26 March 2003
Powell Wants To Set Up Iraqi Interim Authority "As Soon As Possible"
Tells India's Doordarshan TV that U.S. does not seek to impose democracy
The United States wants to have an Iraqi interim authority in place "as soon as possible" after the armed conflict with Saddam Hussein's regime comes to a conclusion, said Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Powell, interviewed March 26 by Doordarshan Television of India, said that he wants the interim government to be made up of Iraqi exiles "who have been part of the liberation struggle," as well as those who have remained inside the country.
"And, as that authority grows and gets greater credibility from the people of Iraq, we want to turn over more and more responsibilities to them," from the coalition military commander in charge of the country at the immediate conclusion of the fighting.
Powell said the United States does not intend to impose democracy upon the countries of the Middle East, saying that each individual nation "will have to find its own way."
But, he said, "the Middle East should be as open to the process of democratization as anywhere else on earth. We believe democracy is a system that allows all of the people in the country to express their view," and said a democratic Iraq could be an example to others, just as Indian democracy is now.
Using the case of Afghanistan as an example, Powell said the United States "simply didn't impose Hamid Karzai on the people," but that Afghan representatives had selected him and reaffirmed him in the June 2002 Loya Jirga.
"[I]n ... about a year's time, the people of Afghanistan will be given the choice to elect who they wish their president to be, whether it is Mr. Karzai or someone else. So the United States didn't impose; we helped free forces. We helped free political figures in Afghanistan determine how they would be led," said Powell.
Powell said he regretted the loss of innocent Iraqi civilian lives in coalition military strikes and that "we do everything we can to avoid that."
"We fully understand that after these battles are over, we want to work with the population, not alienate them," he said.
Following is a transcript of Secretary Powell on Doordarshan Television of India:
U.S. Department Of State
Question: Welcome to the show, Mr. Secretary. This is Saeed Naqvi and Doordarshan, New Delhi, India.
Secretary Powell: Thank you very much, sir.
Question: Mr. Secretary, now that you -- now that you are confident -- and who is not -- that, eventually, you will prevail in Baghdad. Will the interim administration be a United States administration, will it be General Tommy Franks, or will it be a United Nations administration?
Secretary Powell: Initially, as the battle comes to a conclusion, it will have to be the military commander who is in charge, in order to stabilize the country again, in order to make sure that humanitarian supplies are coming in, to make sure we are getting rid of the weapons of mass destruction and to protect the population during this period of dislocation.
But as soon as possible, we want to have working alongside the commander an interim Iraqi authority, people representing the people of Iraq. Some of them will be from outside of the country, who have been part of the liberation struggle. But many of them will be from inside the country. And, as that authority grows and gets greater credibility from the people of Iraq, we want to turn over more and more responsibilities to them.
The United Nations will have a role to play. We are in consultation with the United Nations. I had two conversations with Kofi Annan yesterday. Dr. Condoleezza Rice, our National Security Advisor, met with Kofi Annan, and we are working with our coalition partners to structure the proper roles of the United Nations. And we are talking to our Security Council colleagues on what resolutions might be appropriate.
Question: But your principal ally, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, is under pressure that it should be the United Nations, or some such body from the very beginning. How are you coping with that pressure?
Secretary Powell: Well, we expect to have a UN coordinator into the region, into the Baghdad, as soon as possible. We believe there is certainly a role for the United Nations. And, as you know, Prime Minister Blair is coming to Washington to meet with President Bush this very day. And he, and President Bush, and Foreign Secretary Straw and I, will be discussing this entire issue up at Camp David tomorrow.
I think we all understand there has to be a role for the United Nations. There has to be international legitimacy for all of the actions that we are taking. And we will work our way through this. I don't think there is a difference, a major difference between the view of the Prime Minister, and the view of the President. But we have been in close contact with our British colleagues to work our way through this. And if there are differences, the two leaders will have a chance to discuss those tomorrow. But I think we are more in agreement, than we are in any high level of disagreement.
