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U.S.'Armitage Calls on All Nations to Rebuild Iraq

State's Armitage Calls on All Nations to Support Rebuilding of Iraq

Addresses various regional issues on Kuwaiti television

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage hailed the growing spirit of cooperation from the United States' European allies, specifically with regard to Iraqi debt relief, and called on other nations to join coalition efforts in rebuilding Iraq.

In a December 18 interview with Kuwaiti television, Armitage noted that as a result of James Baker's recent trip to Europe, "things seem to be on the mend. There seemed to be a great spirit of cooperation." Baker, a former secretary of state and a former treasury secretary, has been appointed by President Bush to seek a reduction of Iraq's debt from its international creditors.

Armitage observed that the capture of Saddam Hussein seems to have provided an opportunity for some of the countries that opposed the war to look ahead towards forging new policies.

"I think with the capture of Saddam Hussein that there is an opportunity and a time to pivot a bit, and the Europeans, some of whom opposed us, I think are willing to let the neuralgia of the past go away," he said.

Armitage repeated the administration's call to other nations to become involved in the rebuilding of Iraq.

"There are people who can participate with expertise, agricultural advisors and things of that nature. There's plenty of room in the coalition for people who want to participate, nations who want to make a decision to be part of a new Iraq and we welcome them," he said.

In particular, he noted the important role that Arab states could play.

"I think there's a lot of ways to participate in the new Iraq, and one of the ways would be for GCC member-states to move forward and help persuade their Sunni brethren that the coalition is genuine in wanting them to participate in a meaningful way in the future of Iraq," the deputy secretary said.

Armitage's interview came at the conclusion of a brief trip to the region that took him to Egypt and Saudi Arabia for discussions involving Iraq, the war on terror, and efforts to move forward with the Roadmap for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following is the text of the interview:

(begin transcript)

On Kuwaiti TV with Dalia Elkomy

December 18, 2003
Washington, D.C.

MS. ELKOMY: Thank you so much, sir, for your time. We appreciate you doing this for the Kuwaiti viewers.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you for asking me.

MS. ELKOMY: Kuwait is, as you know, one of the biggest allies of the United States.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Absolutely.

MS. ELKOMY: And it's very good to give a chance to the viewers to understand deeply what the politics of the Administration takes various steps and various rules.

We'll start by asking you, what are the U.S. relations now with major countries in Europe, especially after the U.S. decision to prevent them, or at least for the time being, to prevent them from joining the main contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I'd answer it two ways. First of all, with Mr. Baker's recent trip to Europe, things seem to be on the mend. There seemed to be a great spirit of cooperation. And second of all, I think with the capture of Saddam Hussein that there is an opportunity and a time to pivot a bit, and the Europeans, some of whom opposed us, I think are willing to let the neuralgia of the past go away. And we ourselves, as our President said, are reaching out to them. So it's a confluence of, I think, some fortuitous events which will allow us to move forward in a much better fashion in the future.

MS. ELKOMY: Sir, allow me to say that the capture of Saddam Hussein triggered a different agenda for the United States in terms of withdrawal of troops, in terms of handing over the power to the interim government. There are changes in the U.S. Administration's policies now, gearing it towards a more -- sooner handover of power and rebuilding of Iraq.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes, but this was decided before the capture of Saddam Hussein. On November 15th, Ambassador Bremer, working with the Iraqi Governing Council, won agreement on a plan which would transfer full sovereignty to Iraq by June 30th.

We've always realized that there was a fine line to walk between being seen as a liberator or being seen as an occupier, and we're trying to make it very clear that we are liberators and we're there not because we want to stay for the long term, but just there long enough to make sure that Iraq is a successful nation in the future.

Just for our friends in Kuwait, June 30th is the date to turn over sovereignty to the Iraqis, but March 30th is the date we plan to have negotiated with the Iraqis a status agreement which will allow our military to stay in Iraq for some time more until the security situation allows us to leave.

MS. ELKOMY: This brings us to the trial of Saddam Hussein. We have heard comments lately, especially from President Bush, that he prefers the trial to be on the hands of Iraqis. The trial has raised concerns all over the world and we'd like to know what exactly does the Administration, or let's say in broader terms, what is it planning for the trial of the tyrant?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, no final decisions have been made, but certainly the best outcome, we believe, would be that Saddam Hussein, whose sins were visited in the main upon Iraqi citizens, should be tried fairly and transparently in the main by Iraqis. Now, this is not to say that people in Kuwait didn't suffer terribly, and others suffered terribly, because of this tyrant. Even the Iranians suffered terribly. But I think it is the Iraqis who have first claim, and we will work out the manner in which Iraqis try him.

MS. ELKOMY: Shifting to the Middle East, we cannot be interviewing you without asking you what do you think of the U.S. relations with Kuwait?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Our relationship with Kuwait has been stunningly good from long before the first Gulf War. I remember with great satisfaction trips I took in the mid-'80s and interactions with our Kuwaiti friends, and they've been excellent for now 18 or more years, 20 years. And I hope 20 years into the future we'll be able to say they've been excellent for 40 years.

