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Armitage Interview by Ralitsa Vasiliva of CNNI

Interview by Ralitsa Vasiliva of CNNI

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC April 7, 2003

(9:15 a.m. EDT)

MS. VASILIVA: Mr. Armitage, thank you very much for joining us.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you very much.

MS. VASILIVA: Well, what those talks are expected to focus on is very much the timing. When will a new Iraqi administration be declared? What can you tell us about how soon that will be declared?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think events on the ground will dictate the pace of any such declaration. Clearly, as our major coalition partner, along with Australia, Great Britain has strong views, and our President will be delighted to discuss them with Mr. Blair at Hillsborough Castle.

MS. VASILIVA: Would that be even before President Saddam Hussein is toppled, or will the United States wait for that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it occurs to me that we're seeing the last violent gasp of a dying regime now. In theory, it's not necessary to have 100 percent of the country free to set up an interim Iraqi authority. But these are things, as I say, will be dictated by the pace of events on the ground. I think from this distance, right today, it's difficult to predict.

MS. VASILIVA: What will it take for the United States to declare that administration?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, the United States is not going to declare it. That's the first thing. No coalition members are. This is going to have to be a government of, for and by Iraqis. Now, certainly as we move forward, the interim Iraqi authority would, and leaders of such an authority, would be developed in consultation with coalition members. But if we put our thumb on the scale, if we tried to dictate who will be the leader, even in the interim phase of Iraq, we may fail, and that would be a terrible tragedy after all this blood and treasure has been expended.

MS. VASILIVA: I'm sorry to interrupt. You say the United States will be deciding that, but the United States will initially set up an administration, which will be governed by Lieutenant General Jay Garner and he will also be -- he will also have a civilian administration. He will put in charge Americans who will be guiding the ministries of Iraq -- a civilian administration.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, coalition members will also be part of General Garner's mission, and you're right, we're going to have senior advisors to various ministries. But in the initial days, the task of General Garner is to provide initial goods and services to the people of liberated Iraq, and that's where his first concentration will be.

MS. VASILIVA: How long is General Garner expected to remain there, remain in charge?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: General Garner's whole mission is to work himself and his colleagues out of a job as quickly as possible. I can't predict how many months. But we will be, along with coalition partners, in close consultation with Iraqis, both free Iraqis and those who have recently been liberated and those who have fought so hard under the regime of Saddam Hussein for liberation. And I think the leadership will be developed in consultation with us.

MS. VASILIVA: There have been differences as to what the makeup should be, differences between the State Department and the Pentagon, with the State Department wanting more Iraqi exiles like those from the Iraqi National Congress to be included in running the country, while the State Department has not been very supportive of that. Has that been resolved, and who will be in that interim Iraqi authority?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think this has been resolved. Clearly, those who for 20 years in the diaspora worked hard for liberation have a role to play in the future of Iraq, likewise those internal oppositionists who fought and many cases suffered under Saddam Hussein. But one thing is crystal clear, that the Iraq of the future is going to have to have representative government which has Sunni and Shi a, which has -- takes into account and has representation of Kurds, Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians. And if we are able to develop such a transparent government, I think there will be a good future for Iraq.

MS. VASILIVA: Iraq does not have many traditions in democracy. Do you think that democracy in the Western sense could work for Iraq? It has had a culture based on tribal affinity, on ethnic, on religious affinity. It's a very, very complex pattern of relations. How are you going to manage that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think you're right, that there is exactly a complex system of relationships. But it is our feeling that a basic yearning for democracy, in whatever form -- and there are many forms of democracy -- is something that is basic and inside of every human being. Now, we will not be able, nor should we try, to dictate the exact form or shape of that democracy.

MS. VASILIVA: Regarding, including the exiles, some analysts have said that they might not be accepted by the Iraqi people who have lived under the rule of Saddam Hussein. What are your thoughts on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, my thoughts are that time will tell. They certainly have a lot to offer the future of Iraq, in many cases great educations, strong views, and access, in some cases, to Western ideas and capital. But it will be Iraqis themselves who determine who is fit for future governance.

MS. VASILIVA: I wanted to ask you about the UN role. That is not determined. It is a point of contention between Europe and the United States. We expect the Prime Minister of Britain to ask President Bush to give the United Nations a bigger role in and a bigger say in governing the country. What is the United States going to do about that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, Secretary Powell and President Bush have both spoken with Kofi Annan in the last couple of days. I believe the Prime Minister of Great Britain has, as well. There is no question that there should be an appropriate role for the United Nations. I am not sure that Secretary General Annan wants to inherit an entire nation to run, but cutting out the -- or developing the appropriate role for the United Nations is exactly the type of thing that the President and the Prime Minister are discussing.

