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Armitage Interview with Paula Zahn of CNN

Interview with Paula Zahn of CNN's American Morning

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC April 7, 2003

(Aired 9:05 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: Good to see you again, sir. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.


QUESTION: Once the fighting stops, how long do you think American Forces will need to stay in place in Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. We have to stay long enough to exploit potential WMD sites and clearly to establish stability through the country, but we want to stay not a day longer than that.

QUESTION: We had heard some suppositions from some folks in the Bush administration that at least six months before you can even get a transitional government underway. Does that sound like a fair assessment?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that was referring to the six months that were required to bring a level of democracy to the Kurdish areas, and certainly that has lasted ten years, but I think it's very difficult to pin an exact timeframe, but you can be assured that we want to be able to get out of Iraq as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Let's talk a little bit about what the administration envisions. Senior officials have told CNN immediately after the conflict ends; the White House wants a military force commanded by General Tommy Franks and a civilian administration headed by retired Army Lt. General Jay Garner who will report to Donald Rumsfeld.

Now, there is a piece in The L. A. Times today saying that some members of Congress are complaining that that actually gives Donald Rumsfeld too much control in this process. What do you think?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I can't speak for members of Congress, but it certainly occurs to me that there's going to have to be a very close relationship between the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs and General Franks as he provides security, under which those activities can be conducted.

General Garner will report to General Franks, and further, to Secretary Rumsfeld. He will be trying to provide in the initial days a modicum of goods and services to the Iraqi people and he and his colleagues are very much in the business of working themselves out of a job.

QUESTION: What do you think of some of the suggestions out there by those who feel that the U.S. is increasingly losing its battle to convince Iraqi citizens because of the destruction and the ongoing campaign that, in fact, they are liberators, not invaders?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think your own broadcast this morning has put lie to that -- the fact that our forces are being welcomed with open arms. This is something we cherish and we'll do our utmost to continue to deserve. You see jubilance in many of the streets and I think it will continue. This is not something, however, that will last forever. We have to make sure that our follow-on actions are absolutely consistent with those things, which will win the favor of the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: I want to talk a little bit more about the creation of this transitional government. Senator Joseph Biden, the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the issue of forming this transitional government is a very tenuous one and cautioned the administration to tread lightly. Let's listen to what he had to say yesterday.

(A video excerpt of Senator Biden was shown as follows:)

SENATOR BIDEN: " but the real key here is we get one real shot at starting off a transition government here. And whatever that government is, that transition government, if it looks like it's imposed by us, if it looks like we sat down, hand-picked the leaders, put them in place, it will not have any legitimacy with the Iraqi people "

QUESTION: So Mr. Armitage, what he suggested is that you must internationalize this process, particularly at the front-end of the game.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, certainly he's correct in that if we put our thumb on the scale, or our British friends put their thumb on the scale then this will not be viewed as a legitimate government by all Iraqis, so we have to have a government, which is of, for and by Iraqis. Now the question of how you form it, it seems to me that the administration is on the right track by trying to develop an interim Iraqi authority, which will be developed by Iraqis, themselves, in close consultation with coalition members who, after all, have shed their blood and expended their treasure to bring about the liberation of Iraq.

QUESTION: Finally, we know that the President and the Prime Minister of Great Britain are holding some very important meetings in Northern Ireland over the next couple of days and there seems to be a little bit of a disconnect on the issue of what role the UN should ultimately play in the process, the Prime Minister of Great Britain wanting a larger role for the UN in a post-war Iraq, what do you think? What's the right formula here?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I suspect when our two leaders issue their final communiqués from Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, that you'll find that there's less difference than perhaps you might have thought. Clearly there will be a role for the United Nations and many of the functional activities the United Nations engages in, WHO and World Food Program and UNICEF, et cetera, will have great roles in Iraq, but finding the appropriate role for the United Nations after the coalition members have been the ones who did all the heavy lifting is exactly what our leaders are going to be talking about.

QUESTION: Finally, another question about the balance of structures and how you worked this all out. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says that the Pentagon should control reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in post-war Iraq, but there are members of Congress that say that job should fall to the State Department. Who should do it? And why?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, clearly the President has decided that he would like the monies that are available in the supplemental appropriation to be provided to the office of manpower and budget and further disbursed to the agencies who will be doing the work on the ground. And the agencies' work will be developed through J. Garner. He's the one on the ground with colleagues from the Department of State, Justice, Commerce, et cetera, so we're very much comfortable with the President's submission.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, always good to see you. Thank you again for spending some time with us this morning.


QUESTION: We appreciate your perspective. [End]

Released on April 7, 2003

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