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Press Conference with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, Administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority, and Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, Special Envoy to Iraq for the United Kingdom, after their Meeting with the Secretary General, January 19, 2004

Ambassador Bremer: First of all I'd like to thank the Secretary General for taking the initiative in calling this meeting today. We've had a very good, open and candid exchange. All of the members of the Governing Council participated in the very free-flowing discussion. And we had an opportunity in the Governing Council -- in particular -- to review the significant progress in Iraq in the area of security, in the area of the economy -- which is now showing growth -- and of course on the political process, where the Governing Council described the work that's being done to write the basic law, which Dr. Pachachi just referred to. And of course we discussed the implementation of the November 15 agreement, which provides for the prospectus for a freely elected democratic government in Iraq by the end of 2005. We had, I think, broad agreement on the importance of the U.N. resuming its role in Iraq. And we talked about the need to re-establish a partnership with the Iraqis in the political process by which Iraqis will regain their full sovereignty by June 30 this year.

The Secretary General noted that he is anxious to resume that role, and has established what he calls a beachhead with his acting Special Representative, who will be based in Cyprus and available to work in Baghdad. Together with the Governing Council, we in the CPA reiterated our offer to give all possible support to ensure the security of U.N. personnel when they return to Iraq. And I might say here that members of the Iraqi Governing Council expressed genuine pride when they described the role that Iraqi security forces are already playing in security.

As you've heard this morning, the Governing Council and the Coalition encouraged the Secretary General to send a technical team to Iraq to examine the process of implementing the November 15 agreement: specifically the question of the feasibility of elections. The Secretary General has agreed, seriously and with urgency, to consider this request and, as he mentioned, there will be further technical consultations that will begin already this afternoon. We look forward to the Secretary General's early decision on that request from the Governing Council and, as Dr. Pachachi has just told you, the Governing Council and the CPA hope the U.N. will return to play a role in Iraq, and we hope that happens soon. Jeremy.

Ambassador Greenstock: As the U.K. partner in the Coalition Provisional Authority, we too are very pleased, as CPA, to be back in direct dialogue with the United Nations, whom we have missed very much since the tragic events of August. As a former U.N. practitioner, you can expect me to be very well aware of the experience and expertise that the United Nations can bring to a transition of this kind that Iraq is going through. We in the CPA want the U.N. role to be a very full and independent one for the transitional period; and we want the U.N. team to be up and running by the 1st of July to play that role. We were glad to hear the positive tone from the Secretary General during this morning's discussions when we looked at this prospect, because the United Nations can play an impartial, objective, overseeing role for the whole transitional process through 2005, including two sets of elections during that year. As far as the short term is concerned, the U.K. and the U.S. share the view of the Iraqi Governing Council that it would be a positive move for the U.N. team to come and give advice and guidance of the possibilities for the process in the immediate future. We had a constructive discussion about that. We believe that momentum was added to that prospect by this morning's discussions, and that everybody recognized the need to move as urgently as possible under the terms and the deadlines of the 15 November agreement. Thank you.

Question: Ambassador Bremer, I'd like to ask you, if I may, the same question I asked the Secretary General, which is: I'm sure you're aware, there's a lot of speculation in the press that what you're trying to do here is to persuade the United Nations to help "pull your chestnuts out of the fire," and this process you've set up for July 1st isn't going so well because of Ayatollah Sistani digging in his heels. And therefore you're hoping the U.N. will bring some pressure to bear on him, and will be able to do something to make this process more legitimate. I wonder if you'd like to comment.

Ambassador Bremer: The Secretary General answered that rather well earlier. He took the initiative and called this meeting some time ago in response to a letter he got from the then-president of the Governing Council, who raised the question which, Dr. Pachachi has noted, has been asked by a number of people in Iraq: is it possible to have direct national elections in the timeframe established by the November 15 agreement -- that is to say -- to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people by June 30th? We think that that is a legitimate question, and one where the U.N., with its expertise in elections, can offer a perspective. And that is really the intention now of the discussions we had this morning. And I said earlier, we are pleased that the Secretary General agreed with all seriousness and will all urgency to examine that question. We will begin our technical exchange of information with his officials this afternoon.

Q: (inaudible) I was just wondering, can you do for us as you did for the people of Afghanistan?

Ambassador Bremer: I'm sorry I didn't understand the question, or I didn't hear it.

Q: There are lots of known terrorists in the U.K.; we're quite scared. Is there anything you can do for us, along the lines of what you've been doing for the people of Afghanistan?

Ambassador Bremer: If I understand the question, my answer would be that there are probably no two governments in the world that cooperate as closely than the American and British governments on terrorism. We have had intense cooperation between our two governments on fighting terrorism; it goes back more than 20 years to my personal knowledge, since I've been involved in this for more than 20 years. I don't know; I'm sure that there are ways for us to improve that cooperation, and we'd be happy to do so.

Q: This is a question for Ambassador Bremer. If there is indeed a change to the caucus system before the turning over of sovereignty, do you expect that change to be uniform throughout Iraq, [so] that no matter where you go there is the same kind of change in the caucus system? Or do you think that it will be only in certain areas, in terms of a change in the caucus system? Will that alleviate the concerns of the Grand Ayatollah Sistani in his areas? Thank you.

