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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

13 June 2003

Bremer Says Iraqi Resistance Not Centrally Directed

(Press conference via satellite from Baghdad) (6050)
While there continues to be some organized resistance to the presence
of U.S. military forces in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer says there is
no evidence at the moment of any centralized command and control.
Bremer, who is President Bush's special envoy to Iraq, told reporters
June 12 at the Pentagon via video teleconference from Baghdad that
there continue to be "isolated attacks against our soldiers," usually
launched by small groups of five or six men seeking to cause
casualties. The attackers may be former members of the now-banned
Ba'ath Party, Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen forces or the Republican
Guard, he said.
"We are clearly on the lookout to see if this evolves into a more
organized ... centrally directed resistance," said Bremer. He is in
charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which has
succeeded the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance
(ORHA) as an entity to run Iraq until an interim Iraqi government is
ready to assume responsibility. Bremer said there is no evidence that
Saddam Hussein might be directing any of the recent attacks.
Asked if the inconclusive fate of Saddam Hussein was making Bremer's
job more difficult, he said: "I would obviously much prefer clear
evidence that Saddam is dead or that we had him alive in our custody."
The special envoy acknowledged that former members of the Ba'ath Party
are causing unease by going into villages and bazaars and spreading
rumors such as "Saddam is alive, and he's going to come back."
Bremer said these kinds of rumors make it difficult for those who are
afraid the Ba'athists may return. He promised that the coalition
authority would "leave no stone unturned in the search for Saddam."
The first phase of the coalition's effort towards the reconstitution
of Iraq -- getting the basic services delivered, utilities turned on,
providing better law and order -- Bremer said is complete.
The second phase of reconstitution, restoring economic activity "is
where our greatest challenge lies, and we must now create jobs for
Iraqis," Bremer said. Unemployment in Baghdad is higher than 50
percent. Bremer says, "there can be no higher priority now than trying
to find a way to create jobs. The chronic underinvestment in
infrastructure is going to have to be dealt with, and we're going to
have to find ways to get productive activity going, particularly
economic activity that creates jobs."
Bremer was asked how long the United States would stay in Iraq, he
says it depends on "how fast the Iraqis can write a constitution, get
it ratified by the Iraqi people and then call elections. We hope to
convene a constitutional conference, as I mentioned, within the next
four to six weeks. And then, the process of writing the constitution
will have to start. And we will see how long it takes."
Following is the transcript of the video-teleconference:
(begin transcript)
U.S. Department of Defense News Briefing
Ambassador Paul Bremer
Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 10:45 a.m. EDT
(Video-teleconference briefing from Baghdad, Iraq, on the coalition's
post-war reconstruction and stabilization efforts. Participating was
Ambassador Paul Bremer, director of the Coalition Provisional
Staff: Thank you for joining us today, and a special thanks to
Ambassador Paul Bremer, who joins us today from Baghdad. He just
finished up a session with the House Armed Services Committee. And
he's here today to talk to you about his efforts over the past month
since he's arrived in Baghdad and his ongoing efforts into the future.
The ambassador does have a few opening remarks, and then we have 30
minutes for some questions with him.
So, Mr. Ambassador, if you can hear me, go ahead and get started.
Bremer: Thank you very much. I hear you fine. Do you hear me?
Staff: Yes, we can hear you very well in the briefing room right now.
Bremer: Okay, good. Good morning. Let me say a few words before we get
I arrived here almost exactly a month ago. And in those last 30 days,
I think we have achieved quite a lot, working with the Iraqi people.
We've just begun the process of putting a country together that has
been ravaged for 30 years by political tyranny and economic
under-investment. It's been an enormous privilege, I must say, to have
been able to play a part in this great undertaking, and I am
determined that we're going to continue the same pace in progress in
the months ahead.
