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Washington File

09 April 2003

Rice, State's Haass Brief on Iraq, Russia, N. Ireland

(Aboard Air Force One on return flight from Belfast to Washington)
(3300)
Establishing an interim authority in Iraq depends in large part on
circumstances on the ground as coalition forces continue to secure
areas, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said April 8, adding
she does not think anyone "is making a hasty decision" on when to set
it up.
"The liberation is just progressing, the fighting is not done," she
noted. "There are whole areas of the country where the fighting is
still quite intense. And so nobody wants to try to have a fixed
timetable of when you take what steps."
Rice briefed reporters as they returned to Washington from Belfast,
Northern Ireland, where President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair met to discuss coalition operations and other issues.
Before going to Belfast, Rice went to Moscow for what she termed "a
wide-ranging discussion" on the current state of U.S.-Russian
relations, as well as post-conflict Iraq.
"[I]t's been a difficult time for the relationship, everybody
understands that," she said. "But ... both of them, President Putin
and President Bush, have said in a couple of different telephone calls
and in contacts between their governments that the strategic
relationship is extremely important to them, that they want to help to
create the conditions under which the relationship can move forward."
Asked if the Syrian government is actively collaborating with the
Iraqi regime in terms of hiding weapons and moving people, Rice said
the United States does not have "clear enough answers" as to what
Syria may or may not be doing. On the other hand, she said, "very
clear messages have been delivered to the Syrian government that they
should not engage in behavior that is anti-coalition."
After Dr. Rice's briefing, the director of the State Department's
Policy Planning Staff, Richard Haass, spoke with the reporters aboard
Air Force One.
Haass discussed the latest development in the search for peace in
Northern Ireland, the so-called Hillsborough documents. (The meetings
between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were held at
Hillsborough Castle in Belfast.) Haass said the documents would be
released April 10 and that they have America's full support.
Asked why President Bush has taken a peaceful route to resolve the
conflict in Northern Ireland but has gone to war in Iraq, Ambassador
Haass explained that the two situations "are fundamentally different."
He said, "The United States has only used force in Iraq after more
than a decade of diplomacy. And Saddam Hussein had every chance to
avoid a war. All he had to do was meet his obligations on weapons of
mass destruction, and he chose not to."
Haass went on to say that U.S. foreign policy "is different in
different places. We don't simply have one set of tools, and what's
appropriate for dealing with a situation in Iraq is obviously not the
appropriate set of tools for dealing with other challenges."
Following is the White House transcript of the briefing:
(begin transcript)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
April 8, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING BY THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR AND AMBASSADOR RICHARD
HAASS
Aboard Air Force One En Route Andrews Air Force Base
10:10 A.M. EDT
DR. RICE: All right, I'm here to answer questions in what's obviously
a very successful meeting between the Prime Minister and the
President. They had a chance to talk about the Middle East, as the
Prime Minister said. Dinner last night was fairly wide ranging. Talked
quite a lot about the Middle East, in fact.
They had an opportunity to talk about the progress in the war, which
they see as progressing according to plan and progressing well. But
everybody wants to caution that there's still a lot of work to do.
There is still fighting going on, there are still areas to be
liberated.
But nonetheless, they talked as they have in all of these meetings,
about making certain that the coalition can, working with the
international community and others, begin to deliver for the Iraqi
people on day one, and that the Iraqi people can, as soon as possible,
begin to be involved again in their own future. So those were the
subjects of the meeting.
Q: Do they have a consensus on how much longer the war is going to
last?
DR. RICE: I don't think anybody is trying to make a prediction on how
much longer. It's going to last as long as it takes, because obviously
good progress is being made, but the one thing that everybody is
absolutely clear on is, this regime is coming down, Iraq is going to
be returned to a -- to the Iraqi people in a way that it can be a good
neighbor, can be thoroughly disarmed completely disarmed of its
weapons of mass destruction, and can be put on a path to democratic
development, keeping the territorial integrity of the country.
Q: Do you have any new information since the President was asked about
whether Saddam is alive?
DR. RICE: Don't have any new information. I don't think anybody knows,
but the regime is going to be finished.
Q: How soon do we have an interim authority up and running? And are
you still considering doing it just in the south, or are you going to
wait and see what happens in Baghdad?
DR. RICE: When I briefed on this last Friday, I think I said that a
lot is going to be dictated by conditions on the ground. And obviously
conditions on the ground are shifting. And so I think it will have to
be a constant assessment of what the circumstances are on the ground,
when it's best to start trying to put together an interim authority.
But obviously the President wanted to emphasize today that this is
going to be a -- the President and the Prime Minister wanted to
emphasize this is going to be a broad-based, representative interim
authority, that it's role is of course temporary or transitional, to
give the Iraqis or to make certain that Iraqis have a role in the
administration of their country and that as it matures that functions
can be given over to it.
But it's not a substitute for what will eventually have to be an Iraqi
government where all Iraqis can have a voice. But I think we aren't
making any decisions right now on where it would be set up or on what
time frame. We have to really watch how things are going on the
ground.
