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Interview on Free Iraq TV/Radio Sawa with Mouafac Harb

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
April 24, 2003

MR. HARB: Thank you for your time, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

MR. HARB: Do you want to start with a message for the --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, let me say how very pleased I am to be on this program, and especially for the first time to have an opportunity to speak directly to the Iraqi people and to let them know how proud we are to be their partners now in this post-liberation period where they are free. And they will find that the coalition forces that are there are there to help them, to help them build new lives, to rebuild the infrastructure of their country, to put in place new ministries that will serve them, to make sure that their oil wealth is used by them, for them.

And so this is a great, great effort that we are embarked upon now, and General Franks and General Garner are committed to the task of helping the Iraqi people put in place a democratic government that will now serve the people and not serve a dictator.

MR. HARB: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, today, the Iraqi armed forces are either destroyed or neutralized. The Baath Party is out of power, at least for the time being. The leadership of that party is either on the run or maybe some of them are under ground or something, or in custody. What is next for the Iraqis?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think what we have to do now is to stabilize the country and provide security for the people, and that's what coalition forces will be doing with free Iraqi fighters and police forces that are slowly being rebuilt, without the old regime being on top of these police forces.

And as we do this rebuilding of institutions -- security institutions, police institutions, the various ministries of government -- we will also be developing new leadership within Iraq. The meetings that we'll be holding around the country under the direction of Ambassador Khalilzad, the President's Special Envoy, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker from the State Department will be for the purpose of letting each region identify its own leaders, as well as integrating those who had been in external opposition and are now returning to the country to help in the rebuilding process.

So the Baath Party evil leadership, all of those are responsible for the devastation of Iraq over the last 20 years. They're all gone and they will be replaced by leaders who have been selected by the people of Iraq, not by the United States and not by anyone else. The Iraqi people now are free to choose their own leaders. And we will help them in the process of creating a democratic system.

MR. HARB: Some critics in the Arab region, or to some extent sometimes in Washington, are saying that Washington in not interested in really true democracy in Iraq, but rather a system that is moderate, similar to the neighboring countries' ruling system. How would you respond to that?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's simply an incorrect charge. If you see what we have been doing, we have been in touch with leaders throughout Iraq. General Garner is going to be spending the next several weeks meeting with different groups of leaders, whether they are engineers or doctors and educators, to get their ideas. Ambassador Khalilzad and Ambassador Crocker will be holding political meetings on a regional basis, not for the purpose of going into a meeting with 50 leaders and saying, "You're the leader, you're in charge," but to allow those 50 leaders, or 100, or however many people gather, to discuss among themselves the hopes and aspirations they have for Iraq; and then from that group, people start saying, "I trust this man and I want him to be one of the leaders of the new interim Iraqi authority."

And from that interim Iraqi authority, the coalition will help develop it, help put it in place, and we will slowly give authority to it as it demonstrates its ability to handle that authority. And it will ultimately grow into a full government, and when that day comes and the full government is up and functioning with all of its institutions intact, the United States will say, "Well, we've finished our job here, it's time to go home."

MR. HARB: It sounds like a process that part of the world is not familiar with in terms of selecting its leaders. Are you under any pressure from the neighboring countries to ease down a little bit of this democratic process?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no. We've made it clear to the neighboring countries that this is what it's all about. And there is experience. I mean, Turkey is a Muslim country that has a democratic system. Pakistan, after years of difficulty, is now on a firm footing and a path to a democratic system with a new prime minister and a new parliament. And so just because one is in an Arab country or one is practicing the Muslim faith, to suggest that therefore you are denied the benefits of democracy, I think is a false -- it's a false choice. Democracy can coexist with any faith.

MR. HARB: Today, Iraq doesn't have representation at the United Nations or in any international arena. And as you know, a lot of border disputes between Iraq and some of its neighbor countries. Are you willing to push for a resolution at the United Nations or even make a commitment that the territorial integrity of Iraq is preserved by the coalition forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have made that clear from the very beginning. The President has said in almost every statement he's ever given on the subject that our goal is to make sure there is one Iraq, not three Iraqs, not four Iraqs, and preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq as we know Iraq today. And whether or not this gets put into a resolution or not, we will see as we move forward. But it certainly is a strong principle that we are following.

MR. HARB: Some of the footage that we are seeing from Iraq looks a little bit like the early days of the Iranian Revolution. Are you concerned about the Iranian -- growing Iranian influence in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are watching it and we have expressed to the Iranians our concern that while people are expressing their views among the Shiite community in the southern part of the country especially, and we know that there's some movement in from Iran, we would not like to see Iran try to get undue influence and essentially start inserting its own agenda onto Iraq. Iraq must be for Iraqis, not Iranians. That's what territorial integrity means.

MR. HARB: Would you oppose a Shia leader in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's up the Iraqi people. It's not up to the United States. We expect that the kind of government that we would like to see, and we believe the Iraqi people would like to see, would allow any one of the various groups in Iraq to compete in the open place of democracy and become elected the president or the prime minister of a new Iraq.

MR. HARB: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.


Released on April 24, 2003

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