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Zoellick: Interview With Sawad Kazum of Al Arabiya

Interview With Sawad Kazum of Al Arabiya

Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State

Baghdad, Iraq
April 13, 2005

MR. KAZUM: Mr. Zoellick, first of all, welcome in Baghdad. The Al Arabiya Channel welcomes you in Baghdad. We learned that you are following the Iraqi situation closely, especially the discussions between the political Iraqi parties for the formation of a new Iraqi Government. As you know that the elections, the last election, led to a winning of a Shia bloc in the parliament. How do you look at that? Does this contradict the American policies in Iraq and in the region?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, our policy was to try to support democracy so we were absolutely delighted that 8 or 9 million Iraqis turned out under difficult, and even threatening, conditions to vote. And we were very pleased to see that the Presidency Council is now formed, that there's a Prime Minister-designate, who I had a chance to meet, and that he seems to be moving to put together his ministries and that they will, of course, involve a number of parties -- the Kurdish party, his own Shia bloc, but also there's discussions about Prime Minister Allawi's vote bloc also being part of that. And so that's the democratic process which we've encouraged, so we're pleased to see that it's moving ahead.

MR. KAZUM: As you know, the formation of the government was delayed and this was on the account of the period you allocated for the drafting of the constitution. Yesterday Mr. Rumsfeld said that the constitution must be provided to the people (inaudible) time. This is a very short period that could lead to a confusion of the draft constitution. What are your comments on this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, this is a topic that I discussed with all the Iraqi officials -- Prime Minister Allawi, the President, Prime Minister-designate, the Speaker -- and I get a sense that all of them want to stick to the timeframe that Iraqis have set to try to get that constitution done by August 15. They all expressed the belief they can work off the foundation of the TAL, the Transition Administrative Law, which gives them a point of commonality.

But everyone is aware it will be challenging to do so but I had a sense that all of them believe they wanted to keep the momentum that they have from this election process so that they can then, after they have the constitution, have another vote on a referendum by all the Iraqi people on the constitution, and then have another set of elections later this year, which will help draw in some of the people who were not able to participate in the first round of elections.

So, you know, constitutions -- the U.S. Constitution was drafted in less time than that and so right now the Iraqi people have a start through the TAL.

MR. KAZUM: After the elections there was some forces, Iraqi forces, political parties emerged that called themselves the forces against the occupation. You, as a -- from the Department of State, do you have -- are you willing to open a page of communication with these forces, especially in light of the fact that your forces are still subjected to attacks? Today they were only -- there were four attacks in Baghdad only. Are there any chances for opening dialogue with these forces that are against occupation, as it calls itself?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I don't know about the particular group that you mentioned, but I can say that when I discussed with President Talabani today he mentioned a meeting he had yesterday with some Sunni groups that he characterized as being more on the extreme end who wanted to start to engage in the political process. And when I was in Fallujah, which is a Sunni city, and met with city council members and saw their engagement and talked to the Marine general about the outreach that he and the civil affairs team have had more broadly with the Sunni community, and as you undoubtedly know, some Sunni religious and academic leaders recently came out and talked, suggested that Sunnis should feel free about joining the police and the military.

So I think that process is happening and part of my message with my colleagues in the Iraqi Government was that they should encourage an inclusive process, that democracy should be for all Iraqis. And this was a position that they, themselves, had and I think that they will try to follow in the drafting of the constitution and are interested in putting together this government.

MR. KAZUM: In regards to the possibility of Dr. Allawi, as you know, he has a large number of seats in the parliament. If he does not enter into the government -- it is known that you have called on Dr. Allawi -- will you still call on Dr. Allawi and his party and his list at the same level?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, when the United States works with any democratic partner we deal with the elected people who are in power and those who are also in opposition. It's my understanding that Dr. Allawi is at present negotiating to see whether he will be part of the governing coalition. That is for him and his party to decide with the Prime Minister-designate and his team.

So we have great respect for what Dr. Allawi has accomplished. We admire his leadership. We are pleased that he represents, I believe, 40 seats in the process. But we're pleased with the other parties as well. That's what democracy is all about.

MR. KAZUM: Mr. Bremer has enacted a law that relieves American forces, that exempts American forces or the multinational forces from any legal questioning inside Iraqi courts. This matter has inflicted a lot of damages to the Iraqi properties and Iraqi persons. The worries are that the soldiers have legal to inquire of innocent people in several instance. Would this law continue in valid after all this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: What I just know is some of the specifics that I saw in Fallujah, where people who had their homes damaged or destroyed were starting to get checks for at least partial compensation for their properties. And at least in the discussions that I had with some of our troops, I know people go to extraordinary care certainly not to hurt anyone that doesn't deserve to be hurt and also to try to take care of property. When I was traveling with the Marine Major General Johnson, who is in command of the forces in that area, I'll tell you, there were some kids in the street and he told the driver to be very careful because there were kids playing. And I might add the kids were waving to us, too.

So, you know, I think this is a dangerous situation and we've got courageous young men and women that are working with courageous Iraqi forces to try to defeat terrorists that are threatening what people are trying to do here, but they're trying to do it as carefully as they can and they're trying to do so in a way that ultimately will protect Iraqi life.

MR. KAZUM: Thank you, sir. 2005/416

Released on April 14, 2005

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