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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


25 May 2004

Powell Discusses Iraq Government-Coalition Relationship

Powell, Belgium's Louis Michel after meeting at State Department

The relationship between Iraq's new interim government after June 30 and coalition forces is still being worked out, Secretary of State Colin Powell said May 25, but "we're confident that this will be manageable."

"We want to take into account the views of the Iraqi interim government. They are sovereign," Powell said during a joint press availability with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium Louis Michel after their meeting at the State Department.

"Ultimately, however, if it comes down to the United States Armed Forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves," he said.

But Powell added that "we have these sorts of arrangements now with coalition partners. The U.S. military commander has overall command, but any one of the coalition partners who are there ultimately responds to their own national command as well.

"And in the course of my military experience, we have been in many countries where that country obviously was sovereign. And we took into account the desires, wishes and feelings of that sovereign nation with respect to the operations that we would conduct. And so I think the same would apply here."

In his opening remarks, Powell said his discussion with Michel focused on Afghanistan, Iraq and the upcoming NATO Summit. He praised Belgium's decision to send an additional 300 troops to Afghanistan.

Michel said Belgium is "fully engaged" in Afghanistan and will remain so. Asked Belgium's view of a NATO role in Iraq, Michel responded that in his view "the priority for NATO has to be Afghanistan."

Powell mentioned several potential roles NATO could play in Iraq, including providing a headquarters, troops "if there were willing nations," reconstruction funding and such things as police trainers.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
May 25, 2004

REMARKS

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL AND VICE PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF BELGIUM LOUIS MICHEL AFTER THEIR MEETING

May 25, 2004
C Street Entrance
Washington, D.C.

(11:45 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I just had a good conversation with my colleague, Louis Michel, and we covered bilateral issues between the United States and Belgium and we talked about Afghanistan. And I thanked the Minister for the willingness of Belgium to provide an additional 300 troops to their contingent in Afghanistan.

I briefed the Minister on the UN resolution that the United Kingdom and the United States put down yesterday before the UN. And we discussed the President's speech last night as well, and what our goals are for the returning of sovereignty and how we plan to go about returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people through an Iraqi interim government by the 1st of July. We also talked about the upcoming NATO summit and the agenda for the NATO summit.

I just might close by saying that the Minister mentioned to me that he visited the new World War II memorial and we talked about how we had such shared values going back to times of war and tragedy and liberation and peace. And those values are important and they describe what pulls us together, shared adversity in the past. And these are strong ties that will ultimately overcome any past disagreements.

And so I'm very pleased to have the Minister here with me. And I look forward to seeing him again at the NATO summit in just a few weeks' time.

Mr. Minister, I invite you to say a word or two.

VICE PRIME MINISTER MICHEL: Well, I am, of course, very happy with the meeting I had with Colin Powell, with a very nice and interesting exchange of views on several important issues, Afghanistan or also Iraq. We spoke about Iraq and Central Africa. I also told Colin Powell that we are fully engaged in Afghanistan. We doubled the Belgian troops and we will stay engaged also.

I also told him that, on the Iraqi issue, we welcomed the speech of President Bush that shows that there is a process underway, and the transitional process is underway. I think it is, of course, very important. We hope it will be successful and it will succeed.

We also talked about Central Africa and what happens in Congo. Colin Powell knows that we are fully engaged in Congo and that we have also troops in Congo that shows that Belgium takes its part of risks in the world. Afghanistan, Congo, Kosovo, we have troops on the ground. And we also decided to stay in touch about the problems of Central Africa.

About the Middle East, we had also an exchange of views about Middle East, and I think it was a very important and very constructive, positive and good information exchange between us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Before taking questions, I just might follow up on one point the Minister made about Africa. We're pleased with the progress that has -- is being made at Lake Naivasha in Kenya between the Sudanese parties. Dr. John Garang and Vice President Taha are very close to an agreement, as you may have noticed in press reporting today. We are hopeful and optimistic that there might be some signings tomorrow.