The scars in this country run very deep. The thugs and the torture
chambers may be gone, but every day we find new evidence of how bad
the regime was that we threw out. And repairing the damage of the last
regime, material, human and psychological, is a huge task, and it's a
task that is only going to succeed if we have a real partnership with
the Iraqi people. I am deeply committed to that kind of a partnership.
We've completed, I think it's fair to say, the first phase of the
coalition's efforts towards the reconstitution of Iraq. The focus on
that phase was getting basic services delivered, utilities turned on,
and providing better law and order for everybody. We've got the water
and the power on. In many parts of the country it's actually now above
levels of what it was before the war. Here in Baghdad, we are
producing 20 hours of electricity a day. The gasoline lines that
you've read about have almost disappeared, as have the lines for
liquid petroleum gas, which is what's used for cooking.
The second phase of reconstitution, which really begins now, has as
its main emphasis restoring economic activity. I want to take a moment
and talk about the economy because I think this is where our greatest
challenge lies, and we must now create jobs for Iraqis. Unemployment
today is a tremendous problem. Our best estimate is that before the
war, the unemployment was at about 50 percent -- five-zero percent --
and we think it's substantially higher than that now. So there can be
no higher priority now than trying to find a way to create jobs. The
chronic underinvestment in infrastructure is going to have to be dealt
with, and we're going to have to find ways to get productive activity
going, particularly economic activity that creates jobs.
I come back to the question of a partnership with the Iraqi people. We
have already begun to work with Iraqi businessmen and women and with
officials to find ways to carry out the best economic policy. I had a
meeting with a very large group of people in those categories here on
Monday night, and I will continue to have consultations with them. I
was pleased that the IMF, the World Bank and the UNDP also took part
in that meeting on Monday night.
Among the initiatives I've announced was last week I announced a $70
million community action program to help local communities identify
areas where they can very quickly get some activity going. On Tuesday,
I announced a $100 million emergency construction program, the purpose
of which is to try to get the construction industry turning over here.
We focused on that industry because we get the most leverage, we get
the most jobs per dollar in construction.
The $100 million fund, I might add, is entirely funded from the Iraqi
funds that we already have.
We are also trying to encourage trade. Now that the sanctions have
been lifted, it's important for Iraq to reenter the world economy. The
most obvious example of that is the sale of Iraqi oil, the first sale
of Iraqi oil directly into the world market by the Iraqis. The bids
went out about five days ago. They have been received yesterday. And I
expect they will be opened and announced here in the next 48 hours or
so. And that is good news; it means Iraq will have reentered the world
petroleum market.
This is all just a beginning. It's quite obvious that we face a major
challenge in the economy. It's going to take time and patience, and we
are going to be pushing forward as quickly as we can with the
restructuring of what is a very sick economy.
I'd be happy to take your questions.
Staff: As you ask your question, if you could identify yourself and
your news organization for the ambassador, that would help him.
Go ahead, Bob.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, it's Bob Burns from the Associated Press. I wanted
to ask you about the effort to capture or otherwise account for the
Iraqis who are on the various most wanted lists, and your assessment
of whether most of these people are still in hiding in Iraq or whether
they've found have elsewhere.
Staff (In Baghdad.): Guys, if you can hear us, we've lost your audio.
Staff: They've lost our audio.
Ambassador, can you hear me?
Bremer: Yes, I hear you now. And I heard Mr. Burns announce his name,
and -- (Audio break.) -- dead.
Staff: All right. Sounds like our mikes might be -- try that mike
again, Bob.
Q: Can you hear me now?
Staff: They're not getting your audio.
Bremer: That mike is not working.
Staff: What you're saying, they're not picking up.
Staff: (Off mike.) -- paraphrase the question, and Bob, you tell me if
I got it wrong. Bob was asking about the most wanted, and what the
progress was on the most wanted and whether or not they had -- your
assessment was that -- if they had melted away or left the country.
That was the first part of it.
