The move comes as the US finds itself increasingly isolated in attempts to keep up its  military occupation of Iraq compounded by a rising toll of deaths amongst its troops wrought by resistance fighters.

 

India this week turned down a request to take part in the military operation in Iraq and French President Jacques Chirac said on Tuesday that sending troops to Iraq was inconceivable under the current framework.

 

Referring to this, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters in Washington, “There are some nations who've expressed a desire for more of a mandate from the UN and I am in conversation with some ministers about this.”

 

Preliminary

   

Powell, speaking after meeting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, said the talks were preliminary.

   

He claimed that the US at present was acting on a mandate, enshrined in Security Council resolution 1483 approved in May, giving it and junior partner Britain the dominant role in running Iraq and its lucrative oil industry.

   

But the US military occupation faces Iraqi resistance and the US public has shown early signs of doubt about the value of keeping troops in Iraq for years.

   

Powell said he had discussed the matter with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who saw President George W. Bush in Washington on Monday.

   

"This is indeed an issue under discussion," Annan told reporters in New York on Wednesday. "The question has been posed as to whether or not Security Council action may help improve the situation,” he said. 

 

Fresh mandate

 

The Iraqis seem to be
having the last laugh

This would mean a fresh Security Council mandate that expands UN activities and perhaps appeals to member-states to make troops, policemen and other resources available for the stabilization of Iraq, Annan added.

 

Fischer, whose country opposed the invasion of Iraq, said Germany was ready to help improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq but not send troops.  

   

"The relevant Security Council resolution 1483 made quite clear that the responsibility on the ground is in the hands of the coalition. We are not part of the coalition," he said.

 

 

The hope in Washington is that a new UN mandate, probably giving it a more central role in running Iraq, could persuade some of Washington's allies to contribute troops. 

   

But it would also be an admission of inadequacy by the Bush administration, which brushed aside international criticism and invaded Iraq largely on its own.