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Chirac Says Transfer of Power in Iraq Should Take Months, Not Years

Chirac Says Transfer of Power in Iraq Should Take Months, Not Years

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BERLIN (AP) -- French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday he would like to see a transfer of power in Iraq in a matter of "months," as he and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder renewed their push for a quick return to sovereignty.

Chirac, speaking to reporters after talks with Schroeder, said France wants a quick transfer of power to Iraqis.

"When I say as quickly as possible, I of course mean months, not years," he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Chirac was backing off French demands for a provisional Iraqi government to be in place within a month.

France has demanded a quick timetable on transfering power as a condition for accepting a U.S.-proposed resolution on Iraq at the United Nations. On Friday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called for the provisional government in a month, a draft constitution by year's end and elections next spring.

The U.S. draft resolution seeks more money and peacekeeping troops for Iraq -- but debate over it has focused more on the future U.N. role in Iraq and restoring the country's sovereignty. Russia and China also want a quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, though perhaps not as fast as the French proposal.

Chirac and Schroeder strongly opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, causing a rift with the United States and their European Union partner Britain.

The German-French summit comes before both leaders meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Berlin Saturday in search of a common European position on postwar Iraq.

Chirac also voiced support for an offer by Schroeder to help train new Iraqi security forces in Germany, which Schroeder renewed at Thursday's news conference outside the chancellery in Berlin.

Chirac said it was "self-evident that, since the chancellor reaffirmed this position here, France takes the same position" -- though he stopped short of explicitly offering such training in France.

Schroeder, in an interview published Thursday, called for a "road map" for handing over authority to an Iraqi government.

"That can't happen tomorrow, but it would be helpful if there were firm way stations," he was quoted telling the Handelsblatt business daily.

"However, no one can really say at this time whether elections can be held in Iraq in 2004," Schroeder added. "The priority now is just to get the process going."

Also on Thursday's agenda was a German-French initiative to boost growth and create jobs across the EU that they plan to present later this month to the 13 other members.

Included in the plan are major infrastructure projects such as the plans for the Galileo satellite, Europe's answer to the American global positioning system, or GPS, and expanding high-speed rail networks across national boundaries.

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

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