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L. Paul Bremer, III
Coalition Provisional Authority
Transition: Ministry of Planning
13 May 2004

[Courtesy Greeting in Arabic]
What a wonderful football match that was last night!

Like so many thousands of Iraqis, I watched the game. The early Saudi Goal made me very nervous. But when Haider Hassan made his header for a goal, I knew we were on the way. I want to join all Iraq’s countrymen in congratulating the Iraqi football team on their magnificent victory-- though I did not fire celebratory shots into the air to mark the occasion with the rest of you.

The team’s victory is also an important symbol of Iraq’s reconstruction and recovery. Soon after I arrived in Iraq a year ago, I learned of the importance Iraqis attach to sports. As a retired athlete myself, I sympathized and immediately established as a top coalition objective the return of Iraq to the sports world.

As in so many other areas, Iraq had been isolated by the cruel tyrannies of Saddam Hussein and especially those of his son Uday. Working with Iraqis interested in international sports, we were able to reconstitute Iraq’s Olympic Committee and to regain Iraq’s admission into the Olympic Games.

And so exactly three months from today, the Iraqi football team will join other Iraqi athletes parading into the Olympic stadium in Athens and marking Iraq’s return to the world of international sport.
[Salute to Iraqi football team in Arabic]

* * *

And exactly seven weeks from today, occupation ends and Iraq’s sovereignty will once again be exercised by Iraqis.

And that of course brings us to today’s ceremony, for important as sport may be, the return of the Ministry of Planning to Iraqi hands constitutes an important milestone along Iraq’s road to sovereignty on June 30 and an elected Iraqi government next January.

The success of this ministry affects the well-being of every Iraqi. The staff of the Ministry of planning knows well that the recovery from decades of grotesquely distorted policies requires disciplined planning and execution.

Mr. Minister, I know that you and your talented and dedicated staff will succeed. I know that you will succeed because, working in faithful collaboration with Senior Advisor Neil Hawkins, you have already accomplished so much.

For example:
• Mr. Minister, you have chaired the Strategic Review Board that has set the priorities of all Iraq’s major development priority.
• Your ministry has taken the lead in coordinating international donor assistance, setting the priorities for billions of dollars in assistance from the international community to the people of Iraq including almost $19 billion from the American people.
• You and your colleagues have set the stage for the Doha conference later this month. That conference of donors, Iraqi ministers, UN agencies and donor country representatives will accelerate the progress of reconstruction here.

Mr. Minister, the quiet but vital work of you and your staff shapes your country for your children and their children will inherit. You are constructing Iraq’s future of hope.

That future will be here sooner than it once seemed possible to believe.

In seven weeks from today, Iraqis again become sovereign.

In three months Iraq participates in the Olympics.

And in eight months Iraqis directly elect their government.

Mabruk al Iraq al Jadeed.
Aash al-Iraq!


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