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Powell:  Iraqi Interim Government to Include Executives, Cabinet
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
May 21, 2004


May 21, 2004
Washington, D.C.
(10:10 a.m. EDT)

MS. INGRAHAM: Hi, Mr. Secretary, how are you?

SECRETARY POWELL: Hi, Laura. How are you? I haven't seen you in a long time.

MS. INGRAHAM: I know. I usually bump into you every now and then. But it's an honor and a pleasure to have you on the show.


MS. INGRAHAM: We have a lot to get to. I know we only have ten minutes, and we actually listen to the ten-minute cue, unlike some other journalists -- (laughter) -- and we're not going to complain about it, either.

Mr. Secretary, first of all, look, we have this June 30th deadline. The President and you have both said it's an absolutely firm deadline. To whom are we transferring power in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're going to transfer power to what we're calling the Iraqi interim government. It will consist of a cabinet of ministers, as you would find in any government, and most of those ministries are already up and working. Some 13 of them are fully on their own and not even taking direction on a daily basis from Ambassador Bremer.

In addition, we're going to put an executive group together: a president, two vice presidents and a prime minister. Those individuals are now being looked at now, candidates for those positions, by Ambassador Brahimi, the UN representative, and by our folks as well. And I would hope that in the next week or two, Ambassador Brahimi will come forward with a slate of individuals for those positions.

Then that will be presented to the United Nations. It'll be presented to the international community. And I'm already working on a UN resolution that will endorse this arrangement and we're not even waiting for the announcement of names; we've already started working on the resolution with my Security Council colleagues.

MS. INGRAHAM: Well, you know, especially, as you know, conservatives across the United States, a lot of folks that listen to talk radio, they hear the United Nations in Iraq and they get concerned. People like Amir Taheri, who is a very prominent journalist, and I think he's on point on a lot of issues, says that, look, the United Nations, all well and good on humanitarian issues, but on issues of leadership in Iraq, they're not the best way to go.

How do you respond to those concerns?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we know who Ambassador Brahimi is looking at and we are discussing with him all the candidates. And, frankly, there is a pretty high coincidence of agreement with respect to the qualifications of the slate that we're looking at.

Brahimi is not an unknown to us. Ambassador Brahimi worked with us in Afghanistan. He did a brilliant job in working to put in place a new Afghan Government under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai. So let's not dismiss the UN that quickly. We really need the UN, and we work with the UN. And for people who say we want to internationalize this, that means the United Nations, it means NATO, it means other international organizations.

And so I'm working closely with Kofi Annan, and we're working closely with Ambassador Brahimi, to see if we can do as good a job in Iraq as we did in Afghanistan, in putting in place a government that slowly gains credibility, slowly gains acceptance by its people, and then takes it to elections.

Remember, this is a government that we only want to last six or seven months. It's a caretaker government that gets Iraq ready for national assembly elections at the end of the year or in January.

MS. INGRAHAM: How concerned are you about the security situation on the ground now in Iraq? I mean, The Washington Post seems to print endless stories, not only about, you know, new prison abuse photos, but stories of comments of shopkeepers and merchants who say, "Look, we're afraid to be on the streets for kidnappings and lootings and no one seems to come to help us."

And those are the quotes that I think a lot of people are reading. And if the people in Iraq are concerned about the security, how can we be confident that the situation on the ground leading into June 30th, and then the next election, isn't going to just continue to be totally chaotic?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is chaotic in places, but not throughout the country. Up in the northern part of the country, especially in the Kurdish regions, things are rather calm and quiet and well under control. In the south, we have hot spots, in Najaf and Nasiriya and Karbala, and a few places like that, but other parts of the south are relatively quiet.

The Sunni Triangle, to include Baghdad, is a problem. We've got to do a better job. We're going to do it two ways: one, by making sure we keep in place our forces, robust forces, after the 1st of July, still under our command; and rapidly building up the capability of Iraqi forces, police forces, paramilitary, bringing back into the military and police organizations individuals who have experience, Iraqi individuals who have experience. But we don't want to bring back any of the old Baath dead-enders, who were, you know, a part of the previous regime's reign of terror.

So we are working hard on this. And General Patreas, who had great success as a commander of the 101st Airborne Division up in the northern part of the country, in doing this kind of work, is being brought back to help with the creation of these Iraqi security forces.

MS. INGRAHAM: Secretary Powell, The Washington Post -- above the fold today, another photo from Abu Ghraib Prison. And I've got to tell you -- I mean, I think the media's role in what's happened in the war on terror, how we prosecute the war on terror, has been quite deleterious in many ways. I think it's hurt the troops' morale. I think it's made their jobs more difficult.

