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Bremer Speaks to Reporters

Aired November 12, 2003 - 11:10   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to go live now to the White House. And here is Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator, the U.S. civilian administrator to Iraq. Let's listen in.

I've completed some very good discussions in the last couple of days with the president and his advisers. All of these discussions are directed at basically two questions: How do we win the war on terrorism in Iraq? And how do we move toward a sovereign Iraqi government where the Iraqis have responsibility for their own affairs?

We are obviously in a very important period in respect of the latter because of the deadlines that have been laid out in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1511 which require the Iraqi Governing Council to report to the United Nations by December 15th on a plan for a constitution moving toward a full Iraqi sovereignty.

Over the past weeks I have had very good and intense discussions with the governing council and with members of the governing council and other Iraqis as we move toward this deadline. I've had good conversations here in the last couple of days, as I mentioned. And I will now go back to Iraq to continue those conversations with the members of the governing council and the Iraqi government.

BREMER: I'll be taking them a message from the president that he remain steadfast in his determination to defeat terrorism in Iraq and steadfast in his determination to give the Iraqis authority over their country, authority they're already beginning to assume very quickly in the area of security and in the area of running the Iraqi ministries.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, what's your personal level of frustration with the IGC? Is it failing? And specifically what's on the table as you search for alternatives?

BREMER: No, I don't think it's fair to say the IGC is failing. They face a very difficult situation at this time, but the Iraqis are, I think, more and more effective in their assumption of authorities.

We've got an extremely capable group of ministers now who are, and have been since early September, basically running the Iraqi government, responsible for the budget, responsible for policies, responsible for personnel in the Iraqi government. And I have every confidence that we will be able to work with the governing council and with the ministers going forward. QUESTION: Have you decided on a way to accelerate the process of returning sovereignty to the Iraqis? Can you at least give us some idea of what the options are?

BREMER: I'd rather not go into the substance of my discussions with the president and his advisers. The questions before us really relate to how best the governing council -- which is responsible to make these decisions -- how best the governing council can do that.

They will have to make their own decisions on this. And obviously, I'll be going back and continuing those conversations, but I...

QUESTION: In terms of the U.S. support, has the administration changed its position at all on whether or not you can have an interim government before a constitution is written?

BREMER: Well, there are lots of discussions being held in Baghdad, among members of the governing council, a lot of discussions here and there. Let's wait and see what the decisions are that the governing council makes. Those will be their decisions.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, though, whether there's been a change in policy (OFF-MIKE)

BREMER: Because?

QUESTION: Because it's not worth it.

BREMER: No, I don't think that would be an accurate thing to say.

I think we all know that we are in a very intense period here as we come up on the December 15th deadline from the U.N. Security Council.

A lot has been going on in the last month. We've had the supplemental bill pass. We've had the donors conference putting quite a lot of money into Iraq. We have the U.N. Security Council resolution.

There's a lot going on and we need to pull this all together and integrate it into a plan going forward. And that's what I'll be talking to the governing council about.

QUESTION: With regard to the CIA, they've come out with a pretty damning assessment of what's happening in Iraq, suggesting that there is support among ordinary Iraqis for the insurgency because there's growing disillusionment with U.S. troops. What is your response to that? Did that come up? And how do you change that dynamic? Did it come up in your meetings today with (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BREMER: We have obviously a war on terrorism going on and a low- intensity conflict in Iraq. The stakes are very high. The stakes are very high for the war on terrorism and the stakes are very high for moving toward a sovereign Iraqi government. It is a tough situation. I have said repeatedly in my discussions, both private and public, for six months that I am completely confident and optimistic about the outcome in Iraq, but we will face some difficult days, like today when we had the attack on the Italian soldiers in the south.

We're going to have difficult days ahead because the terrorists are determined to deny the Iraqis the right to run their own country. We're not going to let them get away with that.

QUESTION: There is one point though about specific reaction to that, that the CIA has found that there is disillusionment with U.S. troops. Is that the case? And what do you do about that other than saying generally you're going to defeat the terrorists?

BREMER: I think the situation with the Iraqi public is, frankly, not easy to quantify. We've looked at polls. We've talked to people. We make our own assessments.

Obviously, the terrorists are trying to encourage the Iraqi people to believe that the United States is not going to stay the course. They've killed mostly Iraqis, and that's who's been killed by these terrorist attacks. They've tried to target people who cooperate with us -- the Iraqis, they've killed judges, they try to kill policeman.

I don't think that that's going to work. I don't think the Iraqis are going to be intimidated. We're certainly not going to be intimidated.

And I think will find as we go forward as we prosecute this low- intensity conflict, this war on terrorism, as we give the Iraqis responsibility for their political developments, we'll find that the Iraqi people support that.

QUESTION: Apparently, you came with a lot of options that you were going to offer to expedite the political transition. Was any of those agreed upon (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Basically were there any decisions made? And also, is the idea of a provisional authority on the table right now?

BREMER: Let me just say again, I'm not going to go into the substance of some of the discussions. But I want to re-emphasize: It doesn't matter what my options are. What matters is what does the governing council think.

I've been in very intense discussions with the governing council for weeks about the requirement to come forward with a plan. The governing council itself has a number of plans they've been discussing. And it was useful for me to come back and reflect to the president and his advisers what those options might be. They're not my options; they're options put forward by the governing council.

I will now go back and reflect the president's and his advisers' views on the path forward. BREMER: We'll discuss them with the governing council. And, as I said, when the governing council has made a decision on how to go forward, they will make that public, I'm sure.

QUESTION: Given the fact that you're going back to talk to the IGC, does that mean that the provisional authority, that idea, like Afghanistan, is that not an option right now?

BREMER: No. I'm going back to discuss the various ideas the governing council has put forward. And why don't we wait until the governing council -- after all, they're the Iraqis. It's their country. We want to encourage the Iraqis to have more responsibility for their own country. They will make a decision, and at that point we will have something to say.

Last question?

QUESTION: What's your assessment of the situation on the ground? Are Iraqis losing confidence in the occupation (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in your opinion? And this whole idea of the meetings here, does it not speak to a sense of urgency in transferring some sort of sovereignty, some sort of control to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible to at least give the appearance that they are running...

BREMER: Well, let me just say that we have said from the outset that we wanted to transfer authority to the Iraqis as quickly as they were able to assume it, and that is what we have done. We have transferred, as I said earlier -- basically the authority to run the Iraqi government has been with the Iraqi ministers since September.

We have been moving forward to find ways to continue to transfer authority to the Iraqis as they are ready for it. We think they've made a lot of progress on that. I have made proposals to transfer more authority to the Iraqi Governing Council. And that is the backdrop for all of these discussions.

It is, after all, a country that belongs to the Iraqi people, and we would like to move forward to carry out the president's vision of a democratic, independent Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and that's one of the reasons we want to give them authority now, to carry that out.

Thank you.

KAGAN: Not a lot of nuggets information there from the U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer. Perhaps what's most news worthy is his appearance here in Washington, D.C. Summoned here to meet with the president and members of the National Security Council.


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