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Interview With Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari

Aired June 28, 2004 - 03:47   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we can now go to the Interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is joining us live from Istanbul. Mr. Zebari, many thanks for being with us here on CNN. The world wants to know when did you decide to bring forward the official handover of power in Iraq?
HOSHIYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, the official date of the handover is June 30 and we are very close to that date. What I said, in fact, that we are ready as the new Iraqi interim government to assume our responsibilities, especially now we have a new security council resolution, and international community in those things. There's transfer of power and sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government.

And we as Iraqis are confident and want to demonstrate that we are ready to do that soon as possible, even before the date of June 30 and our friends back in Baghdad are thinking of this. And I'm going back to Baghdad today after participating in the NATO summit in Istanbul. And we presented our case. We asked the members of the organization to provide support and assistance, especially training for the Iraqi military and security forces and helping us with equipment.

So we are confident, in fact, we wanted to demonstrate to the world that we are ready to assume our full responsibilities. Most of the ministries have now regained their independence. They have been transferred to Iraqis. The Iraqi would be in the -- in the lead from now on. And we are ready.

GORANI: When did you decide this? Some reports say up to a week ago you decided this surprise handover of power for today instead of Wednesday?

ZEBARI: Well, it's been ongoing actually. I mean since the formation of the new Iraqi interim government we have been discussing with the Prime Minister, with other ministries, even with the CPA, that really the process is moving on and we should not stick to fixed deadline, if we are ready before that let's do it. And if you will recall, the Governing Council dissolved itself a month before its mandate expired. And this is a sign that really mean that Iraqis want to get on the job and move forward.

CAMPION: So Mr. Zebari, can you deny that the transfer was brought forward to avoid the possibility of sabotage? ZEBARI: No. I think that sabotage really would be there for some with us. And this is a political struggle we are engaged. I mean our adversaries, the -- some bombers, the terrorists, the anti- democratic forces wanted to create as much chaos as possible for the new interim government to be seen as an extension of the occupation.

While, our agenda is now to move forward, and prove to the Iraqi people, to the world, that we are in charge, that we can assume our responsibilities and manage our own security. We can defend ourselves provided we are given the means, the support, to do that.

CAMPION: So what do you actually need in terms of having the resources to control Iraq in a secure and safe way. I mean, you're at NATO summit to discuss exactly this. What do you need? What commitments have you have in specific terms about who will train who and when and where?

ZEBARI: Yes. See a specific request was submitted to the foreign ministry meeting (ph) who says we need a clear political support, a statement of political support in light of the new security council resolution, the formation of the new Iraqi interim government, the transfer of sovereignty.

Second, we requested that we need training by the organization as a -- for our military, for our security service inside Iraq. And thirdly, we requested also to support us with equipment with certain ITC's, with certain vehicles, communication, border control technology, some time of weapon. So we will be able to move faster than what we have been doing so far.

CAMPION: Now, Foreign Minister, you say you're in charge now, but you don't have an army, or really any security force. And you have about 135,000 foreign soldiers in your country. When do you think would be a good time for the Iraqi government to really be on its own, and ask the U.S. and coalition forces to leave?

ZEBARI: Well we have an army. We are building that army. And our coalition forces are helping us with that. We have established our security service. We have established our intelligence services. And we are working very hard day and night, you see, to upgrade it, to increase the capacity. As for the coalition forces, it was our request from the security council that we need their continued presence and support, because the situation is still fraught with danger.

So they are there at our request, with our consent. And whenever we feel that we are going to be in control, and we have built our military, our security forces, then it will be up to the new Iraqi government to decide to terminate that presence. But at the moment, I think, everybody agrees that we need the continued support and presence of the coalition forces.

CAMPION: Just, you know, in that regard then, I mean what authority due coalition forces now need in your view, to act, firstly in their own defense, in defensive situations. And secondly, if they consider as has happened in recent days and weeks, that a certain location is housing people who may consider insurgents.