Bremer: We now have more than half of the deck of cards, 55, in
custody or have confirmed them as dead. So we're making steady
progress. We are picking them up every week, and we will continue to
do that. We certainly can't exclude that some of them have gotten out
of the country. But I've been encouraged by the number which we've
been able to find in the country. And we're certainly going to
prosecute that with great vigor.
Staff: Why don't you go ahead and state your question, and state it
loudly. We can maybe get it from the overhead mikes while we're
waiting for a new mike.
Q: It's Martha Raddatz from ABC News. Ambassador Bremer, can you talk
about what sort of organized -- let's try with this mike.
Ambassador Bremer, Martha Raddatz from ABC News. Can you talk about
what sort of organized resistance you're seeing in Iraq, how large
that resistance is, and who you believe is behind it.
Bremer: Yes. We are certainly seeing some organized resistance,
particularly in the area west of Baghdad and the area north of
Baghdad. Now, I want to qualify that by saying we do not see signs of
central command and control direction in that resistance at this
point. That is to say, these are groups that are organized, but
they're small; they may be five or six men conducting isolated attacks
against our soldiers.
We are clearly on the lookout to see if this evolves into a more
organized, more broadly and centrally directed resistance. But for the
time being, it appears that these are small groups, usually Ba'athists
or Fedayeen Saddam; in some cases they may be officers of the
Republican Guard. And we are going to have to continue to deal with
them in a military fashion, as we are now doing.
Q: They are small groups of five or six men. Are these small groups of
five or six men connected in a larger way?
Bremer: Well, that's what I meant by saying we don't yet have evidence
of central command and control. They look to be groups who have
spontaneously come together and are attacking us. They may be
colleagues from the Ba'ath movement, they could be several people from
the Fedayeen Saddam or from the Republican Guards. But we do not at
the moment see evidence of central command control of these groups. I
certainly wouldn't exclude it, but we don't have the evidence yet.
Q: There's no evidence that Saddam Hussein is directing any of it?
Bremer: No.
Q: Ambassador, this is Pam Hess with United Press International. Two
quick questions. Is Iraq going to be selling its oil under OPEC? And
are you -- in your efforts for de-Ba'athification, could you fill us
in on how that's going, how far down into the Ba'ath Party you expect
to get, what sort of that threshold is when someone becomes
acceptable; because as you know, 15 million Ba'athists in the country?
And are you planning anything like a truth and reconciliation
commission for the Iraqi people?
Bremer: Iraq is selling oil now. The question of whether Iraq will
remain a member of OPEC is a decision that we will leave to the Iraqi
government. And it will be, certainly, a matter that I will discuss
with the interim administration when we establish it next month. But
this is a matter, I think, that is best left to the Iraqi people.
We -- I can't remember, what was your second question? I'm sorry.
Q: The Ba'athists.
Bremer: We are going to continue the program of de- Ba'athification. I
think our estimate of the number of Ba'ath Party members is somewhat
more modest than yours, but it's still a substantial number, probably
a couple of million. The Ba'athists who were immediately affected by
my de-Ba'athification decree, however, represent a much smaller
number, somewhere between 50 and 30,000. Don't -- the fact that the
gap is that wide shows how poor our information really is. We're
hoping that as we are able to examine documents captured, we'll have a
better sense of what the actual numbers are.
We are continuing that process, and I have announced the establishment
of an Iraqi de-Ba'athification council, which will be made up of
Iraqis, so that they can carry forward in whatever fashion they wish
the de-Ba'athification, classifying Ba'athists into various classes,
for example, to decide which of them might have to stand criminal
trial, which ones might be subject to some civil sanctions, and which
ones might be in some fashion reprieved.
I have had preliminary discussions with Iraqi politicians about the
question of truth and reconciliation. I think myself this is an area
that could productively be explored by the Iraqis. My impression in
the conversations I've had so far is that the Iraqis are simply still
too -- understandably -- emotionally delighted to be rid of Saddam and
the Ba'athists that they may not yet be ready to undertake that step.