Okay.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, about the UN resolution, do you think it will shake loose contributions from some of those fence-sitting countries, particularly do you think Muslim countries? Amr Moussa doesn't seem to think so.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it remains to be seen. A number of countries have said that they would consider contributions once there was a new UN resolution and once sovereignty had been returned to the Iraqi people. And if both of those conditions apply on the 1st of July, I hope that all nations will review their contributions, whether it be a financial contribution, reconstruction aid, trainers, advisors, or perhaps military forces. But this is an area we'll have to get into once we do have the resolution and after sovereignty has been returned.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you expect military support from Belgium for Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We discussed what the needs are and I will let the Minister answer the question. But I sense that nothing has been ruled out but nothing has been ruled in. But you might want to say a word on the --

VICE PRIME MINISTER MICHEL: Well, for the moment, it should be difficult because of the fact that we are engaged in Afghanistan and other countries. I told you that before. You know also that it is excluded as long as there is no UN resolution. But you know also that we are ready to contribute with trainers for policemen, trainers for administration, also for justice and also for rebuilding, institutional rebuilding in Iraq. So we are ready to bring our contribution in many -- with many means. Troops are excluded for the moment, but I think we will, in the case of our obligations, should be invited to be fulfilled. We are loyal members of the international organizations so we will play our role and we will fulfill our duty.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, any initiative for the reunification of Cyprus since you met Mr. Karamanlis the other day at the White House?

SECRETARY POWELL: We had a good discussion with Mr. Karamanlis, and we still feel that it was an opportunity that was missed when the Greek Cypriots did not approve the referendum. And we're looking at ways in which we can move forward along the lines of the Kofi Annan plan, and we're also examining areas where we can assist the Turkish Cypriots with their needs as well. But that was the extent of the conversation.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Tony Blair suggested that the new Iraqi government, after June 30th, would have veto power over the individual military operations of the coalition force there. Is that your understanding?

I mean, if U.S. forces wanted to proceed in an operation, say, in Fallujah, but the transitional government did not want them to do so, would that government be able to say no to the U.S. commanders?

SECRETARY POWELL: The actual details of how the forces will work together are being worked out now. We're confident that this will be manageable. We want to take into account the views of the Iraqi interim government. They are sovereign. And so, they have a role to play, obviously. They are sovereign. We are there at their consent and with their consent.

And if you look at the UN resolution that was proposed yesterday, there is language in -- I think it's the tenth perambulatory paragraph that specifically talks about the consent of the Iraqi interim government.

So, obviously, we would take into account whatever they might say at a political and military level. And to make sure that that happens, we will be creating coordinating bodies, political coordinating bodies and military-to-military coordinating bodies, so that there is transparency with respect to what we are doing.

Now, ultimately, however, if it comes down to the United States Armed Forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves.

I don't think it's this a big deal, or it's not even a disagreement, because we have these sorts of arrangements now with coalition partners. The U.S. military commander has overall command, but any one of the coalition partners who are there ultimately responds to their own national command as well. And in the course of my military experience, we have been in many countries where that country obviously was sovereign. And we took into account the desires, wishes and feelings of that sovereign nation with respect to the operations that we would conduct. And so I think the same would apply here.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I meant to go to Charlie.

QUESTION: Yes, my question was -

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, yeah.

QUESTION: Both France and Russia have expressed some objections to the draft resolution about the sovereignty issue, saying they don't feel that it actually does provide for a sovereign government. Can you address their concerns, particularly in light of what you just said if, you know, U.S. forces have to protect themselves?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I've seen press reporting about their views. I have not received from any of the countries yet proposed language that would modify the resolution. I think all of them have pretty much said the same thing: they're seeing the resolution for the first time. They're studying it. And in the wonderful world of resolution-making, I would fully expect all of our Security Council colleagues to ask many questions about the resolution, what's in the resolution, and I expect that they will be suggesting changes.

But the resolution's pretty clear. The President was even more clear in his statement last night at the Army War College. We are giving Iraq full sovereignty under this resolution, and there will be no other government because Ambassador Bremer and the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] will cease operation. The government that is there now will cease operation when this interim government is created. And therefore, that interim government, as the President said last night, has full sovereignty, and the UN resolution asks the Security Council to endorse that full sovereignty and to endorse the Brahimi plan to move forward to elections at the end of this year or January 2005 for a national assembly that will then put in place a transitional government until we can get through the constitution and then full elections at the end of that year.

One more, then I have to go.

QUESTION: To you and the Foreign Minister, what role do you envision NATO playing, possibly playing a role in Iraq after July 1st? There's a lot of talk about that now. I'm interested in the Belgian point of view as well.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, we discussed this, and I'm not sure yet what NATO might or might not do. I think everybody's waiting to see how the resolution fares, and if the resolution is passed before the NATO summit, then I think it will be a subject of discussion at the NATO summit.

