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Bremer Discusses Iraq at White House with Bush

Bremer Discusses Iraq at White House with Bush, Top U.S. Officials

Talks focus on defeat of terrorism, self-government in Ira

qBy Wendy Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, says his two days of conferring with President Bush and top officials of his administration focused on two important problems -- defeating the terrorists in Iraq, and helping that country move toward self-government.

"We're going to have difficult days ahead because the terrorists are determined to deny the Iraqis the right to run their own country. We're not going to let them get away with that," Bremer told reporters November 12, following meetings at the White House with President Bush and his top national security advisors.

Bremer briefed President Bush's National Security Council -- including Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice -- November 11. On November 12, according to NSC spokesman Sean McCormack, Bremer met with Bush and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, then had a meeting with just the president.

On November 11, soon after arriving from Iraq, Bremer discussed Iraq with Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, McCormack said.

Bremer told reporters as he left the White House that Iraq "is a tough situation."

"I have said repeatedly in my discussions, both private and public, for six months that I am completely confident and optimistic about the outcome in Iraq, but we will face some difficult days," he said, noting the terrorist attack earlier in the day on an Italian base in southern Iraq that reportedly killed 18 Italian soldiers and eight Iraqis.

President Bush paid tribute to those killed and to Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as he conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom on NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

"Today, in Iraq, a member of NATO -- Italy -- lost some proud sons in the service of freedom and peace. The United States sends our deepest condolences to the families ... of the soldiers and policemen who died. We appreciate their sacrifices. I appreciate the steadfast leadership of Prime Minister Berlusconi, who refuses to yield in the face of terror," Bush said.

Bremer told reporters that his two days of discussions in Washington were "directed at basically two questions: How do we win the war on terrorism in Iraq, and how do we move toward a sovereign Iraqi government where the Iraqis have responsibility for their own affairs."

Bremer noted the December 15 deadline laid out in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1511, which requires the Iraqi Governing Council to report to the United Nations by that date on a plan for a constitution moving Iraqis toward full sovereignty over their country.

McClellan told reporters that Ambassador Bremer is working closely with the Governing Council to meet the December 15 deadline, "and we believe they will meet that deadline."

"[W]e are in a very intense period here as we come up on the December 15th deadline from the U.N. Security Council," Bremer said.

"I will now go back and reflect the president's and his advisers' views on the path forward. We'll discuss them with the Governing Council," he said.

"I'll be taking them a message from the president that he remains steadfast in his determination to defeat terrorism in Iraq and steadfast in his determination to give the Iraqis authority over their country, authority they're already beginning to assume very quickly in the area of security and in the area of running the Iraqi ministries," Bremer said.

McClellan said the discussions focused on "how best to move forward on transferring sovereignty as quickly as possible to the Iraqi people, making sure that it is done the right way.

"We have set out a course. We will stay that course and we will move as quickly as possible to work with the Governing Council and the Iraqi people to achieve a free, peaceful and democratic future," he said.

The United States, McClellan said, remains steadfast in its commitment to prevail in defeating the Ba'athist holdouts and the foreign fighters. "And we remain firmly committed to moving as quickly as possible toward transferring sovereignty and realizing a peaceful, free and sovereign Iraq for the Iraqi people."

Secretary of State Powell told reporters November 12 that Bremer brought some ideas to Washington from the Governing Council, the 24 individuals who are representing all the people of Iraq.

"We had good discussions on the political process of how to move forward and put in place a system that will return sovereignty, a process that will lead to a system, and a means, of returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people as soon as possible," Powell said.

"Ambassador Bremer will be returning to Iraq to share these ideas and respond to the ideas that were presented by the Governing Council. And when decisions have been made, they will be duly announced," he said.

"We are looking at all sorts of ideas, and we do want to accelerate the pace of reform," Powell said.

"We want to accelerate our work with respect to putting a legal basis under the new Iraqi government, and we are doing everything we can to get the Governing Council equipped with what they need in the way of staff, what they need in the way of procedures, in order to do the job that they want to do and we want them to do," Powell said.

"This is a difficult work that we are at," he continued. "To take 24 individuals, put them together, and give them this kind of responsibility requires patience as they develop patterns of work and patterns of operation as they staff themselves for these important responsibilities. And so we are committed to the Governing Council and we intend to help them in every way that we can.

"The specific ideas that were discussed or what might come out of that, let's just wait and see how that develops after Ambassador Bremer gets back and shares the ideas with the Governing Council."

Powell said "We will continue to move forward with our reconstruction efforts. As Ambassador Bremer briefed us this morning, the [electrical] power situation is improving, the export of oil is increasing in terms of the quantities being exported and the revenue being generated, many other things are happening within the economy and within the society that are positive.

"At the same time, we candidly took a look at the security situation. It's a difficult situation, but we are confident that our commanders will get on top of it and our intelligence experts will be able to penetrate these remnants of the old regime who are trying to destroy the hopes and aspirations of the Iraqi people."

"(T)here will be ups and downs in attitudes and feelings" toward the United States by the people of Iraq, Powell said, "but our position is clear. We will remain long enough to make sure that the Iraqi people have the opportunity to put in place a government that is democratic, that will live in peace with its neighbors, that will use its oil revenues to benefit its people and not to threaten its neighbors.

"And when that day arrives, when Iraqis are prepared to resume full control, you can be sure that we will end the role of the Coalition Provisional Authority and return to normal relations with the new Iraqi state."

"This is the time for perseverance," Powell said. "It's a time for patience."

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