Q: Ambassador, this is John Hendron with the Los Angeles Times. I've
got two questions. There's a larger number of people in the military,
something like 500,000 people, Iraqis, who are out of work now. What
happens to them? How many will return to work as soldiers there?
And secondly, if I could ask, have you seen results from nearly
tripling the number of troops in Fallujah by adding the 2nd Brigade of
the 3rd Infantry Division there?
Bremer: On the demobilized military, the numbers are a little bit hard
to be precise about. The order of battle of the conscript part of the
army before the war started was 375,000. Frankly, I think most order
of battle numbers are probably not very accurate, so we don't really
know what the order of battle was. And that, of course, was the order
of battle before the war started. We don't know how many of those
people were either killed, injured, or deserted or simply faded away
during the war. So, it's a little hard to know.
But, it is the case that a substantial number of military people have
been put out of work by demobilizing the army. We are approaching that
in two ways.
Number one, we are getting ready to start the process of building a
new Iraqi army. I expect that we will be -- we have identified
training and recruiting sites only this week. We will be starting to
clear those sites and clean them up and do the necessary construction.
They are using, by the way, former enlisted army men. And so, we'll
start building a new Iraqi army here, really, in the next month or so.
Secondly, we believe that these demobilized enlisted men can be very
productively used in their private and ministerial security forces to
help secure, for example, vital oil installations, electrical power
plants, which are today being guarded by American soldiers. If we can
hire back and train enlisted men who have some weapon skills already
and get them to a high standard, then they can start to take over some
of the site security from our soldiers, which then allows our soldiers
to more aggressively try to reestablish law and order in Baghdad, for
On the question of the deployment of the 2nd Brigade to Fallujah, I
think that that project is really only just getting underway. And I
think we will see the results in the coming weeks. It's too early to
say at this point what the effect will be.
Q: Ambassador, Bret Baier with Fox News Channel. I have two questions,
and I'll ask them separately, if I may.
First, you've said that you believe the attacks on U.S. troops are
from Ba'ath Party loyalists, Fedayeen Saddam and Iraqi Republican
Guards that may have been sticking around. Within the last 24 hours
there's been this strike on what CENTCOM calls a terrorist training
camp in the West. Any new information about that and possibly that
foreign fighters have been involved in attacks on U.S. forces? That's
my first question.
Bremer: Well, it's really not appropriate for me to comment on ongoing
military operations. We have had in the past some evidence of
extremist operations, some of which might be classified as terrorist,
in Iraq. We do have clear evidence of some Sunni extremism in the area
to the west of Baghdad. Whether that turns out to have been involved
in the operation you're talking about is a matter still, I think, to
be determined.
And we do have clear evidence of Iranian interference in the affairs
of Iraq. Of course, Iran is still -- correctly, in my view --
identified as the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. There was an
Ansar al-Islam terrorist camp, as you will remember, at the beginning
of the war, in the North. We are very attentive to the possibility of
those people flowing back into Iraq, and we'll obviously take the
appropriate steps if we get evidence that that's happening.
Q: And the second question, sir, is, you've said many times that a top
priority of yours is job creation. Today there was a demonstration in
front of the gates of your headquarters, of Iraqis demanding jobs. How
do you go about creating jobs? How is that going? And what do you tell
these people? How do they go about getting them?
Bremer: The job creation problem can be divided into two phases. The
first phase, which we are in now, is to try urgently to get jobs going
for regular day laborers and workers and demobilized army personnel
and just young people.
That's why our emphasis in the fund I announced on Tuesday was on --
this $100 million fund -- was on construction, because in construction
we will create more jobs per dollar spent than in any other area. And
we do have a number of construction projects that were stopped before
the war which we can start up relatively quickly and therefore begin
to soak up some of this unemployment.
But realistically, job creation is going to require a much deeper
economic reform. It's going to require us to create a private sector,
which can in turn create jobs. And that is going to be a more
difficult and longer-term problem.