It is not a new subject of discussion. For the last year or so, we have been talking about a potential role for NATO in Iraq. And no NATO member has ruled out the possibility of NATO playing a role, but what role remains to be seen, if any. It's a consensus organization. Twenty-six nations will have a view to express. We should not go into this, as some critics have, thinking that, you know, all you have to do is go to NATO and there is a huge body of troops waiting there just to be asked. Sixteen of the 26 nations of NATO are engaged in Iraq now. Many of the other nations either do not have capability to bring to the situation in Iraq, or are otherwise occupied.

And so, let's not think that there are a huge body of troops waiting in NATO just to be asked to come to Iraq. But there are potential roles NATO could play: providing a headquarters, some modest increase in the number of troops if there were willing nations, additional reconstruction funding efforts, and the kinds of things that the Foreign Minister mentioned earlier with respect to police trainers and meeting the obligations that they made in Madrid with respect to funding.

I don't know if Louis wishes to ask anything -- add anything more to that.

VICE PRIME MINISTER MICHEL: No. No, I think for that question that, for the moment, the priority for NATO has to be Afghanistan. That's my point of view. And I think it should not be wise to engage NATO now in Iraq. As Colin told you, many countries are engaged. So -- but if the demand should come on the table, we should not oppose a veto.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we should look at it. And keep in mind now that the requestor will be an interim Iraqi government that has sovereignty and would have to consider whether that government is inviting other international organizations to play a role to include NATO. That's what sovereignty means.

Thank you very much.

Oh, I'm sorry. Do you want to stay and do French? Forgive me.

QUESTION: (Translated from French to English.) What are the conclusions, Mr. Minister, you draw from the discussion you had with Mr. Colin Powell and what are the proposals you made on behalf of Belgium?

VICE PRIME MINISTER MICHEL: (Translated from French to English.) First of all, the conclusions are that, clearly, we have now entered into a true process of transition, of transfer to the Iraqi authority. It is clear that President Bush's speech points the way to this, which is why I think it is important... the text of the draft resolution points in the same direction, it confirms that we are indeed in a process of transition of sovereignty to the Iraqis themselves, with, moreover, an Iraqi military troop command distinct from the multinational force command which would be under US leadership. So, I think this goes, clearly, in the direction we are hoping for, and let's hope it succeeds.

As for the proposals, well, I simply said that as far as we are concerned and for Iraq, it is clear, as we said in the past, first, we are engaged with troops in Afghanistan, so it is rather difficult for Belgium to free troops to send them elsewhere. We are in Afghanistan; we just doubled our presence there. We are also in Kosovo, in the Congo, so it would be difficult to envisage more troops at this point, third, we are willing, as we said, to contribute to the training of police officers and magistrates, and to the institutional reconstruction of Iraq. It is clearly an important contribution, as we have indeed anticipated in Madrid, since we had already anticipated such a contribution, we could even go further in that area.

We have also talked about the issue of the Middle East, where it is clear we must hope that at a certain point the deadlock will be broken. On other points, I believe that, as far as transatlantic relations are concerned, we fully agree that we must now go beyond the bureaucratic stage and we need a genuine and thorough exchange of views about the shared fate of the partnership between Europeans and the US. There is clearly a destiny rooted in history, we are preferred partners, we favor a special strategic partnership where everyone listens and sometimes hears what the other is saying. But for that we need to help people to begin thinking along those lines. We need to promote exchanges of young people; we need to increase the opportunities for people to get to know each other better. Because, clearly, we have the feeling something is lacking here, perhaps we no longer know each other well enough, and I think that this transatlantic relationship is vital. For instance, it would be difficult to imagine fighting terrorism without this relationship.

On Central Africa, we decided to keep in touch and to work together, and we think we must stay with the transition process in order to give it another chance.

SECRETARY POWELL: Any other member of the Belgian press?

(No response.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure? Equal opportunity here. (Laughter.) I think he just answered every question you could have asked. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how is the climate between Belgium and America today?

SECRETARY POWELL: Très bien, merci. (Laughter.)

(The Secretary escorts the Minister to his car.)

QUESTION: One more on Sudan?

QUESTION: One more?

QUESTION: Sudan, just on Sudan, can you tell us what --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I think -- I'm quite optimistic.

QUESTION: But what about --

QUESTION: We've heard that before.

QUESTION: Yeah, we've heard that before.

QUESTION: What do you think they're going to -- what do you think they're going to sign tomorrow?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's why I said, "Quite optimistic."

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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