Ambassador Bremer: We have said repeatedly, and I mentioned this again on Friday, that we are open to clarifications or elaborations on the technique by which the National Assembly will be selected, as provided in the November 15 agreement. I would be remiss if I tried to estimate what kind of clarifications would come out of it. I'm not an elections expert; that's one of the reasons that there will be these technical discussions taking place this afternoon, and I suggest we simply wait until we figure out some of those discussions.

Q: (inaudible) There have been reports of divisions between the Coalition and Governing Council, and the CPA and United Nations. What is

(inaudible) of division?

Ambassador Bremer: I think the meetings this morning were characterized by an extraordinary degree of agreement between the Governing Council and the CPA. I think, indeed being it a private meeting, Dr. Pachachi at one point said that there was a unanimous view between the two of us on moving forward with implementing the November 15 agreement, and in requesting the U.N. to resume its role in Iraq, both in the longer term and in the immediate term. So I don't know what divisions that would be, but there were certainly none evident today.

Ambassador Greenstock: I think there's an important step to add in this

context: that we're all agreed on the package for 2005 in which two sets of direct elections will be held. We are all agreed that the period of the transition should be a period of an Iraqi sovereign government, namely a transitional government, because the elections will produce a fully-fledged, directly elected government at the end of 2005. And we are all agreed that the process for finding that transitional Iraqi government should be as fully representative, transparent and inclusive as possible, with the participation of the Iraqi people. All that is left is to decide on the best method to do that within the timeframe, and that is the subject of further technical discussions. And we hope the methods behind that will be part of the discussions today.

Q: Could you explain how the CPA will work with the team that will be coming from the United Nations to determine if elections would be feasible before the June 30 deadline? And if they come to the determination that indeed elections would be possible, how would that sit with the CPA? How would you reconcile differences on that score?

Ambassador Bremer: Well, first of all, I don't want to prejudge the Secretary General's prerogative to make his decision. If he decides to send a team, which we have asked him to do, the Governing Council and we will work as closely as we can with them, providing them, obviously, with technical assistance, with security and arranging for him to meet people if that's what he needs to do -- whatever assistance they may need. We haven't discussed that level of detail to date. Let us wait and see what they decide before I make statements about what I think about their conclusions. Let's wait and see what their conclusions are, and then we

can move from there. But I think it's a bit premature for you to ask me

what I might think of their conclusions might be when we don't even have the preliminary [discussions concluded] yet.

Q: Ambassador, this morning more than 100,000 people were on the streets demanding elections. What makes you think that sending a U.N. team, or any of these discussions here are going to be able to stop the momentum there, which seems to be moving for elections now or in the shortest possible time? Why do you think that Ayatollah Sistani would listen to the U.N. team? Can this momentum be slowed in demanding those elections now?

Ambassador Bremer: First of all, let me make a comment about the demonstrations. One of the reasons we sent our troops to Iraq was to free them, and to allow them to participate in democracy. And one of the beauties of democracy is freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The demonstrations are actually a healthy sign, they're peaceful demonstrations. And there are something like 200 newspapers that have been formed in Iraq since liberation. There are television stations, radio stations. There are demonstrations all the time. Some of them not always very friendly to the Coalition, I might add, but just the same, we welcome them. Let us see what happens. The interesting thing one sees in the polls is that the Iraqi people do want to have sovereignty back, and they understand that the November 15 arrangement is for sovereignty to return by June 30. And so the question is: how do we get to a -- as [Ambassador] Jeremy [Greenstock] said -- transparent process by which a legislature is chosen, over to whom we can hand sovereignty? And I think the encouraging news from today was that the Secretary General agreed to consider this request very seriously. I think you will see how and when that team comes and what they report, at that point we'll be able to make a judgment on the way forward. But I think we should all be encouraged by the openness with which the Secretary General received this request today.

Q: (inaudible) And my question goes to the CPA: why are you so adamant to have an agreement on security with the Governing Council, and that's according to the November 15 agreement that security arrangements were to be concluded in agreement with the Governing Council, and that should govern your forces in Iraq after the first of July? Why don't you wait for a sovereign government on the 1st of July and give the decision to an elected government, rather than an appointed body?

Ambassador Bremer: We will cooperate with the United Nations as it begins this process of reengaging in Iraq. I suspect that will go through several phases in between now and the 30th of June. Of course, the CPA will dissolve as soon as sovereignty is transferred back to the Iraqi people. So it won't be a question of ceding authority to the U.N.. It will just be a question of what the U.N. role is with that sovereign government. In terms of the security arrangements, it is the view of the Coalition that it would be helpful to have an agreement on how security matters will be arranged after the sovereignty is returned; and you need to reach that agreement for purely military planning terms before sovereignty is returned. Obviously there will be a government in Iraq after that, and we will obey the wishes of that government. We anticipate that after July 1 the Iraqi security forces will not be sufficient to provide security for Iraq on their own, and they will want to invite concerned countries, maybe members of the present coalition, to help them with their security needs in preparation for that before we get to that date. Thank you.

posted 21 January


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