Thursday, August 28, 2003

The United States is willing to consider introducing a U.N. force in Iraq as long as it is under U.S. command, a senior State Department official said, the first time Washington has indicated that it would accept a significant multinational military presence in the country.

The proposal for a multinational force, which Washington has resisted, is one of several ideas being discussed at the United Nations, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Tuesday in an interview with regional news agencies.

“The American would be the U.N. commander,” said Armitage, who stressed that “that’s one idea that’s being explored. ... [We] haven’t finished our deliberations. We’ve got a ways to go.”

A multinational force under U.S. command was first proposed last week by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Such a force would be authorized but not organized by the United Nations as a blue-helmeted peacekeeping operation.

In practice, it would mean the presence of officers from other countries in command headquarters, which is now dominated by the United States and Britain.

India, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and several Middle Eastern nations have insisted on a U.N. mandate before they would send soldiers.

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