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Marc Grossman DVC with Spanish Journalists

DVC with Spanish Journalists

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Washington, DC / Madrid Spain April 16, 2003

MODERATOR: Good morning. Buenas tardes, Madrid. Do you hear me?


MODERATOR: Very well. We very much appreciate being with you, electronically at least, here during -- as we roll into the intense part of Holy Week in Madrid. I look forward to an interesting exchange of views this morning with Under Secretary Marc Grossman. I think rather than using up any more of our valuable time, I will just (in Spanish. . . la palabra al Sub-Secretario.) Thank you.

A PARTICPANT: We would like to also welcome Under Secretary Grossman to the program and we will not delay any longer. I do want to just tell you, though, that when we get to the question-and-answer part someone will be translating after the question has been asked in Spanish.

Mr. Under Secretary.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much, and thank you all for taking time out of your day to visit with me. I'm glad to do this electronically. Obviously, I would much prefer to be with you there in Madrid, but this is the next best thing.

Let me make a comment or two to open, and then, since we have a limited amount of time, I will just be very glad to answer your questions. Before I do anything else, though, let me express my condolences and the condolences of many people here in the United States on the deaths of your colleagues, the Spanish journalists in Iraq, Mr. Perado (ph) and Mr. Couso. And I just wanted to say that we had all felt this impact on us greatly. Journalism is an important profession, and sometimes a dangerous profession, and I just wanted to say that, on a human basis and a personal basis, we also very much express our condolences.

For us, as you can imagine at the moment, these are very key days for the United States, for our allies, for Iraq. Not only are we watching the military phase of this campaign come to an end, but we're also entering what I would consider to be a new and important phase in the history of Iraq. You all saw the pictures yesterday of people meeting there, in Ur, where civilization, in many ways, had its start. And at that location yesterday, hundreds of Iraqis had a chance to begin the process of expressing themselves. And I don't know if you have in Madrid -- and I know this is not a very successful thing -- but these pictures I am showing that came out of Ur yesterday of people exercising their rights and being able to go down and speak out and say something important about their future, I think is an extremely important accomplishment -- not for us, but for Iraqis. And we hope that the Iraq that will come out of all of this is an Iraq that will be democratic and multiethnic, that has its territorial integrity, that has no weapons of mass destruction, and very much, as you can imagine, is at peace with its neighbors.

And we believe that over the next few days and few weeks, more and more Iraqis who have not had a chance to live in freedom these past over 20 years will have a chance to do so. Obviously, we're very proud of that work that our forces have done, and with coalition forces as well, and grateful for the countries like Spain that have also been very important in this coalition effort.

There is still work to do militarily in Iraq, and that is especially true in the areas of weapons of mass destruction. But I think, as you have also seen, that while these are important days for Iraqis and for our forces, they are also important days as we begin now to focus in on the humanitarian efforts, to make hospitals work again, to get the water back on, to get the power back on. A number of our coalition partners, for example, are bringing in field hospitals over the next few days, and I think that you will see an increased effort on the part of the international community, and certainly on the part of the United States, to begin rebuilding Iraq.

This phase, then, of ending of the big military campaign, and moving forward with the rehabilitation of Iraq I think is something that all countries and all people should be interested in, and I hope we will continue to work with the people in Spain, and certainly with the Spanish Government on all of these issues. This is a very important time, not just for the United States and not just for Iraq, but for people around the world.

And with that, why don't I take any questions you might have. I'd be delighted to have a conversation with all of you. So thank you very much.

QUESTION: Hello, this is (inaudible). I would like to know something about your plans about Syria. You're talking about these links with terrorism, and I would like to know if it's going to be farther. It's any plan, I mean war plan, or something similar? Or why do you say so?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First, there is no list, there is no war plan, but there is concern about Syria. And we have raised in recent days with the Government of Syria these issues of the development of weapons of mass destruction, the connection in Syria to terrorism. And, of course, these are issues that we have raised with the Syrians over many, many, many years. As you know, on our list of foreign terrorist states, we have had Syria for many years.

And so this is an issue that we have felt in the change in circumstances after the 11th of September, after the fall of the Iraqi dictatorship, that it's now time for the Syrians to make some important choices. If you will, there's a fork in the road here and the Syrians have some decisions to make.

As Secretary Powell has said over the past few days, we are focused on these concerns in Syria, but we have many tools of statecraft and tools of diplomacy to work on these issues, and the only tool we have is not -- I repeat not -- a military tool. But we hope that the Syrians will focus in on these questions.

