Airing his views on the US-Britain-sponsored UN draft resolution, Chirac on Thursday said the document needed "serious improvement" and should guarantee the Iraqi interim government "full sovereignty in all fields - political, economic, security, justice, diplomacy".

He said Iraq should also have control over its oil and gas resources.

Authorising Iraqis

Chirac said the Iraqi government that is to be elected in January 2005 should "at all times be able to end" the mandate of an international force. The current resolution calls for a review of the troops, which means the mandate is open-ended until the Security Council decides to change it.

Chirac's comments came a day after China - another prominent Security Council member - circulated a paper with amendments, entitled Iraq Run by Iraqis.

Among its proposals was an expiration date for the force in January, with an option to renew it if the elected Iraqi government agreed.

German opinion

But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder rejected a January date for the mandate, saying it was too early to discuss a withdrawal of troops given the turmoil in Iraq.

"I don't think that in the current phase a final date can be named already because I think the situation is too confusing," Schroeder said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher rejected setting a date for the end of the mandate, saying there "may be security situations that arise that need to be dealt with".

"But the end of the mandate for the multinational force should be when the Iraqis themselves are in a position to ensure the security of their government," he said.