Iraq, the Bush administration has made it clear, through various officials, that U.S. and allied forces would be in charge.

The U.N. would only be permitted to assist in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. It would not play a political or administrative role in shaping an interim Iraqi government.

But Blair, under increasing pressure from his European counterparts, has been pushing for a greater U.N. role.

Bush Administration officials have argued that the U.S. and allied forces are uniquely qualified to assess the security and volatility on the ground, and therefore should continue, at least in the short run, to control the country.

Powell said Monday he spoke with Annan and told him since the United States took "the political risk" of moving to replace the regime of Saddam Hussein, it would only be fitting the U.S. officials should advance Iraq's political reform. Powell said Annan assured him that the UN "had no interest in controlling Iraq."

With that, the U.N. will act in an advisory capacity to the Pentagon-controled Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, as the new agency builds an interim Iraqi authority made up largely of US government advisers and military personnel and then phases them out, a senior administration official confirmed.

Annan appointed a special U.N. envoy -- Rafeeudin Ahmed, 70, a longtime U.N. official from Pakistan -- to coordinate Iraqi reform efforts with the Bush Administration.

Powell said "the hostilities are coming to a close, so its time to start laying the groundwork for a transition period."

He said the administration would begin to work on what kind of resolution it would introduce to the U.N, Security Council regarding Iraq, but that the United States did not want "to go back to the old tensions" with the members.

On Monday British Central Command spokesman Air Marshal Brian Burridge backed a statement by Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Sunday it was impossible to know at this point what a post-war Iraq would look like. (Post-war Iraq plan)

Political reward

"The bottom line is that after we defeat the armed forces of Iraq, that we will want to and need to provide stability throughout that country," Pace said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley described Bush's visit as something of a political reward for Blair's support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"The fact that George Bush has come to Belfast to meet Tony Blair in this location ... is in a sense a mark of respect for Tony Blair, an attempt to show outside world -- because George Bush doesn't voyage outside the United States all that easily -- it's a sign that he takes him seriously and listens to his advice. It gives him some sort of political payback," Oakley said.

Northern Ireland is "dear to Tony Blair's heart," Oakley said, noting that Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, traveled to the area three times and sometimes telephoned the parties involved to help move the peace process along.

"Bush isn't going to follow the detail to the same extent (as Clinton), but he is helping to put his imprimatur on that process in an important week, when Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern put forward their latest proposals to revive the peace process," Oakley said.

"Bush will be there to show that the rest of the world is still interested in this peace process and to kick it along."

The "Good Friday" peace accord -- which created a new power-sharing authority with delegates representing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland -- was signed five years ago this week.

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