The other issue that we have raised with the Syrians over the past few days is the concern that a number of people from the former regime in Iraq are trying to escape into Syria, and we believe that those Iraqi officials, some of whom may really be guilty, or possibly guilty of crimes, or strongly suspected of crimes, may be seeking safe haven in Syria, and we don't think that it's in Syria's interest to give them safe haven, that these are people who ought to be tried in a court system of the Iraqi government.

And so we hope that Syria understands there is now what is essentially, in my view anyway, a new environment in the region, and will make the choices that will be positive to that environment, and not negative to that environment.

QUESTION: Mr. Grossman, hello. I am Guadalupe (ph) from Spanish newspaper La Razon.


QUESTION: Hello. I wanted to know about the political reconstruction. I saw you had -- you have encountered some problems yesterday with the Kurdish people in the north and with the Shia political group in the south. I'd like to know how you will deal with this reconstruction in an Iraq that is showing its complexity, ethnical complexity.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: A very good question. I think we have recognized from the very beginning, and I'm sure scholars and journalists in Spain have recognized, that Iraq is a complex place, and that over the many years that Saddam was the dictator in Iraq he ran the place in such a way to further those ethnic differences because it helped him to stay in to control.

We will try to deal with this challenge through democracy and through allowing people who have not had, in many years, the chance to express themselves to come together in some democratic way. I personally -- and you can consider this naïve, if you wish -- but I personally believe that no one should be excluded from the chance to have democracy. And it doesn't have to Spanish democracy or American democracy, but by democracy I mean some control over their own lives and over their own destinies.

And just because people are Iraqis or Kurds or Shias or Turkomen, Assyrians, that they are somehow excluded from this capacity, or the dream to have freedom and democracy, is wrong.

And so our objective started yesterday. We want to bring together people who have been fighting for the freedom of Iraq outside of Iraq with people who have lived under this tyranny, to begin a conversation about how to create some kind of interim authority.

The meeting we had yesterday I think was quite successful, and I've seen the headlines that people were outside demonstrating against it because they weren't let in and other people felt excluded. But I believe that the meeting yesterday will be looked back on as a success, and the reason I think it was successful is because it was the beginning of this process. There will be more meetings like this. And I believe these meetings will allow Iraqis to decide how they wish to be governed.

One other point, and that is that, of course, there are differences in Iraq, but what we are hoping that Iraqis will recognize is that if they have a chance to have a democratic Iraq, a multiethnic Iraq, an Iraq where money is not wasted on weapons of mass destruction, an Iraq which is at peace with its neighbors, that people will lift up their sights from their kind of community or tribal or religious views and recognize they are Iraqis. And that is an argument that we in particular, and perhaps Spain as well, are particularly good at making. We're a multiethnic democracy, we are a society of diversity, and we think that diversity is a strength and not a weakness. And I hope someday that Iraqis will be able to recognize this as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Grossman, Javier Blas (ph) from Expansion, the Spanish business newspaper. I want to talk a little on economics and I have some question on the rebuilding of Iraq and what do you see them -- the role that -- the task of Spain in the rebuilding? The Spanish Government say that the United States is asking people with expertise in water and electrical networks. What is the talk at this moment between Spain and the United States about this topic?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I would say first that we've had a complete conversation with Spain on Iraq about everything from the very beginning, and that our President and President Aznar, and Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Palacio, have been in the closest possible contact throughout the months in advance of military operations, and during this military operation. And so I would say to you, sir, that I believe we will stay in the closest possible contact during the reconstruction of Iraq.

We believe that there is more than enough effort and more than enough work to go around, and we hope that where Spain is prepared to contribute, both officially and privately, that Spain will make those contributions.

We, as you know, have let some very large contracts that have to do with the reconstruction of Iraq -- port facilities, airport facilities, water, power, education -- and these are master contracts. They're general contracts, and we hope that many companies around the world, and I hope particularly Spanish companies, will compete for this work.

I didn't bring it with me, but you can find how companies can apply and exactly what is required by going on the web to the USAID website, where contracting procedures, the needs, how to apply -- all the requirements are right there, they are transparent, and they are open. And so I hope that Spanish companies with an interest and Spanish companies with expertise will compete for what I believe will be a substantial amount of business in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Part of this, of course, is that we're advantaged here in that Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, has money and has oil. And so we believe that the reconstruction of Iraq, although difficult and will be challenging no doubt, is something that can be done, can be accomplished; and to the extent that Spanish companies can compete and are interested, I hope they will do so.

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Christina Serrano (ph) -- (inaudible) -- and I would like to ask in how can Spain contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq in the political area, politically, not only economically.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I would answer your question in two ways. First, to have Spanish officials and the Spanish Government convey as best they can to the Iraqi people the kind of philosophy that we've been talking about here, which is that Iraq has a chance here to be something different than it was in the past, to have a democracy, to be without weapons of mass destruction, to be multiethnic. And so I know that Spanish officials and Spanish Government ministers are talking in this way, and I believe the more people talk about this in a positive way, the better off it's going to be.