There may be opportunities to get people together -- the already
liberated people, the people who would be coming in from the outside
-- but I don't think anybody is making a hasty decision on when to set
up the interim authority.
Q: The Secretary said -- that the United Nations could recommend some
names for possible people.
DR. RICE: Of course, yes
Q: Has there been any clear idea of how people will be named or Iraqis
get to name people, the U.N. gets to name people, I suppose we'll have
a say. What would be the mechanism?
DR. RICE: Well, the President emphasized a couple of things. First of
all, he and the Prime Minister wanted to make very clear that
everybody understood that they have long believed that the U.N. will
have a vital role, vital in helping to deliver food and medicine and
goods, vital in helping the Iraqi people get back on their feet --
indeed, being able to make suggestions about who might be a part of
the interim authority.
If Afghanistan is any guide -- and it might not be a perfect guide,
but there is some experience with interim authorities -- people tend
to underestimate the role of the people themselves in knowing the
leaders among them, in the provinces, in governorships, in localities,
that people emerge. And the people themselves will tell you, well,
that person has been a leader. You know, you do have this very brutal
regime on top, so people can't express themselves.
But there are leaders out there, some of whom we are able to identify
as the liberation of the country has taken place, others of whom will
be identified as liberation takes further. But I think there is a
tendency to underestimate the degree of knowledge that you can really
gain from talking to the Iraqi people themselves about what leaders
should be emerging.
And both the Prime Minister and the President, if you noticed,
emphasized that this is not an issue of the coalition or the U.N.,
this is an issue of the Iraqi people, as soon as possible, taking life
into their own hands.
Q: Condi, the President talked about the interim authority being there
until the people themselves can select a government. What are the
criteria -- what do we look for to make that -- reach that point?
DR. RICE: Again, not everything can be predicted or predictable at
this point. The liberation is just progressing, the fighting is not
done. There are whole areas of the country where the fighting is still
quite intense. And so nobody wants to try to have a fixed timetable of
when you take what steps.
But obviously there will have to come a time where there is a -- once
the interim authority is in place, where processes that we would
associate with democratic development take place, where you begin to
move to some form of election and some form of validation of people
who are going to be the leaders of the country. But that's a ways.
Nobody can make a prediction on that.
In terms of the interim authority, though, it has to be -- even in
itself, even though it is temporary, it has to be broad based, it has
to include people who are inside the country and are just emerging.
Undoubtedly there will be people who have not yet emerged who will
over the next few days, next weeks.
And we shouldn't underestimate the importance of people who have been
outside the country but have kept this flame alive for a free Iraq for
more than a decade. And they will have an important role to play, as
well as of course the Kurds, who have managed their own -- the
northern territory, since 1991.
MR. FLEISCHER: Just one or two more.
Q: Can I follow up on that? Was the President informed about Chalabi's
air liftings into Iraq, and what does he -- how does he feel?
DR. RICE: I'm sorry, I have been -- I was in Moscow. I'm a little bit
uncited on this, and I'll get back to you with information about what
may or may not be going on there. I just don't know.
Q: Secretary Powell said yesterday that a team would be going over to
Iraq some time next week. Do you know who those people are? And I know
that you're saying people will emerge inside Iraq. But the people
outside of Iraq -- are those people named already, and when will we
know who those people are?
DR. RICE: Part of these people have been working with us for a long
time. I mean, there are kind of two categories of people. There are
people who have been part of opposition groups and there are some
expats who have identified themselves as people who want to go back
for 60 or 90 days to just help on the administrative side, to lend
their skills to getting the place back up and running.
But I know it's very easy to want to go to governance issues early on.
But the elements, as the liberation takes place, will be to make
certain that the country is secure, that its territorial integrity is
assured, that delivery of services to the Iraqi people can really take
place, that humanitarian needs are taken care of. I mean, there are
parts of the country where water is a problem, in large part because
of the policies of the Iraqi government.
So something as important but simple as getting water to the people,
we've got to keep that focus early on, and many of these issues will
begin to sort themselves out. And there are opposition groups, there
are also expats who have just said they want to go back a little
while, a short time and help.
Q: Did you patch things up with Putin? Did you begin to heal that
relationship?
DR. RICE: Well, it was -- look, it's been a difficult time for the
relationship, everybody understands that. But the President -- both of
them, President Putin and President Bush, have said in a couple of
different telephone calls and in contacts between their governments
that the strategic relationship is extremely important to them, that
they want to help to create the conditions under which the
relationship can move forward.
And that was the purpose of my trip. We had a wide-ranging discussion,
by the way. We talked about a lot of different elements of
U.S.-Russian relations, but we also talked a little bit about the
post-conflict Iraq situation and about trying to move constructively
from where we are now to in the future.
Q: I wanted to ask about Syria. Do we think that the Syrian government
is actively collaborating with the Iraqi regime in terms of hiding
weapons and moving people and scientists?
DR. RICE: I don't think we have clear enough answers from our part of
view as to what Syrian activities may or may not be. But very clear
messages have been delivered to the Syrian government that they should
not engage in behavior that is anti-coalition and thereby anti-Iraqi
people.