So I think it's useful to think of these immediate steps we're taking
as bridging steps, bridging us towards a more fundamental economic
reform that's going to take longer.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, Rick Whittle with the Dallas Morning News. I was
wondering if you could tell us what the thresholds for the United
States will be of the sort of government that Iraq will be allowed to
have, and the sort of economic system they'll be allowed to have. Once
the Iraqi people actually form their own government, what role might
Islam play in governing the country, and what role might socialism
play, given the country's socialist past?
Bremer: Well, questions like the role of Islam are so fundamental to
the kind of society that the Iraqis will rebuild that I believe this
is a question that needs to be left to the constitutional conference,
which will be convening towards the end of July. We are going to try
to make it clear -- we have made it clear that the constitution that
Iraq needs to write must be written by Iraqis; it must take into
account Iraqi history, its culture, its social experiences. It will
not be a constitution dictated by the coalition or by Americans.
Now, the fact is that Iraq has lived under two different constitutions
since 1925, both of which established Islam as the state religion, so
there's nothing unusual in that. Both of which guaranteed the free --
freedom of worship. Since 1970, when Saddam promulgated his
constitution, freedom of worship has been honored more in a breach.
But it's possible that they will decide that they want to have a
constitution which establishes Islam. We would, of course, be much
more comfortable if it also established freedom of religion, and I
don't think that will be a problem.
In terms of what kind of economic system they wish to establish, as
you point out, the Ba'athist Party was a socialist party. I think it's
very hard to imagine any strong support in this country for a return
to that economic system, which has left the country really flat on its
back, and which does not really provide a model for getting the kind
of vibrant private sector which I think most Iraqis now realize is a
sine qua non for a stable economy and stable economic growth. So if
they choose socialism, that will be their business. My guess is that's
not going to happen.
Staff: All right, this side of the room. So let's go ahead with you
and then up here to Tony, and we'll take a couple on this side.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, George Edmonson with Cox Newspapers. You've
mentioned several times the difficulty of rebuilding the Iraqi economy
and the need for patience. How long do you anticipate that the United
States would have to maintain a significant presence in Iraq?
Bremer: Well, I get that question a lot. It's a question, among
others, my wife tends to ask me about once a week. So, it's always on
my mind. My guess is that it's going to be a substantial amount of
time, but whether that is measured in months or years will depend on
developments. I don't think we should set any artificial deadlines. I
think the president has painted it very clearly, as has the secretary,
which is we will stay until the job is done and not a day longer, and
we won't leave until the job is done.
So, the pacing issue, assuming we establish security throughout the
country, which I think we will -- the pacing issue will be how fast
the Iraqis can write a constitution, get it ratified by the Iraqi
people and then call elections. And we hope to convene a
constitutional conference, as I mentioned, within the next four to six
weeks. And then, the process of writing the constitution will have to
start. And we will see how long it takes.
As for the Iraqis, I have no deadline. If they write it fast, that's
fine; I get to go home earlier. If it takes them longer, then we'll
just stay here longer. I don't think we should put ourselves in any
deadline boxes.
Staff: Tony?
Q: Sir, this is Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News. Question on troop
levels. In order to maintain a viable security situation throughout
Iraq, roughly how many troops do you feel will need to be maintained
throughout the country? There's about 145,000 U.S. troops right now.
Will that roughly be the threshold?
Bremer: You know, I kind of stay away from these games of guessing the
right troop strength. I take the position that the troop strength
should be determined by the conditions. As conditions improve, we hope
we can draw down our forces. If conditions get worse, we're going to
not be able to do that.
For the time being, I think we have an adequate force level here. And
what I hope is in the months ahead, we see that we are successful in
imposing our will on this small group of people who are attacking us
and causing us casualties. But we -- our troop levels should be
condition-driven. They should not be driven by some artificial
deadlines about when we want to take troops out, or some number of
troops we ought to have here. I think we've got it about right now,
and let's just see what the circumstances dictate.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, Bryan Bender with the Boston Globe. Can you tell us
-- can you give your assessment of how much the lawlessness, how much
these pockets of resistance, if you want to call them that, are
affecting or could affect your job in rebuilding the country?
