Diplomats said the meeting on Saturday would also try to draw up an outline of a timetable and conditions for the US occupation forces to hand over the reigns of power to a purely Iraqi government.

  

Saturday's meeting is expected to be "only a stage" in the negotiations, with Annan playing the mediator, a UN official indicated.

 

Help wanted

 

The US position is supported by Britain, but France, Russia and China are keen on diluting the role of Washington and instead want the UN to be in control of Iraq.

  

After marginalising the UN when it suo moto invaded Iraq, the United States now wants international help to share the billions of dollars it is spending on Iraq.

  

Washington's proposed UN Security Council resolution includes the creation of an international force in Iraq with UN backing.

 

"Everyone wants to leave"

Aid source
Iraq

The move comes amidst intense resistance to US occupation in the country.

 

Several UN agencies have voiced concern about security in Iraq, amid growing threats against foreign and now local Iraqi employees, as well as restrictions imposed by a recent spate of guerrilla attacks on aid convoys and the UN compound in Baghdad.

  

"Everyone wants to leave", an aid source who requested anonymity pointed out recently.

 

Setback

 

In a further setback to Washington, India has reportedly decided not to send troops to Iraq even if the UN mandates multinational peacekeeping operations in the strife-torn country.

 

Quoting top government sources, Indian newspapers on Friday said New Delhi has said it cannot spare any of its million-strong army for peacekeeping operations due to security threats within the country and on its borders.

  

However, the real reason, the reports said, could be that national elections are due in India by October 2004 and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believes it would be politically disastrous if any Indian soldier died in Iraq.

  

India on 14 July rejected a US request to send 15,000 to 20,000 troops to Iraq but had said it would reconsider if there was an explicit UN mandate.