U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 23, 2004
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
With La Prensa Grafica's Alex Aillón
April 23, 2004
MR. AILLÓN: Mr. Powell, good morning. It's an honor to be here with you this
morning. Let me start with an obligatory question for the Salvadorian people.
How important it is to the government of the United States and to the countries
of the coalition that El Salvador maintains a presence, a military presence, in
Iraq after it completes the current assignment, which ends at the end of June?
How important, really, is to the coalition that we maintain our forces in Iraq
after that term?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, let me say that the El Salvadorian troops,
the Salvadorian troops are doing an absolutely terrific job. They are performing
humanitarian work and peacekeeping work and your people should be very proud of
how they have handled themselves. And it is really a first-class military unit
that you have sent over there.
It is not what they are doing for the United States or doing for the CPA. It is
what they are doing for the Iraqi people, a people who have been oppressed for
so many years, and my friends in El Salvador know about oppression. So these
people were oppressed for so many years by Saddam Hussein and he's been removed,
but now they need help. They need help to establish the right conditions for
democracy. I hope that El Salvador will be able to keep troops longer, but the
commitment they made was through the end of June and I'm pleased that they're
going to meet that commitment. Some of our friends in the region have decided
they had to bring their troops home and I'm pleased that El Salvador decided
that, no, we will stay and we will meet our commitment.
MR. AILLÓN: Right now, the Salvadorian troops are under Polish command. Do you
believe, Mr. Secretary, that putting Salvadorian troops under Polish command
could cause some problems in the battalion? I mean, because under the Spanish,
under the Spanish command, at least the troops share the same language as well
as cultural similarities with their leaders. It would not be the same with the
Polish. Do you think, will it cause problems, maybe in some case of emergencies,
because these problems?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure there will be some language difficulties that will
have to be worked out, and we'll have to make sure that there are people who can
translate for the Salvadorian troops and for the Polish troops. But I wouldn't
think this is a difficult or insurmountable problem. The Polish division was in
charge of that overall sector in the first instance. And so I don't think this
is going to be a significant problem.
MR. AILLÓN: Can we -- can we expect next month that more participation from
another countries of the United Nations? The Administration of the United States
is going to ask more participation in this process of transition in Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think that in the weeks ahead, you will see an interim
government created where Iraqis get sovereignty of their own country back. We
are anxious to give sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. We don't want to stay
there in the current position that we are in now where we are running the
country. We want Iraq to run the country. And we are asking for the U.N. to help
us make this transition. Ambassador Brahimi of the U.N. has provided us a plan.
We think it's a good plan. And with that plan, we will get a new U.N.
resolution. And in the very near future, responsibility for the country will be
given back to the Iraqi people.
We'll stay there to help. We will need troops after we return sovereignty to
help with the security situation. And as the El Salvadorian troops are doing, to
help with the humanitarian situation and to perform peacekeeping duties.
So we are anxious to see the international community more involved. We hope
there will be more troop contributors after there is a new UN resolution and
after sovereignty has been returned to the Iraqi people.
MR. AILLÓN: What can you tell to the people of Salvador, who right now have some
relatives, loved ones in Iraq, supporting the international coalition? What can
you tell --
SECRETARY POWELL: First, I would say, be proud of what they are doing. They are
performing very well. They have gained a fantastic reputation among the
coalition. I'm a soldier, I know. And I hear from the American commanders out
there. "These Salvadorians are really, really good. They're good, they're tough,
they know what they're doing, they're performing great work." So be proud of
what they are doing.
Two, know that what they are doing is important and noble. They're not wasting
their time. They're doing something that is important for people who are in
need, the Iraqi people.
And three, know that the United States deeply appreciates this contribution to
this peacekeeping effort. And we hope that every one of those young soldiers
gets home safely. And when they get home, they will speak proudly of what they
MR. AILLÓN: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: You're welcome.