President Bush, Blair to Discuss Iraq War, Reconstruction

They will also discuss the progress of the two countries’ military maneuvers in Iraq and the next steps should coalition forces remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power.

“The trip will focus on the operations in Iraq. They will talk about the status of the ongoing military operation. They will talk about the humanitarian relief efforts. They’ll talk about reconstruction. I think they’ll talk about the role of the United Nations. And I think the subject of the Middle East could come up as well,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Friday.

Announcement of the meeting coincided with an increase in international dialogue regarding the U.N.’s role in rebuilding post-war Iraq.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia met Friday to examine the issue, voicing a shared position that the U.N. alone holds legitimate authority to rebuild Iraq and reflecting unity within member states of the European Union.

“In the armed phase, in the securing phase, the primary responsibility obviously is that of the coalition forces on the ground. Beyond that, the United Nations must play a central role in solving the Iraqi crisis,” French Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin told reporters after the meeting.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Brussels Friday in his first European visit since the beginning of the U.S.-led war. He agreed that the U.N. should participate in the governing of Iraq following the fall of Saddam’s regime, however he did not specify how the partnership would function.

Powell’s comments came as other world leaders took steps to repair relations damaged during the bitter U.N. Security Council debate about a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Friday in an interview with ZDF television that he hoped U.S. and British forces could soon claim victory in Iraq.

“One cannot wish for anything else. Even if one was against the war, one has to wish it ends as quickly as possible,” Schroeder said.

The chancellor also stressed his continued opposition to the war.

“The many pictures, especially of the victims, only strengthen me in my opinion that it was right to try to prevent this war, even if we did not succeed,” he added.

However, Schroeder’s comments indicated a shift towards mending relations between Germany and the U.S.

“We have a firm basis with the United States. Independent of our differing views on the war, we are close partners in alliance,” he said.

On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed support for the U.N. playing a role in post-war Iraq similar to the oversight role it played in Afghanistan — a move that sparked agreement from France’s De Villepin.

“It is clear that we share the same objectives, the same convictions and in particular that we agree on the central role that must be given to the United Nations,” de Villepin said Friday.

Each of the parties involved expressed the need for stability in the Middle East, stressing the importance of quickly securing a road map for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. President Bush has said such a road map would not be established until a new Palestinian prime minister takes office and forms a cabinet.

Powell upheld the president’s position at a press conference Friday following a meeting with high representative of the European Union Javier Solana. Powell said the U.S. was keeping a close watch on changes within the Palestinian Authority.

“We’re watching the work of Mr. Abu Mazin as he prepares himself to be confirmed as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority,” he said.