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Richard Armitage Interview by Radio Sawa

Interview by Radio Sawa

Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC March 18, 2003

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, some people are criticizing U.S. diplomacy for failing to engage in a proactive diplomacy or to even anticipate the behavior of Security Council members, which led to what happened. How would you respond to those who are criticizing U.S. policy at this time?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I thought that the success as embodied in the 15-0 on 1441 Security Council Resolution was a fantastic effort. No one could have predicted, I think, that one particular nation, France, would have said they were going to veto no matter what. So it didn't matter what resolution the Security Council came up with, the French were set, bound and determined to veto it because they are more interested, apparently, in constraining the United States than they were in disarming Saddam Hussein. So we consider the diplomatic course now over. And the decision, as our President indicated last night lies in Saddam Hussein's hands. Will he leave or not?

QUESTION: Outside the Security Council some people are also saying the way that we dealt with the issue of Turkey, today where do we stand on this kind of thing? Was it a big surprise, Turkey?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, Turkey is a great democracy, and when you have the democracy you have to accept the outcome of democratic decisions. I will note that yesterday Secretary Powell had two conversations with the new foreign minister and deputy prime minister Gul, and it's clear to us that the Turkish Government is reconsidering their previous answers to the United States and I think there's a good reason for optimism as we move forward.

QUESTION: Do we have time for that? Can we wait? The President said 48 hours.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think the process in Turkey is timely enough to allow them to be a meaningful member of the coalition if they want to. I would note that hey have been helpful to us in a great way with Operation Northern Watch and with some of -- some necessary activities that will remain unremarked upon, so they are a member of the coalition, they can be an even greater member of the coalition. I think there's time enough for them to make that decision.

QUESTION: The President put some blame, yesterday, on the Security Council for failing to step up to its responsibility. Are we entering a new era or is the United States, as some people are criticizing the U.S., operating in a different international legitimacy system?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we were clearly disappointed with the activities of some nations on the Security Council, as I suggested, who were more interested in constraining the United States and Great Britain than they were in disarming Saddam Hussein. But I would note that the statement of the four leaders who took part in the transatlantic summit in the Azores made it very clear that we expect and envision a large role for the United Nations as we move forward in the post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

QUESTION: The President mentioned two days ago something about interim Iraqi authority. Is that a new development in the way we think in the post-Saddam era?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we want to make the point very graphically that Iraq belongs Iraqis and all the resources of Iraq belongs to Iraqis, not to foreigners. And it is our view that the more quickly we stand up an interim Iraqi authority, which consists of internal opposition, external opposition members representing all the various groupings in Iraq, the better off we'll be. And this, over time, will lead to a much more representational and, we hope, democratically elected government.

QUESTION: What are the U.S. plans to avoid a political vacuum in Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, the interim Iraqi authority is part of that answer. Some United Nations involvement will be another part. But I think the real thing we're driving for is some sort of internationally recognized process, which will bring true democracy and representative government to Iraq. And we need to do that in a rather rapid fashion.

QUESTION: So is that a new way -- did we give up the idea of having an American commander for Iraq at this time?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We're not interested in an American commander for Iraq. Once we've accomplished our goals, which is: making the region safe from weapons of mass destruction and ensuring stability so that ethnic strife and ethnic tensions don't rear their heads, then we would be looking forward to turning Iraq over to Iraqis.

QUESTION: Would the Iraqi opposition play a role in this Iraqi internal authority?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Would the Iraqi opposition?

QUESTION: The prior Iraqi, the INC and --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes, indeed. Yes, the diaspora opposition as well as the internal opposition. One must not overlook the internal opposition who have actually suffered so much as they have opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein. And we expect many of the fine leaders of the future to come from the Internal opposition, but of course, the External opposition has kept the faith alive from the outside and they have a role, too.

QUESTION: The countdown for the 48 hours started at 8:00 p.m. yesterday. We have, like, 30 hours to go. Where are we today? Do we detect any movement in Iraq, in the Arab League -- any activities going on right now?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No. I've seen no new movement. I've seen a statement out of Iraq alleging that Saddam Hussein and his sons are set to stay put, but I've seen no other diplomatic action and the clock is ticking.

QUESTION: Any development in the neighboring Arab countries of Iraq in the past few days? Are they pro? Against? Are they starting to understand?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that most of the neighbors of Iraq in the region have, first of all, they have no lost love for Saddam Hussein and they realize that the region will be a much more vibrant place without him and his ilk in Baghdad. But there are always fears of the unknown. But having said that, I think there are somewhat comforted by our transparent plans to have an interim Iraqi authority and our making the point that we're not interested at all in the occupation of Iraq. We're only interested in turning over Iraq to Iraqis -- and that includes all the resources of Iraqis.

QUESTION: Final question. If the conflict is to be resolved militarily, how would you anticipate it to go? Do you think it's going to be a quick war? What's your assessment?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I have every confidence both in the skill and expertise of our servicemen and women and those of coalition members. I also have every confidence in their ability to execute military actions while having the highest regard to avoid civilian casualties. And I think it will be done relatively quickly and we talk generally, in terms of weeks and not months.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you very much. [End]

Released on March 18, 2003

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