UNITED NATIONS (AP) – President Bush rejected calls from France and Germany yesterday for a swift transfer of power in Iraq, urging allies to put aside bitter divisions over the U.S.-led war and help lead a massive reconstruction effort.
French President Jacques Chirac challenged Bush by demanding a “realistic timetable” for granting sovereignty.
In the first gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly since the United States toppled Saddam Hussein, Bush was unapologetic about the war and its chaotic aftermath and unyielding on U.S. terms for creating a democratic government.
“This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis – neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties,” Bush said, spurning demands of France and Germany in a replay of the acrimonious year-old debate over Iraq that has shaken old alliances.
Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder listened to Bush speak in the vast hall where historic debates have echoed for more than a half century. Ahmad Chalabi, the president of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, took Iraq’s seat.
Before Chirac took his turn at the microphone, Bush left the chamber, followed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The French president upbraided the United States for having taken a go-it-alone approach in Iraq after the United Nations failed to sanction the war.
“In an open world,” Chirac said, “no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules.” France has said it wants power handed over to the Iraqis in a matter of months – a position echoed by Schroeder yesterday.
In Washington, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said he thought Bush “lost an opportunity.”