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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-313896 Iraq Bremer (L-O)
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/7/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=IRAQ / BREMER (L-O)

NUMBER=2-313896

BYLINE=STEPHANIE HO

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

INTERNET=

VOICED AT:

///// ADDS SENTENCES TO ACT 2 OF CR2-313894. /////

INTRO: The top U-S official in Iraq says he is optimistic the new interim Iraqi constitution will be signed Monday, after a last-minute disagreement delayed Friday's signing ceremony. V-O-A's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

TEXT: The U-S civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, told "Fox News Sunday" he has good reason to believe the Iraqi interim constitution will be signed Monday.

/// FIRST BREMER ACT ///

We hope that the signing ceremony will happen tomorrow. We have noted a statement by the current president of the governing council that they do intend to sign it tomorrow.

/// END ACT ///

One controversial issue was a clause saying that any three of Iraq's 18 provinces could veto the final constitution, even if a majority of Iraqis approve it. Shi'ites, who make up 60-percent of the country, fear that would give too much power to the Kurds, who control three northern provinces, but make up less than 20-percent of the population.

Mr. Bremer said disagreements over issues like that are - in his words - "bumps along the road" to democracy.

/// SECOND BREMER ACT ///

Democracy is not just about majority rule. It is about protecting minority rights. And I

think, again, it is pretty extraordinary... the spectacle of Iraqis all over the country now debating things that we (Americans) debated 200-years ago ourselves - freedom of speech, freedom to demonstrate, freedom of assembly. I think it is a wonderful thing and minority rights are an important protection in democracy. It is not an easy thing to understand. I think that they now have begun to wrestle with that.

/// END ACT ///

At the same time, he stressed that the United States still plans to hand over power to an Iraqi interim government by June 30th.

/// THIRD BREMER ACT ///

It is the Iraqis who have been insisting, quite understandably, on ending the occupation. It is not nice to be occupied. I might add, as an aside, it is not very nice to be an occupier either. But the Iraqis want their sovereignty back. We think it will help with the political situation and we think it will help with the security situation. So, it is in our interest as well. And we will proceed on schedule.

/// END ACT ///

Regarding the suicide bombings last week, Mr. Bremer said they were carried out by what he described as "internationally-trained killers" who entered Iraq from other countries. He said coalition forces are working to persuade Iran and Syria to do more to control their borders with Iraq.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bremer added that a team of U-S legal experts will be in Baghdad to help Iraqis gather the evidence they need to try Saddam Hussein and other senior Iraqi leaders, in special tribunals. (SIGNED)

NEB/SHO/RAE



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