The same governments that led in opposing US military intervention in Iraq said the Bush administration's appeal for international help there now falls far short of their standard for bringing stability to the war-torn country. German Chancelor Gerhard Schröder, in a news conference with French President Jacques Chirac, said: "Now is the time to look forward, and that can only happen if the UN [takes] responsibility for the political process" in Iraq. The US proposes to retain command of security and reconstruction efforts. Meanwhile, a senior Schröder political ally said Germany remains unwilling to send troops to Iraq because giving the UN responsibility "for what is happening there now" is not being discussed.

Elsewhere, Russia's defense minister said whether his government sends troops to Iraq "depends on the unity of opinion in the UN Security Council." The US's chief coalition partner, Britain, will conduct a review of its troop levels in Iraq, but Prime Minister Blair said unless his military commanders recommend sending more troops, "We don't provide them." The US and Turkey were discussing the sending of at least 5,000 peacekeepers, but Iraq's interim foreign minister said Turkish soldiers would not be welcome.

In an unannounced visit to Baghdad, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld estimated that other nations combined could send "maybe another division" to help with security. But he said the 50,000 to 60,000 Iraqis involved in, or training for, such work are more important. Ex-enlisted Iraqi soldiers and their junior officers are being considered as reinforcements for those already serving, he said.

In an 18-page speech, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas issued an ultimatum to his parliament: Back me or fire me. He didn't seek a vote of confidence, but said he wouldn't fight to keep his post in the face of "problems" between his administration and Yasser Arafat. He again refused to crack down on Palestinian militants, as called for in the road map to peace with Israel, but blamed the Jewish state for the lack of progress in "our serious attempts to revive the political path."

Despite its tough talk, North Korea's government has told other participants in last week's nuclear-program talks that it plans to participate in a second round, a leading news service reported. Japan's Kyodo agency identified them as China and South Korea. The North has sent conflicting signals since the talks in Beijing ended. First, it said they were meaningless, then that it still wanted to resolve the nuclear issue through dialogue. But on Wednesday its rubber-stamp parliament adopted a statement indicating no "interest in, or expectations for" more discussions with the South, the US, Japan, China, and Russia.

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