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Bremer Address Reporters at Pentagon

Aired September 26, 2003 - 16:12   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to go to the Pentagon where Iraq's administrator, Paul Bremer, is briefing reporters. It's just gotten under way. Let's go there now.

PAUL BREMER, IRAQ CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR: ... in the first quarter of next year -- the first calendar quarter of next year.

We do not believe that there is anything like this kind of a request that is needed again. This is what we think we need for FY '04.

QUESTION: But FY '05 doesn't start until October of next year.

BREMER: Right.

QUESTION: What if needs arise between now and then?

BREMER: I don't anticipate that.

QUESTION: You don't?


QUESTION: Ambassador Bremer, Secretary of State Powell says he's giving Iraq six months to come up with a government in form. I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit? And something that wasn't clear to me, out of what he said, what happens if you don't have one set up in six months?

BREMER: Well, I think we have to look a little more carefully at what the situation is here. First of all, we have said that we are as interested as the Iraqis are to see a coherent, reasonable process to get back to a sovereign Iraqi government, as quickly as that can be done reasonably.

The pacing item in getting to that point is the convening of a constitutional conference by the Iraqi Governing Council, and the writing of a constitution by that conference.

BREMER: We don't know how long it'll take for them to write the constitution. Six months seems to me a reasonable guess as to how long it will take. But there are no deadlines involved here. What we're talking about is trying to emphasize our interest, which coincides with the Iraqi Governing Council's interest, in moving along. And we hope that the Governing Council, in fact, will convene this constitutional conference quickly and will get on the job of writing the constitution.

We are as anxious as they are to see this period where we're exercising sovereignty end. But it has to be done, as I said in my testimony, in a responsible fashion, which means there has to be a period when the constitution is written.

So I think we could take the six months as a reasonable estimate of what it might take, but we're setting any deadlines at this point.

QUESTION: So if they're not in six months, nothing happens. You just continue to work?

BREMER: Well, we will work, as the president has said, there until the job is done.

My job is to work myself out of a job. I now exercise sovereignty in Iraq, and I would like to pass that on to a sovereign Iraqi government as soon as it can reasonably be done. If it takes them longer than six months to write a constitution, then I'll be there longer than that.

QUESTION: Sir, two questions.

On the six months, explain to us why you think that's a reasonable deadline considering the fact that you all haven't even -- or Iraq has not even decided how it will come up with a constitution, before it even gets to the business of writing a constitution.

And can you give us some insight into what you anticipate the Iraqi operating budget is going to be from FY '05 on out?

BREMER: Yes. Two points on your question.

I explicitly said it was not a deadline. And secondly, I think if you read carefully what the secretary was talking about, he was talking about the period after the convention, the constitutional conference convention, is assembled, how long does it take to write a constitution?

BREMER: You are quite right in saying there is another unknown period which precedes that, which is, when do we see the constitutional conference convened?

The situation is the following: The Governing Council appointed a preparatory committee to study the question of how to convene that constitutional conference. They appointed that preparatory committee on April -- sorry, August 15 and gave them a month.

The bombing in Najaf caused a two-week delay in the work of the council as they had to go through the mourning period and the funeral. So the deadline was extended to September 30.

We, therefore, expect the preparatory committee will report to the Governing Council next week, September 30, this Tuesday. And the question then is how long does the Governing Council consider those recommendations? How complicated are they? What kind of consultations do they have to do? And how long does it take them then to convene a constitutional conference? These are unknowns.

We, obviously, again, would like them to move right along. We think this process can move right along. We are not standing in the way of a rapid return to sovereignty of the Iraqi government, provided it is done in a reasonable and politically sensible way, which means getting a conference together, writing a constitution and holding elections.

WOODRUFF: Paul Bremer, who is the Iraqi administrator from the United States, of course, briefing reporters at the Pentagon saying that the six-month deadline that the administration has put out there is not a hard deadline. It is reasonable to expect, he says, that the Iraqis will be able to get a constitution written. He said we want the Iraqis to govern themselves.


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