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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

25 May 2004

Powell Expects Naming of Iraqi Interim Government Soon

Expresses hope that Iraqi people will rally behind interim government

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he expects the members of an Iraqi interim government to be announced by early in the week of May 30.

In an interview with NBC May 25, Powell said the U.N. special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, is putting together "a very representative government taking into account all the different ethnic groupings in Iraq" and supported by a U.N. mandate.

The secretary said he hopes that after the restoration of sovereignty to Iraq on June 30 "a fundamental change will cause the Iraqi people to come together" to build up their national security forces and gain the strength that will enable them to take care of themselves.

Powell said Russia, Germany and France have made it clear that they will not contribute troops to stabilize Iraq but are willing to help Iraq in the areas of debt relief, police training, reconstruction funds and civilian personnel to participate in the reconstruction effort.

"If there's one thing that has become clear in my discussions with all of my European colleagues, especially, is that they realize it is in our mutual interest for us to succeed in making Iraq a democracy, and they are committed to that end, even though they might not be prepared to commit military forces to that end," Powell said.

The secretary indicated that the 138,000 troops in Iraq are adequate to maintain stability despite pockets of fighting. He said U.S. forces would start to be withdrawn when Iraqi forces show they are capable of meeting the security demands.

Asked to comment on the biggest mistake committed in the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq, Powell said the United States underestimated the extent of the resistance in the post-liberation period.

Powell also responded to questions about Iraq in interviews with CBS and ABC on May 25.

He told CBS that, if requested by the interim government, the United States would remove its troops from Iraq. "[W]hen we say we are returning full sovereignty, we mean that," he said, but added that he does not expect the interim government to make such a request.

Powell called the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal "a terrible tragedy for our nation and our image around the world," but he said the way the government is handling it will show to the world that the United States rests on a "solid moral foundation."

In his interview with ABC, Powell said President Bush will consult with NATO allies at the alliance summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in June about support for the rebuilding of Iraq.

Following are the transcripts of Powell's interviews with NBC, CBS, and ABC:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Spokesman
May 25, 2003


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
On NBC's Today Show with Katie Couric

May 25, 2004
Washington, D.C.

(7:07 a.m. EDT)

MS. COURIC: Secretary Powell, good morning.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Katie.

MS. COURIC: I know that Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy, has a big job ahead of him. He's got to name a president, two vice presidents, a prime minister, 26 Iraqi ministers, cabinet ministers. He has to please the Shiites, Sunnis and the Kurds. How close is he to naming an interim government?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think he's getting closer. We've been in daily contact with Ambassador Brahimi, and he's quite skilled at these kinds of things. And I would expect that within the next few days, or perhaps the end of week, early next week, he will have that slate put together and ready to present to the world.

MS. COURIC: Secretary Powell, are there any fears that the Iraqis will reject this government, the government he names, because it is an arm of the United States and because they do not believe it truly represents the Iraqi people?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we hope that when they see this government, the four key officials you mentioned and all of the cabinet ministers, they will see that it is a very representative government taking into account all of the different ethnic groupings in Iraq and it will enjoy a mandate from the United Nations through the resolution that we introduced yesterday with the United Kingdom.

We put the resolution forward yesterday so that the Security Council members will have time to examine it and consider it while waiting to see what Ambassador Brahimi brings forward.

MS. COURIC: We'll talk more about that resolution in a moment, Mr. Secretary, but first I want to ask you about the violence in Iraq. Many wonder what the naming of this interim government, what impact it will have on the insurgency, and are you fearful it will be seen as a last-ditch effort by those who want to impede any progress being made in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I think that's a reasonable assumption that there are people out there who want to go back to the past; they want to go back to the days of Saddam Hussein; they want to put in place not a democracy, but some sort of tyrannical regime; and they will fight against us and they will fight against this new government.

But I think most Iraqis will look at this new government and say, finally, we have our government back, the occupation has ended. Let there be no doubt about it, when this government takes over, Ambassador Bremer and his people in the Coalition Provisional Authority have finished their job and we will then be represented by an ambassador in the person of John Negroponte. And I hope that that fundamental change will cause the Iraqi people to come together and say let's build up our own security forces, let's gain the strength we need to take care of ourselves, ask the Americans and the other coalition forces to remain until we are able to do it ourselves, and then they can go home as well.