Question: Sir, you and your various colleagues in Washington have talked individually, a representative government in Iraq, a sort of real democracy. Now, will a democracy in Iraq not be some kind of a hole in that region where, in fact, you need democracy all around that place? Is it the beginning of a process?
Secretary Powell: Each nation will have to find its own way. We have spoken out clearly that we believe that the Middle East should be as open to the process of democratization as anywhere else on earth. We believe democracy is a system that allows all of the people in the country to express their view. And if we can put in place a functioning democracy in Iraq, and we are committed to that, and believe we can do it, then perhaps it can be an example to other nations in the region of the direction in which they wish to move.
But it is not a case, it is not the fact that the United States now intends to go imposing democracy on every country in the region. We believe if we can start here, and with the example of what democracy can do -- India is perhaps one of the greatest examples on the face of the earth -- this will move more and more nations in the region, and in the world toward that model of representative government.
Question: To revert to the war situation on the ground there, by bombing urban centers like Basra, and sort of artillery action there, you are ensuring two things: A, that you have no casualties, and that actually now that you don't mind if there are civilian casualties in these urban centers.
Secretary Powell: I don't think that is an accurate assessment. If we wanted to just take Basra, we could have destroyed Basra. That is not what we are doing. What the coalition forces are doing are responding to attacks that are coming at them from specific sites within Basra; or, for example, yesterday, we fired back at mortar positions that were firing, not only at us, but at the civilian population of Basra.
So we are being very, very careful to only strike those targets that are related to the military that is opposing us. And so, there has been no wholesale destruction of Basra. We are very careful. And that is the way in which this campaign is being conducted, not only in Basra, but in Baghdad, and other places. That does not mean that, regrettably, there is not some loss of innocent life. We do regret that, and then we do everything we can to avoid that.
We use precision weapons. We make sure we know what we are firing at. And so, that is the way this campaign is being conducted, carefully, and with a high premium on minimizing collateral damage and doing everything we can to avoid loss of innocent life. We fully understand that after these battles are over, we want to work with the population, not alienate them.
And so we hope they are taking cover during the course of this battle. So, that is, we deal with those forces that are still trying to keep in place this despotic regime, when we deal with them, and eliminate them, and bring peace to that region, and end the battle. People will come out and see that minimum damage has been done to their city, to their facilities, to their infrastructure, and we can all get about the task of rebuilding.
Question: During Afghanistan, there was not much of an army, and there isn't much now after the -- after you have installed Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul. Now, in Iraq, on the other hand, there is a professional army. If you are going to smash that army, how is that country going to be held together, except by General Tommy Franks?
Secretary Powell: Initially, General Franks and his other commanders in the coalition have to take control of the country in order to stabilize it, secure the population and make sure people are being taken care of, and allow the flow of humanitarian supplies to come in. But we understand that quickly we will have to have in place police forces and a military that is no longer being led by stooges of the regime, but is there to protect the people and protect the sovereignty of the country working with the coalition, until we can put in place a new government that will reflect the will of all of the people and will eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and a new government that will use the treasure of Iraq, its oil treasure, to benefit the people, and not for the purpose of developing weapons of mass destruction or threatening its neighbors.
So we will have to deal with those forces that are opposing us. But those forces that are not opposing us, that choose not to fight us, are the basis for a future Iraqi army, just like we are creating a new army in Afghanistan that is representative of the people, and responsive to the people in helping to secure its country. And we simply didn't impose Hamid Karzai on the people of Afghanistan. He was selected in an open process in Bonn, in Germany, during the course of that conflict. And when he got into Afghanistan, and took over, and we started to bring the government up and give it the capacity to govern Afghanistan, a Loya Jirga was held with the people of Afghanistan, reaffirmed their support of Hamid Karzai.
And in less than a year's time, or about a year's time, the people of Afghanistan will be given the choice to elect who they wish their president to be, whether it is Mr. Karzai or someone else. So the United States didn't impose; we helped free forces. We helped free political figures in Afghanistan determine how they would be led.
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