ZEBARI: Well our relations with the multinational forces, is going to be one of partnership. And in fact, our command, the military command, the defense ministry, the interior ministry are going to liaise (ph) and coordinate and cooperate very closely with the multinational forces, and the coalitions who our inside Iraq.

And this is a process. We share the same goal, the same objectives. Those element (ph) terrorists, being Saddamists, anti- democratic forces, are really targeting Iraqis now more than coalitions. And they are killing more Iraqis just to create as much suffering and pain as possible. And this is a fact that everybody should realize and recognize. But their relation would be smooth, I think, it will be cooperative, and it's a partnership.

GORANI: Now, just a question on what you make of analysis that after the handover insurgents, instead of targeting coalition forces will target Iraqi security forces. And this will lead to almost a civil war scenario in Iraq. What do you make of that analysis?

ZEBARI: Well civil war has not happened, and we believe it will not happen, because all of the Iraqis are committed, determined to work to build a different country. And really, those who are counting on Iraq going to be divided to the semblance (ph) of civil war in and chaos (ph), I think, should revise their assessments.

All of the Iraqis are committed. They are working together. We have a political process that is wide open, transparent. Soon, we will have a national conference to involve many more Iraqis in the process. We have a chance for elections with the support of the United Nations.

So I personally don't think that the possibilities of civil war is there. Yes, there are many security challenges. We have some very deadly terrorist networks operating there. But we are going to face -- to rise up to our responsibilities and face those challenges.

CAMPION: Does Iraq have the money that it needs, the necessary sovereign funds as an independent country to operate and to, you know, control its military forces? You know, do you -- in a context of all of the money that is claimed is owed by Iraq to the European Union, the United States, -- we heard something about that from a summit in Ireland over the weekend. But, you know, do you have the money that you need to spend on infrastructure?

ZEBARI: Well we are doing our best, actually, and as you know our main source of revenue is oil exports. And that has been targeted really by the enemies of the new Iraq the sabotage in the south, and the north. And we are doing our best to overcome these difficulties.

And we have the support from many donor countries who have come and pledged. Some of them have delivered, some are still not delivering. I think we will be able to manage that. It's a huge task, and we need the continued support of the international community. But this is a temporary situation. I think Iraq is a rich country and I think it will be able to make ends meet. CAMPION: Mr. Zebari, just before we let you go -- we're grateful for your being on CNN today -- do you have an idea of what the future holds for Saddam Hussein?

ZEBARI: Well the understanding that we have with the coalition forces, with the CPA that Saddam is going to be handed over to the Iraqis and to face justice. And he will have a fair trial, and a public trial, I hope. And we are not afraid of whatever revelation he's going to make. I think we have more against him. So that is the understanding. But, in fact, this has to be worked out and coordinated very closely between us and the coalition who are holding him now.

CAMPION: OK. Hoshiyar Zebari is Iraqi Foreign Minister. Mr. Zebari, many thanks for joining us on CNN in the morning, on the day which Iraq became a sovereign country.

GORANI: All right. And of course the hand over ceremony, as we've been reporting in our breaking news coverage brought forward by two days in a surprise hand over ceremony. It was, of course, supposed to happen June 30. That was the date that we had been given for months and months. And it happened today in a ceremony at the convention center in the green zone.

The Coalition Provisional Authority does not exist anymore. It is now an interim Iraqi government. And you can see those pictures, the Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar, the Iraqi Prime Minister of the Interim Government, Ayad Allawi, as well as L. Paul Bremer, the ex- civil administrator in Iraq.

CAMPION: This all happening about one hour and 40 minutes ago, 7:26 local time in Baghdad was the moment at which the Iraqi government assumed sovereignty -- 10:26, I beg your pardon, of course, local time in Baghdad. You've been watching breaking news on CNN.

GORANI: All right. We're going to take a short break we'll be back in a few seconds.


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