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Meetings Discussing Post War Iraqi Government

Aired March 28, 2003 - 03:49   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair say there is no timetable in the war in Iraq. That came after strategy meetings at Camp David. Now they urged the U.N. to resume Iraq's Oil For Food Program. They also looked ahead to a post war Iraq.
Well that may be so, but for more commentary, we're going to get White House correspondent Chris Burns in to talk a little bit about this.

Chris, both Tony Blair and George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush seem in pretty much agreement on what a post war Iraq is going to look like. Do we -- do we have a sense of what it's going to look like?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well the sense is -- the agreement, in any case, is that it would go from a military authority, of course the U.S., British coming in and taking over, and trying to hand over as quickly as possible this authority to some kind of an interim transitional government.

The question is now well how are they going to make up that government? A very, very delicate question because you've got -- you don't want to alienate the Iraqis within Iraq, you don't want to alienate the Iraqi exiles who would like to come back and join this -- join in the government, as they've been talking in various places in the U.S., in Britain, in -- and also in northern Iraq. They've had numerous meetings. Failed to really agree on exactly how that government should look.

And it does appear that the Bush administration and the Blair government would like to try to avoid being too specific, at this point, until they see exactly, according to a senior administration official here says that they want to see exactly how things look on the ground after the conflict before they commit to anything like that.

Also keep in mind, you've got a lot of Iraqi bureaucrats, a lot of people in government in Iraq and the -- and the Bush administration is making noises they would like to incorporate some of those people who are not political but who are competent bureaucrats. There is a state system there in Iraq that the -- that the government could be built on top of without having to purge a lot of bureaucrats who could be very well able in helping to rebuild the country. COOPER: And, Chris, I guess that's the argument brought forth by those who say that the U.N. should not have as big a role in a post war Iraq as perhaps they have had in say an East Timor, in a Kosovo, because there is that infrastructure, there is that bureaucracy still in tact.

BURNS: Exactly. And there is actually the -- it's our understanding that a lot of Iraqi exiles would like to avoid a large U.N. involvement in this kind of thing because they don't want that in the way of trying to rebuild the government.

On the other hand, keep in mind that this aspect of the international aspect in rebuilding Iraq, you don't want to look -- make it look like an enduring occupation force of the British and the Americans. You want to quickly make it look like it's an international effort involving a lot of countries and that meaning going through the U.N. So some kind of U.N. blessing to what that effort would be.

Could it look something like a Hamid Karzai government that we see in this transitional government that we see in Afghanistan? That is what some administration officials are referring to. That could be a model for what might happen in Iraq.

COOPER: Right. Chris, final question, you know we hear now from this variety of opposition groups. I think four opposition groups met in Kurdish-controlled territory. They talk about forming a provisional government. That is certainly of concern, it would seem, to some U.S. officials and looks like the British officials as well. Are you hearing anything sort of behind the scenes, off the record about the way the administration views these Iraqi opposition figures?

I mean I remember a famous quote, I can't -- I think it was from Wolfowitz, can't really remember exactly, but sort of saying that you know they, you know what, he's never seen an opposition group which had such like nice silk suits and Rolex watches. The big question was how much they really represent things on the ground.

BURNS: Exactly. I can attest to that because I went to at least one meeting in London with some of these former Iraqi military leaders and others who had -- or were essentially seen as kind of a country club set living in Surrey, England and now they would like to go back to Iraq to govern the country. Would they be accepted by the Iraqi people? That's a big question. On the other hand, that you do need some kind of support from these people who do have contacts inside Iraq.

It's a delicate balance. You've got to work with the Iraqis inside and outside Iraq. Keep in mind, of course, the divisions, the ethnic divisions, within the country. Of course you know the Kurds in the north, the Shiites in the south and then of course the Sunis in and around Baghdad. So a very delicate balance that the British and the Americans are going to try to have to strike in rebuilding this government in this country, and it's going to take a lot of help from other countries as well.

COOPER: All right, interesting. Chris Burns, thanks, in Washington.


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