MS. COURIC: And, in fact, Secretary Powell, the State Department had quite an extensive blueprint on how to rebuild Iraq early on in this process, a blueprint that was, frankly, rejected by the Pentagon. After June 30th, as you mentioned, the State Department will take the lead role. Given the fact that you and the Pentagon have not always seen eye-to-eye, how will your approach be different, and do you feel at all vindicated?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am comfortable that arrangements have been worked out between all of the departments of government, that we will have a unified approach to this after the 1st of July. Ambassador Negroponte doesn't just represent the State Department, he represents the President. He'll be the chief of mission, as we call it, and be responsible for all civilian political activities in Iraq -- the reconstruction effort -- and then the Pentagon will be responsible for the military troops that are there, General Abizaid's troops.

And so Secretary Rumsfeld and I have worked out already the arrangements. The President has signed the necessary documentation that will lay out our mutual responsibilities. And we're also working with all of the other departments of government as well.

MS. COURIC: Let's talk about the draft blueprint submitted to the UN Security Council. About that, the President of the Iraqi Governing Council said, "We found it less than our expectations." What will this UN resolution actually do, and does it call for countries like Russia, France and Germany to commit forces and money to what's going on in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it does not. It encourages all members of the United Nations to contribute in any way they think it is appropriate, but it cannot order a nation to contribute forces. And Russia --

MS. COURIC: But do you expect those countries will, Secretary Powell?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, Russia -- Russia, Germany and France have made it clear that they do not plan to commit combat troops to this operation, and we understand that. But they have also made it clear that they want to make sure that we are successful in Iraq. So there may be other contributions they can make: debt relief, police training, reconstruction funds, civilian personnel to participate in the reconstruction effort. There is a great deal that every nation in the Security Council and in the United Nations can do to make our effort in Iraq a success.

If there's one thing that has become clear in my discussions with all of my European colleagues, especially, is that they realize it is in our mutual interest for us to succeed in making Iraq a democracy and they are committed to that end, even though they might not be prepared to commit military forces to that end.

MS. COURIC: But 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, it seems, I imagine, or I suspect, for the next year that will be the case. What has to happen for a drawdown to begin, Secretary Powell?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think what we have to see is an accelerated buildup of Iraqi forces, and the President spoke to that and described how we're going to go about that in his speech last night. And as those forces become more able to take over police and security responsibilities, then our forces can start to pull back from those kinds of missions and ultimately the numbers will start to drop. The whole country --

MS. COURIC: And how long will that take?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, one can't tell. That's why we didn't want to put a specific deadline on it. Right now, General Abizaid and his commanders think 138,000 is adequate. The whole country is not inflamed. I mean, we had some difficulties in Fallujah, some difficulties in the south, and we have some difficulties along the lines of communication. But there are pockets of the country that are quite stable, quite under the control of Iraqi police. And I think as the police grow in size, as they become more capable, as we equip the new civil defense corps and the new military, the army, they will be able to take on more and more of the responsibilities for security. Iraqis want to be protected by their own people, not by occupation troops, as they call them.

So we are anxious to build up Iraqi forces, start to step back, and then as the situation improves, bring our troop numbers down until the day, sometime in the future, when all of our troops come home.

MS. COURIC: In your view, what was the biggest mistake made here?


MS. COURIC: In Iraq, in terms of the invasion and rebuilding the country.

SECRETARY POWELL: The only thing I would say is we perhaps underestimated the extent of resistance we would receive in the post-liberation period. We defeated the Iraqi army on the field of battle and we took down the Baath system, but I don't think we anticipated that these regime elements would be able to re-gather their strength and come back to threaten us the way they are now.

And so we'll have to make adjustments, the commanders are making adjustments, and we'll deal with this threat.

MS. COURIC: Secretary of State Colin Powell. Secretary Powell, thanks so much for your time this morning.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Katie.


Office of the Spokesman
May 25, 2003


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
On CBS's The Early Show with Hannah Storm

May 25, 2004
Washington, D.C.

