17 November 2003

US agrees to international control of its troops in Iraq

The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said. Decisions along these lines will be made in the 'coming days', Mr Solana told The Independent.

The comments, signalling a major policy shift by the US, precede President George Bush's state visit this week to London, during which he and Tony Blair will discuss an exit strategy for forces in Iraq.

Mr Solana underlined the change of mood in Washington, saying: 'Everybody has moved, including the United States, because the United States has a real problem and when you have a real problem you need help.' There is a 'growing consensus' that the transfer of power has to be accelerated, he said. 'How fast can it be done? I would say the faster the better.'

He added: 'The more the international community is incorporated under the international organisations [the better]. That is the lesson I think everyone is learning. Our American friends are learning that. We will see in the coming days decisions along these lines.'

The Bush administration spelt out over the weekend its new plans for the faster transfer of power from Americans to the Iraqis, with a transitional government now scheduled to take over from the end of June. Before, US officials had said that Iraqi leaders should write a constitution first, then hold elections.

Maybe the Europeans were right after all.

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