Second, I hope that we will continue to work very closely with Spain as we consider the will of the United Nations in the future of Iraq. As you know, at the Azores summit where President Bush and President Aznar were together with the British Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Portugal, they talked there about the vital role of the United Nations in the future of Iraq. And I know Foreign Minister Palacio has been in close contact with Secretary Powell about many of these issues. And so there is a vital role to play for the United Nations. I hope Spain will participate in defining what that role is.

So, studying the philosophy is very important; conveying messages to the Iraqi people is extremely important; and then supporting the vision that came from the Azores about a potential role for the United Nations is also quite important.

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Eduardo Mosales (ph) of Europa Press and I have two questions. The first one is how will the Iraqi people be able to intervene in the decision of the -- for the foreign companies to act to rebuild Iraq?

And the second one is if one of the objectives of the U.S. is that the Iraqi criminals are trialed, how would you like to do this, because neither Iraq or the U.S. are countries which have signed International Criminal Court agreement?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much. Both good questions. First, on how Iraqis will participate in this interaction with foreign companies and make choices -- I believe, sir, that that will happen as quickly as possible once there is some kind of Iraqi interim authority. Right now, there's nobody in Iraq to have that kind of conversation with, and I hope you would agree with me that there are needs in Iraq right now in terms of getting food in to ports, getting humanitarian assistance into Iraq, working in the hospital system. And so I think we are going to have to make some of those decisions as a coalition here for a few weeks. Once there is some kind of Iraqi interim authority, I believe then that we will be able to consult with Iraqis about what kinds of things they wish.

I think this can happen in some places quite quickly. For example, let's say that we go with our coalition partners and others to the Ministry of Health. And I'll just give you this as an example. And you recognize that at the Ministry of Health, perhaps if you take off the top five or six or some number of people who are connected to Saddam Hussein, there might be the rest of the Ministry of Health which are serious people, bureaucrats, educated people, who want to proceed with the health of Iraqis. You might be able to transit that Ministry of Health over to Iraqi sovereignty quite quickly compared to the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Intelligence, the weapons of mass destruction ministry. So I think you'll see that Iraqis will start to really have some say over their own lives quite quickly, and that is certainly our objective.

Second, the very good question about crimes. I'd say, first of all, that although we have not signed up for the International Criminal Court, there are very few countries in this world who have done more to support the kinds of international tribunals and international justice that have been successful over the past few years than the United States: the Tribunal in Rwanda, for example; the ICTY, which is now trying Milosevic and many of his other collaborators in Yugoslavia. So because we have not signed up for the International Criminal Court does not mean that we're not interested in international justice. We are, and we have shown that, I believe, by our actions.

I would divide my specific answer, sir, to your question into two parts. First, for those Iraqis who have committed crimes against the United States, against Americans. For example, against our forces, or if, God forbid, someone should foolishly now, even at this late date, use some kind of weapons of mass destruction on our forces, we would be interested in trying that person ourselves. That is a crime committed against the United States.

But for those Iraqis over the past years who were Saddam's great collaborators, we believe that that justice should be meted out by the Iraqi people. And I believe that over a period of weeks or months, an Iraqi justice system will be established. That justice system, I hope, will be transparent and that justice system will be available to Iraqis to manage their own justice.

So I think at the moment those are the two big categories of possible criminals that I see and how I would look forward in answering your question, sir.

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Oscar Santa Maria (ph) from Mexican Ajasino de Mex (ph). I would like to know if the role, the U.S. role in the political reconstruction of Iraq, you know that this making many people looking askance and I would like to know if the role would be a role in the distance, looking how the Iraqis take the steps, or if, because some people believe that you are establishing a protectorate or that kind of regime there. So, in the distance or what kind of role?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think the role will quickly change but, to be fair, we were a very big part of organizing this meeting yesterday in Ur, and I don't think that should surprise you or anyone else. We have through our military action taken responsibility here in the short term for Iraq, and that is the fact. So yes, we were involved yesterday in organizing the meeting in Ur and putting out invitations, and I don't think that should surprise anyone. Our objective, though, is to move as quickly as possible to return Iraq to whom it belongs, and that is the Iraqi people. We have no desire to be in charge of Iraq. We have no desire to have an Iraqi protectorate. We have no desire to run Iraq on and on into the future.

As I tried to say in my introduction and to a number of your colleagues, what we want is an Iraq that's free and democratic and without weapons of mass destruction, that is multiethnic, so that it takes its place in the region and the world, and that Iraqis run Iraq. And I believe that this can be done rapidly and it can be done successfully.