(6:40 a.m. EDT)

MS. STORM: Mr. Secretary, good morning.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Hannah. How are you?

MS. STORM: Just fine, thanks.

Mr. Secretary, even some of the President's most ardent supporters are concerned about this handover date of June 30th, given the current nature of the instability in Iraq. Is there anything that could push that date back?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we think 30 June is the right date. The Iraqi people are expecting us to transfer sovereignty at that time and that's fully what we intend to do. And that's why we went forward yesterday with a resolution to the United Nations to get the United Nations to endorse this. People have wanted us to get more international support, international backing for it. That's why we went with the UN resolution.

It's important that Iraqis take over responsibility for their country and for their government, and that's what we want to see them do on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.

MS. STORM: If this deadline does hold, as you say, do you expect the situation to get better or worse, in terms of violence?

SECRETARY POWELL: There will be those who will try to stop it. There will be those violent individuals within the society that have to be dealt with, with our security forces and with Iraqi security forces. But I hope that the Iraqi people will see that these forces are now attacking not Americans, not coalition forces, attacking their own government, the government that is there to take them to free elections. And I hope the Iraqi people will rally behind this new government.

MS. STORM: The President said last night that there was no timetable for the removal of troops that and, indeed, the United States would send more troops, if necessary. Do you think that will be necessary?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. Right now, our military commanders seem to think that a level of 138,000 troops is adequate. You can't have a timetable on a situation such as this because we'll have to see how the security situation unfolds. But I believe that as more Iraqi forces are trained and are able to take over responsibility for security in the country, that should lessen the demand on our troops and we can start to bring that number down until the day when all of our troops have left and all other coalition troops have left.

MS. STORM: You've said repeatedly, though, if asked by the Iraqi caretaker government, that the U.S. would pull its troops out. Could you foresee that happening, realistically? Do you think that's a possibility?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, realistically, I don't see it as a possibility anytime in the near term. But it was an important statement because what people don't really understand yet is that when we say we are returning full sovereignty, we mean that. On the 30th of June and over onto the 1st of July, Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, which has been the government for the past year, will go away. It will no longer be there.

And so authority will rest fully in the hands of this Iraqi interim government, with our ambassador, Ambassador Negroponte, and our embassy playing the role it would play in any other country. And authority really is being transferred, which is what people have been looking forward to, and it's going to happen on the 1st of July.

MS. STORM: The Pentagon has just announced that the top American officer in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, will be leaving his command this summer. There are allegations that he was aware of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, that he may have even witnessed it firsthand.

Is that why he's leaving, because of the scandal?

SECRETARY POWELL: I've read press reports about the transfer of General Sanchez. I don't know if it's been confirmed yet officially by the Pentagon. But we all knew this was coming about as part of the normal rotation of commanders. General Sanchez has done a terrific job and he has been there for over a year now, so it seems more to me in the normal scheme of things.

MS. STORM: How much has the prisoner abuse scandal hampered your efforts, Mr. Secretary, in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: It hurt. I mean, this was a terrible tragedy for our nation and for our image throughout the world. But, at the same time, people can see how we handle something like this: with our democratic system, with congressional oversight, with investigations that are underway, with people being brought to justice. I think we will show the world that we are a nation that rests on a solid moral foundation and we are a nation that has character and we do not tolerate this kind of behavior.

And Secretary Rumsfeld has launched a number of investigations to see what went wrong and at what level. And let's wait till all those investigations are concluded, and at that time, I think people will see that we are committed to the highest standards of performance on the part of our men and women in uniform, most of whom, the majority of whom, are doing an absolutely fantastic job and we all should be very proud of them.

MS. STORM: And quickly, because there has been some talk about this, do you plan on returning as Secretary of State if President Bush is reelected?

SECRETARY POWELL: And the standard answer is: I serve at the pleasure of the President and I'm pleased to be serving him now and serving my country now.

MS. STORM: We do appreciate your time, once again this morning. Secretary of State Colin Powell, thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Hannah.


Office of the Spokesman
May 25, 2003


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
On ABC's Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer

May 25, 2004
Washington, D.C.

