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U.S. Exploring Possible Expanded Role for U.N., Powell Says

However, Powell added the U.S.-led coalition had no plans to cede control of the country to a U.N. force.

“[P]erhaps additional language and a new resolution might encourage others [to send troops to Iraq]. Other issues with respect to the role that the U.N. has to play … can be discussed in the course of our negotiations on a resolution,” Powell said after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Annan said Wednesday that a larger international force was “under discussion,” but added he did not “see U.N. blue helmets going into Iraq at this stage.” He also said he didn’t foresee quick action on the issue.

Some nations have demanded greater U.N. authority before they would send troops, but Powell said the countries that have already sent forces to Iraq want the United States to retain command because it provides “solid, responsible, competent military leadership.”

In recent months the Bush administration has solicited contributions from other countries and said that other nations’ troops would gradually supplement the U.S. military presence. These efforts have met with resistance from foreign governments that want a U.N. resolution in place before sending in troops.

More than 140,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, performing hundreds of daily patrols as well as relief and reconstruction efforts.

Powell this week has contacted a series of European foreign ministers — Jack Straw of Britain, Dominique de Villepin of France, Joschka Fischer of Germany and Franco Frattini of Italy to discuss possible troop deployments in Iraq.

Britain already has a substantial presence in Iraq. But the United States had not discussed security issues in Iraq with France and Germany because of their opposition to the American-led military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.

At the State Department on Wednesday, spokesman Richard Boucher said soliciting other troops at this point was only a matter of speculation.

But he said, “We are in consultations with other governments about what’s the best way to continue this support, facilitate the support of the international community.”

Although Powell on Thursday expressed an interest in expanding the presence of other nations’ troops in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday said military commanders in Iraq told his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, that there was no need for a larger military force in the war-torn nation.

“At the moment, the conclusion of the responsible military officials is that the force levels are where they should be,” Rumsfeld told reporters during a visit to Honduras. “The effort should be on developing additional Iraqi capability rather than additional coalition capability.”

Meanwhile in Iraq, an American soldier was reported killed late Wednesday by “an improvised explosive device,” the U.S. Central Command said. Two other soldiers were wounded in the incident in the Karkah district of Baghdad.

At the bombed U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, searchers pulled three more bodies from the rubble on Thursday, raising the death toll to 23.

Later, the United Nations announced it was withdrawing one-third of its staff from Baghdad.

About 100 U.N. support and administrative staff, out of a total 300 in Baghdad, were being flown to Amman, Jordan, and Larnaca, Cyprus, according to Romiro Lopez da Silva, Iraq coordinator for U.N. humanitarian programs.

Annan said the United Nations has started assessing security arrangements, and he will make recommendations to the Security Council at a future date.

A May 22 resolution on Iraq gave the United Nations significant roles in providing humanitarian relief and in helping to rebuild the country, but the United Nations was excluded from any military or security role, except helping to train a police force.

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