I would say one other thing, and that is that I believe -- and I don't say that we are perfect in any way -- but I believe if you look at the history of the last few years, that we sent our forces to Kuwait to liberate Kuwait from Iraq in 1990 and 1991, and we did not stay there. Kuwait is not a protectorate. Kuwait is not a state of the United States. Kuwait is a free country.

We, together with the NATO Alliance, went to Bosnia and went to Kosovo, and the object there has been to allow people, and in both cases Muslim people, to free their own lives. And I think all of the effort that we have all made, as European countries, NATO countries, in Bosnia and Kosovo is all in the way of allowing people to run their own lives.

And I see exactly the same thing in Iraq. Our objective is not to run Iraq, not to own Iraq; our objective is to allow Iraqis to be in charge of Iraq.

QUESTION: I would like to know who is going to pay -- I mean, to pay for the war, for the rebuilding, and for all these efforts. Are you going to use the World Bank or the international community in the same way like Afghanistan, or what are your plans?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I believe that there will be many countries and many institutions that will be interested in the reconstruction of Iraq. You've mentioned a couple of them -- the World Bank, the IMF. They met in Washington here in their annual meeting last weekend, and as you have seen, Mr. Wolfensohn, the president of the World Bank, talked about their desire to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq.

A number of countries have already made substantial pledges to reconstruction, and, in fact, even some countries that opposed military conflict, like Germany, said they wanted to contribute to post-conflict Iraq.

And so I believe that the United Nations will play a role, I believe the international financial institutions will play a role, I believe other countries will find ways to make contributions. And so I think the Iraqi people will be helped here by the international community.

We'll see how this gets organized. I can't predict that over the future, whether, like we had in Afghanistan, there will be a big donors conference, as there was in Japan after the liberation of Afghanistan. But some mechanism, I am sure, will be created, and we'll find a way to go forward. And as I say, just like we were not in the military conflict alone, I do not believe the Iraqi people will be left alone when it comes to the reconstruction of their country.

QUESTION: Mr. Grossman, a couple of question about the oil. And you said before that Iraq has a lot of oil. Is the United States thinking in use the oil for pay the rebuilding of Iraq?

And the second question is opposition group supported by the -- a group of the opposition supported by the State Department has advised Iraq to go out OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. What is your opinion of your government about it? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think in both cases I can answer with a principle, and that principle is that Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people. Iraq's oil doesn't belong to us. It doesn't belong to any other countries. It belongs to the people of Iraq. And I would say also that it belongs to them as a national resource. It doesn't belong to some people in the north and some people in the south and some people in the center. It's a national resource.

And so the question of how Iraq's oil assets will be used is ultimately a decision for Iraqis. But if you ask me whether it makes sense for the Iraqi people or for an interim authority to use Iraq's oil assets to help rebuild Iraq, I would say of course. That's what that kind of money ought to be for. But as I say, that is ultimately an answer for Iraqis.

And on your second point, I apologize. I had not heard that issue raised about OPEC or not OPEC. I would say that is completely an issue for the future Iraqi government to decide for themselves, not for us. I wouldn't have an opinion one way or the other.

MODERATOR: Mr. Under Secretary, do we have time for one more question?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, please, let's take one more, if someone has one.

QUESTION: Going back to the political reconstruction, the Defense Department is counting, or at least is sympathizing, with Mr. Chalabi. What can you say about this issue?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I can say that this whole idea that some parts of our government support one person, some parts of our government support another, that is old news. And we are all now focused on what has to happen in Iraq. We're focused on the Ur meeting yesterday. We're focused on the future of these meetings.

And what the objective now is, is to marry, if you will -- there's probably a better word, but let me use marry -- those people outside of Iraq who have struggled for a free Iraq for a very long time and deserve credit for that, and how to marry them with people, the 20 million Iraqis, who have suffered under this dictatorship for how many years, 29 years, and get them to be working together. And that's our objective at the moment. Our objective is not to choose among groups, it's not to choose among people, it's not to impose this person or that person; it is to allow Iraqis to have a democracy and make their own decisions about who it is that will govern them.

And so I believe that everyone will have a role to play -- those who have shown great courage outside of Iraq and those, I believe, who have shown great courage and perseverance waiting for this day inside of Iraq. And the job will be, as I said to you before repeatedly, to lift up their sights now and recognize that they have a tremendous opportunity there to be taken for themselves.

If I could just say one other word, I thank you very much, and how much we have appreciated all the support from the Government of Spain. And I know this is a controversial issue in your country and I am very grateful to have a chance to visit with you this morning.

MODERATOR: Mr. Under Secretary, thank you for being with us today, and from all of us here at the American Embassy, thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Glad to do it anytime. [End]

Released on May 7, 2003

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