France is ready to act as a mediator in Iraq, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday, calling for the United Nations and Iraq's neighbours to take a more active role in helping to end the crisis in the war-torn country.
"Although the (US-led 2003) invasion ended a brutal dictatorship, the methods used to build a secure and democratic Iraq have failed," Kouchner wrote in the International Herald Tribune.
"It is time to start anew. There can be no lasting military solution to the crisis. The solution has to be political."
The minister said at least planning for the withdrawal of foreign troops must begin, in consultation with Iraqi authorities, if not commence immediately.
"At the same time, a broad-based government of national unity must be established. France is prepared to act as a mediator in this endeavor."
France's longstanding ties and contacts with the different communities in Iraq would help it in this role, wrote Kouchner.
Kouchner's initiative follows his call for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to be replaced, in an interview published Sunday in the US magazine Newsweek.
Maliki called for an official French apology for Kouchner's remarks.
Amid increasing US pressure for action, Iraq's top Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders vowed Monday to boost national reconciliation and resolve key disputed issues that have thrown the war-ravaged country into political turmoil.
Kouchner also called for a renewal of the UN's role in Iraq, describing it as indispensable.
"Iraq's neighbours must also play a credible part in the search for a solution. Nothing substantial can be done without them," wrote Kouchner.