MS. VASILIVA: Why not use the Afghan model, where you have a discussion, you have a UN umbrella, you have a United Nations officer running the country, you have Iraqis themselves deciding who will govern them?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, Afghan is a model and Kosovo is another model. East Timor is another. But Iraq resembles none of those three. Iraq was a state and is a state. It's not a failed state like Afghanistan, it's not a new state like East Timor, and it's not a non-state like Kosovo. So it will have its own unique attributes. And a lot of the agencies of the United Nations have a very fine role to play and we'll, as we move forward, develop that role.

MS. VASILIVA: But is it going to be strictly a humanitarian role for the United Nations, or will it be more? Will it be included in governing the country?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think these are questions that will be decided as we move forward. If an Iraqi interim authority is stood up quickly and well by Iraqis themselves, then perhaps there's a lesser role for all of us.

MS. VASILIVA: What about seeking a new UN resolution authorizing this new administration? We have the British Foreign Secretary saying that -- Jack Straw saying that Britain favors going back to the United Nations Security Council seeking a new resolution to give this mandate.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we have one resolution featuring the Oil-for-Food program which passed 15-0 in the Security Council. Clearly, there will be other resolutions as we move forward. And as I say, this is what our leaders are discussing in Hillsborough Castle.

MS. VASILIVA: But how important is it for the United States to have this UN mandate for a new post-war administration for Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we would like to UN to really endorse the coalition activities. That's quite clear. But it was the coalition members themselves who shed their blood and expended their treasure to liberate Iraq, and clearly the coalition members have to have the dominant say, at least at the outset.

MS. VASILIVA: We have the French President Jacques Chirac saying that France will not support any resolution which legitimizes the military intervention or allows the belligerents to take control of Iraq.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, as I say, we're not interested in taking control. We want to turn over authority to an interim Iraqi authority as soon as possible. I can't comment much on Mr. Chirac's comments. He hasn't been for much of late involving the United Nations Security Council.

MS. VASILIVA: I want to turn our attention to an issue that is very important to Arab countries, Arab governments, Arab people, and that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When is the roadmap for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians going to be announced?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: First of all, of course, Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush will be discussing that as one of their three major topics. Second, that we've said from the beginning that once Abu Mazen stands up a government and is confirmed, the conditions are ripe to publish or to distribute the roadmap, and we hope to do that sooner rather than later.

MS. VASILIVA: Israel wants some amendments to that roadmap. The Palestinians say they have accepted it as is. What are your thoughts on that? Is that roadmap to be accepted by both sides as is?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we have said we welcome comments on the roadmap, but we think the roadmap is basically done and the two parties should spend their energies and intention talking to each other about how to implement it and bring about the vision that President Bush stressed on June 24th of two states living side by side in peace and security.

MS. VASILIVA: I wanted to turn our attention to another concern, specifically again in the Arab world. This "axis of evil" speech has raised a lot of suspicion in the Arab world that -- and also in the world in general, that once the United States has dealt with Iraq, it will turn its attention to other countries like Iran, maybe Syria, North Korea. Can you say that the United States will not continue to pursue other countries?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we believe the yearning for democracy is a universal one and we will take every opportunity to try to put our views on this forward. If your suggestion concerns military might, the President has been -- or the use of military force -- the President has been quite clear that it's not a one-size-fit-all philosophy that he has, that we will engage in the power of ideas and not necessarily will we use military force at every turn.

MS. VASILIVA: Specifically, I wanted to ask you about Syria. We had a warning to the Syrians not to pass on materiel to the Iraqi military -- that happened about a week ago -- that it would be considered a hostile act if that continued. Quite a serious warning to Syria. What was intended with that warning?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, there were certain materiels and indeed foreign fighters who were attempting to enter Iraq from Syria. We wanted to make it very clear that we were watching this and this would not be something that passed unnoticed, unremarked upon, and if they become military targets inside Iraq that they would be taken out. And I think we've communicated this successfully to the Syrians. One hopes so.

MS. VASILIVA: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, thank you very much for your time.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you. [End]

Released on April 7, 2003

ENDS

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