And as part of that question, can you talk about the big question mark
of Saddam Hussein, how that -- his fate being unanswered -- how that
might affect your job as well, at least in convincing the Iraqis that
is a new day and this is a new country?
Bremer: Well, on your second question first, I would obviously much
prefer that we had clear evidence that Saddam is dead or that we had
him alive in our custody. I think it does make a difference, because
it allows the Ba'athists to go around in the bazaars and in the
villages, as they are doing, saying, "Saddam is alive, and he's going
to come back. And we're going to come back." And the effect of that is
to make it more difficult for people who are afraid of the Ba'athists
-- and that's just about everybody -- it makes it more difficult for
them to come forward and cooperate with us, because they are afraid
the Ba'athists may return.
We have to show through our de-Ba'athification policy, through our
military operations against Ba'athists and through other measures we
take that in fact the Ba'athists are finished; they're not coming
back. And we have to obviously continue to leave no stone unturned in
the search for Saddam.
Q: Hi. It's Patty Davis with CNN. There have been reports of
significant psychological stress and pressures on U.S. troops, being
that they've gone from fighting a war to trying to stabilize the
country, and with these ambush attacks almost daily. Do you see that?
And what can the U.S. do to help?
Bremer: Well, let me say, first of all, that I am really full of
admiration for the young men and women who fought such a successful
war. And I'm full of admiration for how well they have made the
transition to what they really weren't trained to do, which is to set
up civil administration in villages and town all across this country.
It's really quite amazing to go see the guys and women in the 82nd
Airborne, one of the great, renowned units in this country -- they
have an area. Their area of operation is south of Baghdad. And they're
working on restoring hospitals, trying to fix the sewage system,
helping set up generators for the hospitals, restoring amusement
parks. These are not things that they normally get trained to do, and
they're just doing a magnificent job of it.
We are in a transition phase here where, as we do get stability, we
will need to transition a lot of those kinds of things away from the
military and to the civilian part of the Coalition Provisional
Authority. And we're in the process of now trying to bring forward
here to Iraq more civilians to help us -- to allow us to relieve the
military of these tasks.
So I can't say that the transition from the warfighting to the
peacekeeping has produced at least a lot of psychological stress in
the men and women I've spoken to. They seem to be doing an excellent
job of it. But it is true this is not what they were trained for. And
in the long run that has to transition over to civilian leadership.
Q: Ambassador, I'm Carl Osgood. I write for Executive Intelligence
Review. I'd like to ask you about something you just made reference
to, which is, you know, the hospital situation, the health care
situation in the country. Can you say anything about what the
conditions are now in the hospitals? Are they beginning to function?
What are you doing to try and improve conditions -- the health care
conditions, and who do you have working on that?
Bremer: The first thing to remember is that the health care situation
in this country probably for the last 20 years has been really
substandard -- again, an illustration of what happens when you have a
government that spends about a third of its gross domestic product on
military and underinvests. And in particular, in the south, in the
Shi'a parts of the country, Saddam really used health care and -- he
withheld health care and social services as an element of political
repression of the Shi'a. I'll give you an example. I visited the main
hospital in Basra yesterday, which is a Shi'a city. And it was quite
clear that very little money had been spent there over the last 20
years. They're still operating out of a building that was originally
built by the British when they were the colonial power here 80 years
ago. They do have 24-hour power now, something they did not have
before the war. So they've got better power than they had before. But
by Western standards the situation in a hospital like that is pretty
Now, we have done several things. First of all, all 12 hospitals in
Baghdad are now up and running. I have had the Army Corps of Engineers
go out and examine all of their generators because when we had power
outages in Baghdad, it obviously was a severe problem for hospitals,
who need regular power, particularly in their operating rooms. We have
now examined all those generators and either repaired them where they
needed repair or set in train replacing them so that the hospitals in
Baghdad will be able to have constant power. We have got a nation-wide
program going on, researching the hospital situation throughout the
country, and the pharmaceutical situation.
