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Bush Challenges U.N. to Back Iraq Plan

September 23, 2003

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ President Bush, again facing skeptical world leaders, challenged the United Nations on Tuesday to support his plan for steady transition to democratic rule in Iraq, saying the wartorn nation ``needs the help of friends.″

``This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis _ neither hurried nor delayed by the voices of other parties,″ Bush said, in a jab at France and others demanding an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.

``So let us move forward,″ said Bush, who also invited the United Nations to play an expanded role in Iraq’s reconstruction. He said the world body should assist in preparing a constitution for Iraq, help train civil servants and conduct free and fair elections.

``Every young democracy needs the help of friends,″ Bush said.

Second, Bush called for a worldwide drive to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. ’The deadly combination of outlaw regimes, terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away,″ he said.

In the audience, at the General Assembly, sat Ahmed Chalabi, this month’s president of the Iraqi Governing Council, and President Jacques Chirac of France, who opposes Bush’s plan for Iraq.

Bush told world leaders they must stand with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as they build free and stable countries.

``The terrorists and their allies fear and fight this process above all, because free people embrace hope over resentment,″ he said.

Bush still faces opposition from France and other countries that want a quick end to U.S. occupation of Iraq and transfer of authority to Iraqis.

The president faced similar opposition earlier this year in trying to marshal the United Nations to support war with Iraq.

Bush acknowledged that differences over the war persist.

French President Jacques Chirac has called for quick symboblic transfer of civilian control to the Iraqis, with full control being handed over within six to nine months.

Bush spoke after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized his ``pre-emptive″ attack on Iraq but urged world leaders Tuesday to set aside their disputes over the war and join forces to build a peaceful democracy in the troubled nation.

The president was not only addressing an international audience, but some of his remarks appeared tailored for domestic consumption. Polls show increased concern on the part of Americans over continued casualties in Iraq and with respect to the mounting costs of reconstruction. These polls also have shown a decline in the president’s overall approval ratings.

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