Remarks with Iraqi Interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zubari Following Lunch
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Rasheed Hotel, Baghdad, Iraq
FOREIGN MINISTER ZUBARI: (As translated from Arabic) I d like to welcome all of you. We are very delighted and happy to have with us Secretary Colin Powell. We've waited for him for a long time to come. He is a friend of the Iraqi people. He has helped Iraq to be liberated and we owe him a great deal. We owe him, we owe the American people and the American Administration, and all other governments that helped us to be free and get rid of the dictatorship, terrorism and mass graves. We have conducted fruitful meetings with Secretary Powell. We have talked about a variety of issues, among them the Iraqi participation in the Arab League meetings, which we believe was an achievement for the Governing Council and for Iraq. And we talked about Iraq's participation in the UN General Assembly. I would like to say, once again, we are grateful for Secretary Powell and thank you and welcome you here, sir.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for your welcome. It's a great pleasure for me to be in Baghdad for the first time, but this time to be with you. Also, the first meeting we've had in a liberated Iraq, a liberated Baghdad. Let me begin by congratulating you for the success you enjoyed not too many days ago when you persuaded the Arab League to allow you to sit as the Foreign Minister of Iraq for this provisional one-year period. And I think it shows that people recognize that things are changing here, that there is now a Council of Government that is working, we now have Cabinet Ministers who are starting to function. Of course, the Foreign Minister demonstrated that in Cairo at the Arab League and he'll demonstrate it again in a week or so at the United Nations when he will be representing Iraq there with a strong delegation.
Earlier today there was an announcement that Iraq will now have an independent judiciary, another sign that the Cabinet Ministries are starting to work and starting to perform. This is how you build a government, you begin with a nucleus, a Governing Council, it expands out to Cabinet Ministers, Cabinet Ministers start to function and take on more and more responsibility, with the assistance of Ambassador Bremer and the CPA team here. And we look forward to the next steps that will come, the writing of a constitution and from that constitution, the people will be given a chance to express their will as to how they will be governed. This will lead to a democratic Iraq that we will be most pleased to pass full authority to in due course.
And so, Mr. Minister, I congratulate you. I wish you all the best as you undertake your new important responsibilities for the Iraqi people.
FOREIGN MINISTER ZUBARI: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, have you learned some new things after visiting with the CPA this morning, and also with the Foreign Minister, that you didn't know before you came?
SECRETARY POWELL: I had very good briefings this morning from Ambassador Bremer and his team, and General Abizaid and General Sanchez and their teams, on the military situation, pretty much confirming what I knew. What I heard, though, a lot of good things that are going on that really don t get out widely enough into the press, with respect to how the electrical system is coming back up, with respect to the plans to put in place a vibrant, market-oriented economy, some of the interesting ideas that will be announced in the near future, with respect to economic development and some of the exciting ideas that the Governing Council has come up with, and the various Cabinet Ministers have come up with, with respect to economic development.
And so there s a lot going on in the area of political development, economic development. The security situation remains challenging, but after the briefings I had this morning, I m confident that our commanders understand the environment that we re operating in and that we ll be able to deal with it in due course. The major new threat are the terrorists who are trying to infiltrate into the country for the purpose of disrupting this very hopeful process. And we will not allow that to happen.
QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister, how soon do you believe Iraq will be able to assume full sovereignty? And, Mr. Secretary, you mentioned foreigners coming into the country. From where and what numbers?
FOREIGN MINISTER ZUBARI: Yeah, in fact, we are confident that the Iraqi people will regain their independence and sovereignty as soon as possible. We have a plan. We are working very closely with the CPA. In fact, we see eye to eye on how this plan should move forward. Now we have a constitutional process working at the moment. We have some plans, also, for doing voter registrations for the election that will elect a new Iraqi government.
Now, definitely, this depends on the logistics, the security environment that we are in. But we hope by mid-2004, or before the end of the year, we will be able to have a sovereign Iraqi elected legitimate government in place. And we have every confidence that even the Coalition, the United States, doesn t want to stay one more day than it s needed. I mean, we believe in their words and many of the Iraqis realize that this is the case.
QUESTION: Mr. Zubari, do you think .
SECRETARY POWELL: If I may, the borders are rather porous and so people can get in from any of the neighboring countries. The exact numbers aren t really known. And, the intelligence community I would say could give the best estimates, but from what I am able to understand from the intelligence community, we are talking in the hundreds to a thousand, two thousand, but it is a very imprecise number. It is nothing more than an estimate.
QUESTION: Mr. Zubari, does that mean that you agree with Secretary Powell that the French proposals are unrealistic?
FOREIGN MINISTER ZUBARI: No, in fact, we want all the government members of the Security Council to help us, to support us. And we share the same goal and objective with everybody, and that was the message we took to our brothers from the Arab League - that we share the same goal that the Iraqis should regain their independence and sovereignty, as soon as possible. But this is a transitional period and we need to see the new Iraq stable, peaceful, prosperous, with a new constitution. So, really, this is how we see it. As far as the French proposals, Secretary Powell briefed us on his discussions in Geneva recently. Really there are a number of things that we need to look at it more closely.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.