(6:50 a.m. EDT)

MS. SAWYER: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us. The President spoke last night and this morning. So many people are saying that he restated a policy that has been heard before, and yet, in polls this morning, 58 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way the President has been handling Iraq.

This morning, talk to those 58 percent; tell them why they're wrong.

SECRETARY POWELL: What I would say to my fellow Americans this morning, and people watching and following this around the world, is that last night the President put forward our comprehensive plan to return full sovereignty to the Iraqi people. This is what people have wanted, and they're going to see it on the 30th of June as the Coalition Provisional Authority comes to an end, and on the 1st of July when a new interim Iraqi government takes over.

Iraqis will look to Baghdad and they will see their own leaders in charge, and not Ambassador Bremer, who will have left having done a terrific job. We'll have a new ambassador there, Ambassador John Negroponte, a very distinguished diplomat, who will do what most ambassadors do in our system, and that is to provide assistance to the new Iraqi government.

I think this will also help with the security situation in that, from now on, if there are attacks, those attacks are going to be against the Iraqi people's own government, and I think that fundamentally changes the environment.

I'd also point out that we're going to stay there to provide security assistance to this new government because it will take a while for them to develop their own forces and develop the capability to govern effectively.

MS. SAWYER: So the 58 percent just can't see far enough ahead?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the 58 percent are concerned, as we all are, over events of the last two months. April was not a good month for us, and May has had its difficulties as well.

These former regime elements, these anti-coalition people, as we call them, these terrorists, are determined to keep Iraq from having self-government, to keep Iraq from electing its own leaders. They want to go back to the past, and we can't allow that to happen.

And so I hope that as our military gets on top of the situation, as we have in Fallujah and in parts of the south in the Shia area, and as Iraqi forces are built up and take on a heavier burden with respect to security, Americans will understand that we have done the right thing, we're moving in the right direction, returning full sovereignty. We are internationalizing the situation more by going to the UN for a resolution, which we hope we will be able to obtain over the next couple of weeks.

So stay the course, as the President has said, be patient. These are difficult challenges we face, but we have the able to rise above them and to put in place a democratic government for the people of Iraq.

MS. SAWYER: Senator Biden, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that it's not enough to be patient when Americans are dying, that he was looking for stronger leadership. And, specifically, he said it's time for the President to make a quantum move and call himself, get on a plane himself, and go get other nations to get involved. Here's a clip of what he said:

"He must get on a plane, call a summit, in Europe, of our NATO allies and the major powers and say, 'Look, you have as much to lose in failure as we do. We need a NATO-led force. We need contributions from the major powers.'"

Do you want the President to do that?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it's a nice, clever, gimmicky line, but Senator Biden knows as well as I do that 16 of the 26 NATO nations are already represented there. There is no huge body of troops waiting in NATO to go to Iraq.

What the President has to do is to move forward with what is achievable, not what is, you know, seen in a desirable sense but it isn't achievable. The President will have a chance to discuss with his NATO allies in Istanbul at the end of June at a NATO meeting what other possibilities exist with respect to support. Some of the larger countries in NATO that have not contributed troops have made it clear they don't intend to -- Germany and France. But there are other things they might be able to do, and that's what the President will be pursuing.

So he will be seeing all of his NATO colleagues at the end of June at a NATO summit in Istanbul, and they will be discussing then a potential role for NATO in Iraq. We have not ignored NATO, but right now we need to stay the course, and staying the course means getting a new UN resolution and returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people on the 1st of July.

MS. SAWYER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.


MS. SAWYER: A separate question, if you want to address what Commander Zinni said. This is just a new question about responding to former CENTCOM commander Anthony Zinni, who said we're going over Niagara Falls and everybody's got to have a wakeup call here.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think we're going over Niagara Falls. I think we've had some difficult weeks, but I'm confident in the ability of our military commanders to get on top of the security situation, as well as Iraqi forces as they are built up. And we will prevail in this mission. And what we have to do, as the President said, stay the course, get a UN resolution, return sovereignty to the Iraqi people, which will help us with the security situation because Iraqis will see that it's their government that's being attacked now, not just the coalition -- the coalition will go away -- and we'll get on top of this. I am confident we'll be able to do that.

MS. SAWYER: Thank you again, Mr. Secretary.


(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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