Okay, thanks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a double header. We have Richard Haass on the
record about Northern Ireland.
AMBASSADOR HAASS: Okay, you heard what the President said at the
opening of the press conference. We've also issued a statement, along
with Ahern and Blair about the -- about Northern Ireland, so that
gives you some detail. Let me just quickly run you through the
meetings, and then I'll answer your questions.
They met as a trilateral, talking about the issues on Northern
Ireland. Then the three of them met with the leaders of six
pro-agreement parties. And at the outset of the meeting, Prime
Minister Blair then Prime Minister Ahern then President Bush spoke.
President Bush essentially made the points that the Northern Ireland
has reached a historic juncture. There really is an historic
opportunity here to fulfill the promise and the potential of the Good
Friday Agreement. He called on the leaders to essentially exploit --
to seize the opportunity. And he said, do it not just for yourself, do
it not just for your children, but also do it as an example.
And the President specifically linked it to the situation in the
Middle East, in two ways. One, that if you make progress in Northern
Ireland, it shows what diplomacy and negotiation can do. And secondly,
the Middle East is in some ways a tragic reminder of what happens when
the boulder gets rolled up the hill, leaders don't seize the
opportunity, and then the situation can grow worse.
So basically appeal to the leadership of Northern Ireland again to
take advantage of this, both for themselves and for others.
Q: There was a critic in Northern Ireland who took the opposite view.
Instead of seeing this as an example of how the Mideast peace process
could be inspired, he said it's hypocritical for President Bush to say
-- take the peaceful route, while he's using -- while he has gone to
war in Iraq. And I wondered if you could respond to that.
AMBASSADOR HAASS: I thought the President handled that perfectly well
at the press conference. These two situations are fundamentally
different. The United States has only used force in Iraq after more
than a decade of diplomacy. And Saddam Hussein had every chance to
avoid a war. All he had to do was meet his obligations on weapons of
mass destruction, and he chose not to.
In the case of Northern Ireland, we've fortunately now been in a
situation of -- a so-called cease fire for about a half dozen years.
It's now, literally this week, the fifth anniversary in the five years
of the Good Friday Agreement. And the situation here has evolved
significantly. And again we're at a point where is the chance to
evolve that much more.
The two situations are apples and oranges. I would just say also it
shows that U.S. foreign policy is different in different places. We
don't simply have one set of tools, and what's appropriate for dealing
with a situation in Iraq is obviously not the appropriate set of tools
for dealing with other challenges. And in Northern Ireland, we're 100
percent involved in diplomacy.
Q: When did President Bush meet with Gerry Adams on the side, and was
there any discussion about the FARC and anything along those lines?
AMBASSADOR HAASS: He met with the leadership of each of the six
pro-agreement parties, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness,
and talked with them about Northern Ireland, and also talked with them
about the situation in Iraq. The situation you mentioned didn't come
up.
Q: Do you happen to know the other four names?
AMBASSADOR HAASS: The other four parties?
Q: Yes. McGuinness, Adams --
AMBASSADOR HAASS: For Sinn Fein it was just Adams and McGuinness. I'll
take you through the order. I'll see if my memory serves me well at
35,000 feet.
He began with the Ulster Unionist Party, the UUP. Then he met with
David Trimble and Reg Empey. He then went to the SDLP, the Social
Democratic and Labor Party and met with Mark Durkan and Brid Rodgers.
Then he went to Sinn Fein and met with Gerry Adams and Mark
McGuinness. And then I might have the order wrong on the next three,
but met with the Alliance Party which is headed up by a man --
gentleman named David Ford, he also met with the number two there,
Eileen Bell. And fifthly, he met with the Progressive Unionist Party,
PUP, which is led by a gentleman named David Ervine, with an E, and
also a gentleman whose last name is Smith. And then lastly he met with
the Women's Coalition, which is headed by Monica McWilliams.
MR. FLEISCHER: Not bad at all.
Q: So six separate meetings. They come into a room --
AMBASSADOR HAASS: No, what it was, was they were all arrayed around
the room. It was one meeting. It was almost like, if you imagine a
clock, one was at four o'clock, one was at two o'clock, and he
basically went from each one and maybe spent -- he went along with the
Taoiseach and Prime Minister Blair and the three of them engaged each
one of the leadership pairs one at a time for about five minutes each.
Q: The President essentially endorsed what's going to be published
later this week by Blair. Has the President seen a draft of that?
AMBASSADOR HAASS: We've been intimately involved in it, and he's been
thoroughly briefed on the essence of the Hillsborough documents that
will be released Thursday.
Q: Do you expect another explicit endorsement on Thursday when it
comes out?
AMBASSADOR HAASS: I'll talk with Mr. Fleischer about that. We're
pretty clear, on the record, but we may again say something on
Thursday. I certainly will. But no one has any doubt that the United
States stands behind it and is prepared to help implement it.
Okay, I've told you more than you want to know? Great.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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