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Programme(s): Newsnight BBC2
Date & time: Monday 29th September 2003 2300
Subject / interviewee: Iraq Sir Jeremy Greenstock
Prepared by: Sarah Mouncey
Contact numbers: 020 7276 1080 Pager 07659 137 572 24hrs, every day
Gavin Esler: Well before we came on air I spoke to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the Prime Ministers Special Representative in Iraq. I began by asking him what promises he could make to Iraqis on a timetable for when their country would really feel safe.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock (Britains Special Representative to Iraq): The coalition and the Provisional Authority here is not doing this on, on our own. We are doing it with Iraqis in partnership and one of the things weve asked them to do is to set the nature and timing of the process to get a new constitution and then well move to elections beyond that. So that is the political timetable framework to be set by Iraqis. But were saying to Iraqis generally in terms of improvement, this is going to get better all the time. It may be slow but its now beginning to grind through and I think thats what were seeing on the ground.
GE: Are you worried that with the murder of a member of the Iraq Governing Council and an attack on one of those drawing up the Iraqi constitution that the very people who are co-operating with you are targets and its very difficult for you to protect them?
JG: We would be foolish to ignore the threat to the coalition and to those who are working with us. There are some brutal people out there trying to stop Iraq becoming a new democratic country, which is what most Iraqis want. So we would be very foolish to ignore those threats and were not allowing the Iraqi leadership, who are working with us, to be unprotected. We are trying to help them in that.
GE: Paul Woods film suggests that general lawlessness may be going down but with the UN more or less pulling out and with one coalition soldier being killed every two days or thereabouts are we going to have to accept that this is a long term guerrilla war and theres no easy end for it?
JG: Its not a guerrilla war but it is a challenge. It is mostly terrorism and its some former regime loyalists who think they still have a chance. So we havent finished the aftermath of the war in security terms. Theres no doubt about that and the British and American peoples must realise that there will be a cost, both financial and human, in doing this thing properly. Were all having to look after ourselves in that respect. But we are determined to stay, were not going to walk out on the Iraqis who want this done and we will take that cost.
GE: You said over the weekend that wider international involvement would be welcome but that doesnt mean to say we cannot do what needs to be done with the forces we have deployed all ready. But without more international troops wont the burden be even greater on British troops, theyll be stretched and have to stay even longer?
JG: What we want to do is to get Iraqis to take over responsibility for their own security. They want to do that and I think we will be able to draw down our own forces and the Americans likewise much more through the Iraqi-ization of the security programme than from the internationalization of it. The internationalization is more a political objective, that we want this to be a wide international partnership doing this but if thats not possible well do it ourselves. But the increase in the effort is going to come from more Iraqis coming into the system. Thats the plan now and its being activated quite quickly.
GE: Could a similar argument be advanced for the new UN resolution, its an optional extra, you dont really need it, its just a symbol?
JG: But we would like international experts to come and help us with the political process and the UN are very good at that and it would be a great sign of the international community coming together if we take one further step towards that. So we do want the resolution. We would like the UN in when they feel that they can contribute and we hope that that will come soon. If it doesnt come soon we will actively get on with it ourselves anyway.
GE: On the subject of a timetable Colin Powell was talking about six months to draw up a new constitution, would you therefore be hopeful that sometime perhaps next summer Britain and the United States would be able to scale down their military involvement just in time for the Presidential election perhaps?
JG: Well Im not in a position to make promises, least of all for the American decision making on this. But I think that you will see at the end of this winter a drawing down of the American forces. I think the Brits will be there in some force in the south for sometime to come but next spring, next summer if we can keep these improvements going as we are now then I think theres a chance of that, yes.
GE: Finally, is the search for weapons of mass destruction now just a waste of time, nobody thinks theyll be found now?
JG: I will leave that to other people. I think that we went into this conflict with a very good UN basis. That there was a threat; I have no conscience about that. I think the story will come out and well need further work on that but we are, yes, concentrating on what we have to do now to make Iraq a safer and a more prosperous place and thats where our prioritys going to be.
GE: Sir Jeremy thank you very much.
JG: Thank you Gavin.