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U.N. may greet Bush's plea for help with resentment

WASHINGTON — A year ago, President Bush stood before the U.N. General Assembly and pledged to unite the world against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Six months ago he went to war, almost alone, having failed in months of diplomacy to win explicit U.N. support.

On Tuesday he returns to the U.N. — short of cash, short of troops and looking for help.

The question is how much he is likely to get from countries that opposed the Iraq venture from the start and that remain resentful of alleged American arrogance since.

Bush announced earlier this month that he was prepared to cede a greater role to the United Nations in Iraq's post-war reconstruction. Negotiations over the details have since bogged down, however, in an all-too-familiar reprise of the wrangling among allies that preceded the war.

Administration officials are privately blaming the French for insisting on what Washington regards as a wholly unrealistic timetable for transferring authorities to Iraqis. They assert that other countries are more forthcoming and that the French, once isolated, will cave.

To outside experts and many foreign diplomats, however, it is the United States itself that appears increasingly isolated as it seeks light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, having lost key leaders of his Iraq team in the Aug. 19 car-bomb attack on the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters, is pressing, too. He has cut foreign staff in Iraq to 100 and wants explicit guarantees — both as to the U.N.'s role and security — before sending more.

The Bush administration is making scant progress, meanwhile, in securing allied pledges of help in footing the $87 billion that Bush has estimated as the cost for security and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year alone.

On Thursday, Brazil said no to the request for troops, citing the "difficult" security situation in Iraq. Turkey, Pakistan and India have all continued to balk on supplying troops.

While in New York, Bush is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of the most outspoken opponents of the Iraq war. He returns at the week's end to Camp David and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, also in the opponents' camp on Iraq but now viewed as a potential mediator in the United States' dispute with France.

The root of the problem, according to many with long U.N. ties, is lingering resentment over the unsuccessful attempt by the United States last winter to win Security Council approval for a resolution explicitly authorizing force against Iraq.

"We advertised and exacerbated what was a manageable difference between us and our European friends, particularly Berlin and Paris but also Moscow, instead of building on it," former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said.

"Who lost in this process? The Security Council lost, the United States lost, and at the end of it the administration went ahead with what everyone surely should have understood was their plan from the beginning," said Holbrooke who served at the U.N. from 1999-2001, during the Clinton administration.