MS. ELKOMY: The accord between Israelis and Palestinians signed in Geneva, how does the U.S. view it? How much does it differ from the views of the present Administration and the roadmap?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, the roadmap is still on the table and is still our preferred solution, and we find that the Geneva Accord is actually complementary. As you probably know, my boss, Secretary Powell, met with some of the framers of the Geneva Accord, and we found their ideas quite interesting.

But what is most interesting about it is here we have Palestinians and Israelis coming together for a common vision, and that's a very important thing to see. Likewise, we had visits recently by Mr. Ayalon and Mr. Sari Nusseibeh, who told us of their efforts in the search for peace -- again, an Israeli and a Palestinian who are mobilizing grassroots support in a search for peace.

So there's a lot going on. I just hope it's going on quickly enough to resolve the questions.

MS. ELKOMY: I am sure, sir -- this was not on the questions, but actually we just heard comments made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his latest speech in Israel. Can we have your comment on that, please?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I haven't read the speech but I saw press reports of it and I think what's noteworthy is the fact that Prime Minister Sharon seemed to embrace the roadmap quite well. At one time there were some questions about the affection with which our Israeli Prime Minister, the Israeli Prime Minister, viewed the roadmap, but he clearly made sure the international community saw that he saw the roadmap as the way forward.

So now we have the Quartet, and the U.S., of course, the Israelis and the Palestinians all embracing the roadmap. Let's move.

MS. ELKOMY: Going through all this brainstorming, it brings us to the U.S. war on terrorism. We just heard President Bush on ABC News saying that it's still hard -- a hard war and a long war. We are still pursuing Usama bin Laden. You are still trying to minimize the threats that the U.S. Administration, U.S. officials, are receiving outside while they're working in your embassies and serving outside the country.

How is the war on terrorism progressing with the Administration?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think with the recent capture of Saddam Hussein you can put another check mark in the positive column. It's a long haul and for every victory there are some new threats. We've had victories recently in Southeast Asia with the capture of Hambali and others, and yet we find it necessary to warn American citizens in Saudi Arabia because of the recent developments there.

But it's not -- George Bush is not simply fighting this war for the United States, though that is his chief responsibility. His view is the world will not be a safer place unless we all join together and fight this scourge.

MS. ELKOMY: Okay. How has the diplomacy progressed in terms of having more countries involved in Iraq and the reconstruction of Iraq? We already heard from President Bush and from Secretary Powell that there are over 60 countries involved now, but what exactly is the next step that you're thinking of pursuing in terms of having more involvement and in changing the involvement of the already contributing countries?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, there are several aspects of this. Part of the -- as we move forward, is the security aspect, and we would -- we are still having conversations with several nations about their providing some forces for stability operations. I just saw the Japanese have made a decision to have some forces there. So that's one aspect.

Second, there are the debt relief and debt restructuring conversation that Mr. Baker has had in Europe this week.

And finally, there are people who can participate with expertise, agricultural advisors and things of that nature.

So there's plenty of room in the coalition for people who want to participate, nations who want to make a decision to be part of a new Iraq and we welcome them.

MS. ELKOMY: Okay. And finally, sir, how do you view or evaluate your trip to the Middle East, the latest one?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Gosh, I should let our Saudi and Egyptian hosts evaluate it.

From our point of view, first in Saudi Arabia, I found the Saudi authorities really intent on having a good relationship with the United States. We are really intent on having that relationship and supporting them as they're trying to simultaneously recover from the terrible bombings that they've suffered, but also to arrest and to otherwise incapacitate those in their country who would conduct these bombings.

In Egypt, I was delighted to be able yet again, after a decade's absence, to see President Mubarak, chat with him for quite a while about the peace process, about the global war on terrorism, and to be able to invite him to come to Washington in the spring of 2004.

So I was personally delighted with the outcome of both visits, but I would have to ask you to ask the Saudis and the Egyptians what they thought.

MS. ELKOMY: I'm sure they felt the same, sir. Well, I'd like to thank you so much for your time, and I'd like to have you say a final word for the Kuwaiti Television just to tell us if you have in mind, the Administration has a clear picture, of involving more of the Arab countries in the reconstruction of Iraq.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Absolutely so. Right now, it's clear to everyone, particularly in the region, that we're having difficulties in the central region of Iraq, and there's an upcoming GCC summit. We would hope that the GCC member-states would look positively and favorably upon the opportunity of prevailing on the primarily Sunni population in the central region and making it clear to them that their rights will be protected in the future, that there will be both an economic and a political role for them in the new Iraq of the future.

So I think there's a lot of ways to participate in the new Iraq, and one of the ways would be for GCC member-states to move forward and help persuade their Sunni brethren that the coalition is genuine in wanting them to participate in a meaningful way in the future of Iraq.

MS. ELKOMY: I appreciate your time. Thank you so much, sir.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you very much.

MS. ELKOMY: Thank you very much.


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