How do you feel when you see these photos after, you know, now two weeks, two and half weeks of constant coverage of this issue, which we've deplored? But, you know, at some point, is enough enough on this?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think everybody now knows that something terrible happened at Abu Ghraib. And, frankly, if the media hadn't put these pictures out, first with CBS 60 Minutes, and then the newspapers all picking up those photos -- if they hadn't put those photos out, we might not have known how terrible a situation it was.

But we've responded to that now. Our generals have been back and testified. [Defense Secretary] Don Rumsfeld's been up there repeatedly and testified. I've had to go up and explain it to various audiences. I don't know that we need to keep drumbeating in every single day now because they have hundreds of photos. What more do we need to know about this tragic situation? Let's get on with it and let's get back to fighting the war, as Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday on the Hill.

MS. INGRAHAM: John Kerry said a couple of days ago -- he made a comment about keeping America hostage to this -- and a dependence on foreign oil. I want to play the clip for you, and if you could respond to it. Let's

"No young American in uniform ought to ever be held hostage to America's dependence on oil for the Middle East."

Implicit in that, of course, Mr. Secretary, is that's what's going on Iraq.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, what we need is a more sensible energy policy and that's what the President's been calling for the three years of this Administration. One of the first task forces he launched was Vice President Cheney's task force to get us a more sensible energy policy, and we have been unable to have the energy bill passed by the Congress.

And what Congress needs to do, all members of Congress, is to take action which will make us less dependent on energy overseas. We are not using all the energy that's available to us in this country on this continent, and we can do many more things to conserve energy and make us less dependent on overseas oil.

But the fact of the matter is, because of our economy, because of our desire to use automobiles in the way that we do, and our desire for different kinds of automobiles, we are importing over 50 percent, closer to 58 percent, of our petroleum needs. And that comes from countries in the Middle East, the Gulf area, South America, the North Slope of -- or the North Sea, and other places. And that's where we have to get it.

MS. INGRAHAM: But what about John Kerry saying that?


MS. INGRAHAM: What about John Kerry saying that, Mr. Secretary? I mean

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't know what he was proposing. It's great to get an applause line, but I'm not sure what the Senator was proposing. I mean, we need good relations with these countries. We need stable regimes in this part of the world who will be partners and friends of ours, because the fact of the matter is we do rely on imported oil to fuel our economy and to fuel our nation.

And, in Iraq, we had an unstable regime, a dictatorial regime that was ready to be pushed aside. President Bush was bold enough to push it aside because of their dallying in weapons of mass destruction and human rights abuses and terrorism. And now what we ought to do is put in place a stable, democratic nation that will provide oil to the world market.

That's not sending our troops overseas for oil. That's sending our troops overseas to put in place a democratic nation rested on a foundation of openness and human rights that will be a friend and partner of the United States.

MS. INGRAHAM: I mean, I just think it's a very irresponsible thing to say. I know it's a presidential election year, but I just -- I think it's irresponsible.

I know we have about a minute, Mr. Secretary. There is a concern among Republicans -- I know you have heard this, and I hear it almost every day
-- that support for the war-- the question: Was it worth it; is it worth it? -- is at a all-time low. Why do you think that is?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think people always get nervous when it seems like the going has gotten a bit rough. We had a difficult April. May isn't quite as bad with respect to combat casualties and losses. But, nevertheless, people see that there is hard work to be done ahead. They are not sure what's going to happen after the transfer of sovereignty.

And so there is a great deal of uncertainty and unease, and when you have those two combining, you will tend to see that optimism drops a bit. But I think if we have a successful turnover to an interim government, and as our troops and Iraqi forces slowly prevail over these former regime elements, these anti-coalition militias, as we call them, and the terrorists that are there, and as we begin to move toward elections at the end of the year, I think that attitude will change, not only among Republicans, but among all Americans.

MS. INGRAHAM: And, finally, just one last question. Democrats are charging that anti-Americanism worldwide is on the rise because of the policies of this Administration. You talk to these world leaders. John Kerry says he does, but you actually talk to them. Do you find that's an accurate statement?

SECRETARY POWELL: I not only talk to them, I live with them. I mean, I spent the weekend with them in Jordan. And the fact of the matter is, we all know, the President understands, that there has been an increase in anti-American feelings among the Arab world, principally because of Iraq and the Middle East peace process. And that's why the President is devoting so much time and attention to it.

I'm convinced that when we settle things down in Iraq and an interim government takes over, the Arab world -- the whole world -- will see that, boy, the Americans really have done something valuable and they're improving the region.

And if we could get traction on the Middle East peace process by taking Prime Minister Sharon's plan to evacuate settlements in Gaza -- all the settlements in Gaza -- and begin evacuation of settlements in the West Bank, and they see some progress toward peace, these anti-American attitudes can be reversed.

MS. INGRAHAM: We hope so. And, Secretary Powell, I know you're incredibly busy. We really appreciate you joining us, and stay safe, my friend.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Laura. Bye-bye.

MS. INGRAHAM: All right. You take care.


(end transcript)

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