Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

19 February 2004

Bremer: Those Seeking to Subvert Iraq's Transition Will Not Succeed

Iraqis know democracy is coming, he said

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer

Washington --- The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq says that "Iraqi sovereignty is important to people all around the world," and efforts to subvert it will not succeed.

Ambassador Paul Bremer told reporters in Baghdad February 19 that the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is currently hammering out its future transitional administrative law. He said the council and CPA officials are discussing the many issues that should be addressed by the transitional law based on last year's November 15th agreement. He indicated that parameters of the law would be announced the following week, after all the parties come to agreement. This temporary law, the ambassador added, is important for the transitional period Iraq will enter into this summer.

Bremer indicated that a federal structure is an appropriate one for Iraq and said the goal of the coalition "has always been an Iraq which is free and democratic, peaceful and prosperous, sovereign and united." The ambassador declined to discuss the various draft plans that are circulating, but suggested the final version would address both "the question of Islam and federalism."

As the sovereign power now, it is the CPA's obligation to do its best, Bremer said "to ensure that an appropriate, democratic structure is put in place here, while we are here, so that we can deliver to the Iraqis what they want, which is a democratic, unified, stable country at peace with itself."

Asked what he thought about the possibility of holding Iraqi elections sooner rather than later, Bremer deferred to the views of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. However, he said "there are a number of ways in which a transitional government could be selected if it was not possible to hold elections." Subsequently, Annan reported that elections could not be organized by the time of the June transfer of sovereignty from the CPA to the Iraqi people.

Annan was scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council later in the day on the recent week-long trip to Iraq by his envoy Lakhadar Brahimi. Prior to the briefing, Bremer would only say: "it's appropriate that we allow the United Nations to consider the question [of how best to approach a transitional government in Iraq if early elections are not possible and] come back with ... recommendations."

Bremer pointed out that even after sovereignty is turned over to the Iraqis, the coalition and a newly established U.S. embassy will continue working with the interim government on issues related to reconstruction and political developments.

Addressing the ongoing coalition troop rotation, Bremer said more than 100,000 U.S. forces will leave Iraq but will be replaced by the same number of fresh troops. "Many coalition partners have carried on, or will be carrying out similar rotations" after June 30, he added.

Bremer denied that the coalition will abandon Iraq this summer. On June 30 the occupation ends, he said, the CPA passes sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government, but the coalition troops and the Iraqi security forces will work together to provide security.

The ambassador pointed out, however, that the Iraqis themselves "must be the ultimate guarantors of their own security," and that eventually the coalition-Iraqi partnership would have to become "a wholly Iraqi effort."

On the subject of continued attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians, Bremer said documents captured recently show that the terrorists and subversives know that they cannot win. The terrorists and subversives are killing more Iraqis than coalition forces, he said, adding, "we can be proud of the resilience of the Iraqi security forces against these terrible threats." In the end, he said: "The last terrorist in Iraq will be killed or captured by Iraqis."

Asked about the role of private militias after sovereignty changes hands, Bremer said there is no room for any armed forces that are not part of the central government command structure. There must be what he called an "honorable reintegration" of forces, such as the Kurdish Peshmerga that has been operating independently for so long. Kurdish leaders agree on the subject of reintegration, the ambassador added.

Asked about the issue of disputed territories and borders, Bremer said that should be left to an elected government to resolve.

Asked his opinion about the names of potential deputies to fill posts at various Iraqi ministries, Bremer said he has been discussing the names with various government ministers and will make an announcement after that consultative process has been completed.

On the subject of restoring essential services to Iraq, Bremer said substantial progress has occurred, with most services reaching or passing pre-war levels, but he said "that's not good enough" because pre-war levels weren't very high. Some $19 billion will be spent in the next few years on improvements, he said.

Asked about the ailing Iraqi economy, Bremer acknowledged that "it will take time" to heal. Ultimately, he said, "Iraq will succeed economically."

Bremer also dismissed as false rumors that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has disappeared from U.S. custody.

Questioned about the recent release of an Iraqi prisoner of war (POW), the ambassador explained that all of the POWs are held and questioned according to the Geneva Conventions, but Bremer said this man was released after it was determined that he was no longer a security threat. If the Iraqi people and the new government think he is a criminal, the official said, they can arrest him and bring him before a special tribunal.

That is true for any accused individual, whether a high-profile member of the former regime or not, Bremer said. "If there are reasons to believe they've committed crimes, they can be brought to justice," he said, "and we will help in that process as we go forward."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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