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Despite U.S. Resistance, France Ready to Move Into Iraq

Despite U.S. Resistance, France Ready to Move Into Iraq

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PARIS (AP) France is ready to join the reconstruction of Iraq and help ensure self-rule is quickly restored despite U.S. resistance to a prominent French role, the foreign minister said Wednesday.

"France wants to be present at the side of the Iraqi people," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, adding the reconstruction effort should be supervised by the United Nations.

A French diplomat, whom de Villepin did not identify, is in Baghdad to begin discussions with the various political and religious factions vying for power there, he said.

France opposed the U.S.-led push for war in Iraq and threatened to use its veto in the U.N. Security Council to block military action.

Last week, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert A. Bradtke said Washington was not interested in giving countries that opposed the U.S.-led invasion a major part in reconstruction.

De Villepin, however, said it was time to work together for lasting peace in the Middle East.

In post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, "we all share the same objectives and the same principles," he said. "We must now together build peace."

De Villepin said the world should guarantee stability in Iraq to "permit the Iraqi people to recover as soon as possible their full sovereignty."

The foreign minister did not spell out exactly how France plans to contribute to the reconstruction, nor how it intends to overcome American and British resentment over its opposition to the war.

French-U.S. relations will recover, if only "out of necessity," De Villepin said. "We have to work together, the problems (of the region) are beyond the capacity of just one power."

De Villepin said France had not swayed from the belief that the Iraq war was unnecessary, and that Saddam could have been disarmed peacefully.

Nevertheless, he said he was "rejoiced" by the collapse of Saddam's regime.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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