15 February 2004
United States Firm on Iraq Sovereignty by June 30
Coalition force presence likely for some time, Bremer says
By Bridget Hunter
Washington File Staff Writer
The United States remains committed to a June 30 deadline for
return of sovereignty to Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer said on
television interviews broadcast February 15.
Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in
Iraq, told both ABC's George Stephanopoulus and CNN's Judy Woodruff
that the June 30 date established by President Bush in his State
of the Union Address would be met.
In the interviews, Bremer declined to lay out the specific mechanism
for restoring sovereignty to Iraq, saying the next steps lie with
the United Nations and the report expected in the near future from
U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. The ambassador noted that many options
for creating an independent governing body were available -- direct
elections, caucuses, or partial elections -- but declined to endorse
any of them.
"We're going to wait and see what he [the U.N. envory] says
when he issues his report," Bremer said, adding that he hoped
the report would be available in seven to 10 days.
The ambassador said that the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi
does not mean the coalition forces are going to depart in the near
future. "We're not going to walk away," Bremer said,
explaining that Iraq's ongoing security threats would require an
international presence "for some time to come."
Bremer said the United States looks forward to having a presence
in Iraq as "invited guests" rather than an occupying
Helping establish a democratic, secure, peaceful Iraq will be
time-consuming, Bremer acknowledged, but said the United States
was prepared for a "long commitment."
The ambassador said that, in the wake of the Saddam Hessian regime,
Iraq remained "a fragmented society," but observed that,
in his opinion, "remarkably little of the sectarian violence" encouraged
by extremists seemed to be taking hold.
Bremer characterized the current violence in Iraq as two-dimensional,
with one component arising from al Qaeda-related terrorism and
the other from members of the deposed regime. While the latter
type has targeted mainly coalition forces, the former has been
responsible for the majority of Iraqi deaths, Bremer said.
When asked how American popular opinion, particularly the increasing
skepticism regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction,
affected his current efforts in Iraq, Bremer responded by pointing
to a key success: "We freed 25 million people from one of
the most vicious tyrannies of the 20th century."