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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

Powell Confident U.S. Will "Stay the Course" in Iraq

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2004 -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said today he is confident the United States will the stay course in Iraq.

He said that President Bush has already made it clear said this nation will not "cut and run."

"We expect that the Iraqi interim government that will come into place on the first of July would certainly ask us to remain and help them stay the course," Powell said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

Powell was in Jordan attending the World Economic Forum, is an international organization committed to improving the state of the world. "But basically what we are anxious to do is return sovereignty," he said, "but it's a long way between that initial return of sovereignty and national elections."

Powell stressed there is still a need for the United States to remain. "They (Iraqis) need our financial support, they need the reconstruction effort that is under way, and frankly they need the U.S. armed forces and other coalition forces that are present to help create and environment of security and stability," he said.

"We don't want to stay one day longer than we have to, but we know they want us to stay long enough so that they have their own security forces built up and in place, and that will take some time."

The secretary said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Central Command head Army Gen. John Abizaid have already pushed plans to stabilize U.S. forces in Iraq at a "higher level" than previously planned.

Powell said force stabilization will offer the country needed security while it establishes its new government. In addition, the United States has much rebuilding to complete, "so we are not going to walk away," he noted.

"We're going to stay and help the Iraqis do what we know the Iraqi people want - and that is to have a democracy based on free elections," he said.

Powell pointed out that over the past several weeks over 11 Iraqi ministries have stood up. And he noted that U.S. occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease its work "when this Iraqi interim government is established."

"But they need our troops there for some considerable period of time in the future to provide the security environment needed," he said, "so that they can an open free elections and have the time to build up their own security forces."

Powell also said if Iraqis choose an Islamic theocracy form of government similar to that in Iran, the United States will have to accept the Iraqi's decision. However, he noted, "most Iraqis understand that to live together in peace as a single nation they have to have government that understands the role of a majority, but respects the role of minorities within a country."

Furthermore, Powell explained that for the new Iraqi government to have international acceptability, the country must meet the fundamental needs of the Iraqi people and the standards of human rights that all people believe in.

The secretary also commented that there should be a higher level of anger within the Arab world to the public execution of American Nicholas Berg. "There ought to be outrage. There is anger in the Arab world about some of our (U.S.) actions, but that is no excuse for any silence on the part of any Arab leader for this kind of murder," he said.

He called the execution a "horrible murder" that should be deplored throughout the world.

Powell, a retired four-star general who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also further addressed the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The secretary said he would not have believed any American soldiers would have committed such abuses either on their "own volition or even it someone higher up had told them."

"What these individuals did was wrong," he said. "It was against rules and regulations, it was against anything they should have learned in their home and community and their upbringing."


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