Maine’s congressional delegation is commending President Bush’s appeal to the United Nations Tuesday for more international involvement in rebuilding Iraq.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Allen said Bush would be getting more international cooperation today if he had stayed the diplomatic course and followed the United Nations’ lead before attacking Iraq.

“I would say the most interesting aspect of the speech is that he had to go back to the U.N. and ask for help, when basically he blew off a lot of the rest of the global powers when he went in,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, called Bush’s speech “long past due” and said the United Nations should take a leading role in rebuilding Iraq.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said as the Bush administration meets with France and Germany about their involvement in the rebuilding of Iraq, other countries must also recognize that their contributions will lead to improved stability in the region.

But, she added, she still has questions about how long the U.S. commitment to Iraq will last, and how much it will cost.

“What’s the timetable for getting the country operational? That’s essential,” Snowe said. “We don’t want to be pouring money down a big, deep, black hole.”

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said she would forge ahead with an amendment to force Iraq to repay the $20 billion or more designated for reconstruction, once it is profiting from its oil industry.

“I realize that Iraq cannot afford to repay us in the short run, but it would mitigate the impact on American taxpayers if it were structured as a long-term loan,” she said.

Allen said Bush is right to seek international help, but that he should have done it sooner.

“In some ways we’re making progress, in some ways we’re slipping backward, but we can’t walk away,” Allen said.

AP-ES-09-24-03 0217EDT



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