The five powers on Saturday reiterated their commitment to restore Iraqi sovereignty but without detailing a timetable for self-rule or the United Nations' future role in the country.

"We all share the aspiration to transfer power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said after emergency talks with the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

But the UN chief did not suggest any schedule for a transfer of power from the provisional authority set up by the US-led coalition after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April.

The ministers and Annan met for nearly four hours to discuss a US-proposed Security Council resolution on Iraq. The resolution seeks to create a UN-mandated multinational force under US command and share out the financial burden of Iraq's reconstruction.

Pressure on US

Opponents of the US resolution, led by France, want the UN to have the dominant role in Iraq and a faster transfer of power to elected Iraqis.

The US initially sidelined the United Nations when it invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.

Annan talks to de Villepin and
Russia's envoy Igor Ivanov

But with an average of 15 daily attacks against occupation forces, plus the spiralling cost of reconstructing Iraq, the US was keen to see its draft UN resolution persuade other countries to assist with money and troops.

Although the US is in desperate need of money and troops, it says it does not believe Iraqis can control their affairs as early as the French have proposed.

For its part, France, backed by Germany and many others, does not want the UN to appear to give its approval to the US-led invasion and the occupation administration Washington set up after Saddam Hussein's fall.