UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will hold a meeting in Geneva on Saturday with the permanent members of the Security Council in an attempt to bridge the trans-Atlantic gap over the United Nations’ role in Iraq.

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US Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed he would attend the meeting with foreign ministers from Britain, China, France and Russia – all countries with veto power on the Council.

Following President George W. Bush’s speech to the US on Sunday, European nations reacted warily to his call for a greater UN role. In Berlin, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer reiterated German soldiers would not take part in any future force.

France and Russia were critical of the US and British-led war in Iraq, and France has voiced concerns over the latest US proposal to create a multinational security force and to draw international funds to rebuild the country.

Russian officials say they have reached agreement with France and Germany, which has a temporary Council seat, to oppose any bid to create a multinational force that did not give the UN a key role.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US welcomed Annan’s involvement and interest in forging a consensus over the US proposal.

The showdown over Iraq sparked one of the worst crises in the UN’s history and Annan has stepped up calls for reforms that would make the Council “more democratic” and larger.

“Unless the Security Council regains the confidence of states and world public opinion, individual states will increasingly resort exclusively to their own national perception of emerging threats and their own judgment on how best to address them,” he wrote in a report made public on Monday.

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