You asked who's doing this. We are doing it. We are also getting NGOs
to help us and U.N. agencies to help us. It's an enormous undertaking.
I think the health care situation is not, however, the crisis that we
thought it might be, and we now seem to have enough pharmaceuticals in
the country, though they are not being -- we are having distributions
problems. But it's not the crisis we thought it would be.
Staff: We have about four minutes left. I'm going to go right here and
then back on this side of the room, back over to Pam. And that might
be our last one, depending on how long your questions are.
Q: Ambassador, this is James Cullum from the Talk Radio News Service.
Regarding captured officials on the 55 Most Wanted List, in your
estimation, how will they be tried, and how long do you see their
detainment without a trial?
Bremer: It's obviously a sensitive question on which I think we need
to have responsible Iraqis give us advice. The people of this country
suffered tremendously under the regime of these 55 men, and more, and
one can, I think, understand that they will want to have some say in
what kind of a criminal procedure is established to deal with these
people. Whether that will be, as I think many of them hope, an Iraqi
tribunal or a mixed Iraqi-international tribunal, these are subjects
that, again, once we have an interim administration here, which I
expect will happen in the next four to five weeks, it's one of the
subjects that we will basically put to them and try to seek their
views. And once we have a consensus view on that from the Iraqis, we
may be able to start those trials forthwith.
Q: Ambassador, this is Pam Hess from UPI again. Could you please tell
us what the structure of the interim government will be; how those
people will be selected and what their powers will and will not be?
Bremer: The interim administration, which is responsive to U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1483, will have, at least initially, two
bodies in it. The first body will be a political council; the second,
a constitutional conference. The political council will be made up of
some 25 to 30 Iraqis from all walks of life and from the various
strands of Iraqi society: men, women, Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs,
tribal leaders, Christians, Turkomen, urban people, et cetera,
That group is the subject of some rather intense consultations that
we're undergoing right now with people from all of those walks of
life. And I would expect that we will arrive at a list of agreed
candidates, as I said, in the next four to six weeks.
The political council's responsibilities will be quite significant
right from the start, and they will fall in two areas. First of all,
the political council will be encouraged to nominate immediately men
and women to become interim ministers in the 20 or so ministries that
make up the Iraqi government. The interim ministers will in turn have
substantial responsibilities in how those ministries are run.
The second area that the political council will be active in will be
in setting up commissions to study longer-range questions that have a
major impact on Iraqi society; for example, what to do about
educational reform. Ba'athism is very much a part of the curriculum
throughout the school system and university system here. How do we get
rid of it? What do we do to the textbooks? They will want to look at
issues like how to take a census, something that must happen,
obviously, before there can be elections next year. And there must be
another half-dozen commissions you can think of.
The second body will be a constitutional conference, which will be a
broader and more broadly selected group, probably several hundred, who
will convene, we hope, also in the next six to seven weeks, and will
have the task of drafting the new Iraqi constitution. It will have to
organize itself. It will have to select a drafting committee and maybe
some subcommittees, and then will undergo a very intense, we hope,
intense political dialogue with the people of Iraq on fundamental
issues: like whether this will be a presidential system, whether it
will be federal; and what federalism will mean; what will be the role
of religion. All of these questions will have to be dealt with by that
constitutional conference.
Staff: Ambassador, we have come to the end of our time. And I'd like
to thank you for taking the time today. I know you spent some time
earlier today talking to the House Armed Services Committee members.
And we really appreciate the opportunity to have a dialogue with you
and help our understanding back here. And we hope that we can do this
again soon with you.
Bremer: Thank you. Nice to see you all.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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