Zoellick IV With Kareem Hammadi of al-Iraqiya
Interview With Kareem Hammadi of al-Iraqiya
Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary
April 13, 2005
QUESTION: Welcome, Mr. Robert Zoellick, to the al-Iraqiya TV station. A traditional question to start. What are the reasons for this visit, which comes immediately after the visit of Mr. Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, to Iraq?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Purposes: First, I wanted to meet Prime Minister Allawi, who's done a very good job, and to learn from him about the situation in Iraq, but also to meet the incoming government and have a chance to discuss with them the political process, including forward progress on the constitution, discuss some economic as well as security issues. But then I also had a stop in Fallujah this morning, where I had a chance to talk to the new Iraqi City Council.
QUESTION: On the occasion since you mention the new government, yesterday there were statements by Secretary Rumsfeld about not allowing or opposing the development of the government getting some employees out of the ministries. Did you discuss such matters with the officials?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I talked about this, particularly with the Prime Minister-designate Jaafari and we emphasized that we're making very good progress, particularly in the security area in building the Iraqi security forces. And so we obviously hope that there is strong capabilities, as well as continuity and competence that's developed. At the same time, we realize as part of the transformation of the government you'll have different ministers and a different cabinet than in the past. So I think the -- and again, I know Secretary Rumsfeld had a chance to discuss, as I did I, about the joint progress that we're trying to make in the security area, having more security, Iraqi security forces trained and having them take an increasing leading role against the insurgency.
QUESTION: What are the results of the discussions or talks that you have entered into with the Iraqi leadership, particularly the new government?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, part of my visit was to listen to them and get a sense of where they plan to head with the next steps. But I focused on some particular areas; for example, in addition to setting up the Presidency Council, trying to get a sense about the timeframe for setting up the new cabinet and then the process for creating the constitution, where the Speaker told me about his interest in creating a special mechanism and process that would be inclusive to try to draft a constitution by mid-August. But then we also talked about some of the economic issues of concern to the Iraqi people -- jobs, electricity, agricultural development, the legal system -- and ways in which my country can help the new Iraqi Government try to upgrade the conditions, but also work with others, for example, countries I visited in Europe last week that I think will come together to support that process. And then we discussed the security conditions as well.
QUESTION: What is your opinion with regard to the Presidential Council -- a Kurdish President and one Sunni and one Shia Vice President? What is your opinion on this team?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first, this is a decision for Iraqis, not for Americans. But I'll tell you that with all the Iraqi officials today that I met, I remade my own personal respect and regard for individuals that I know are putting themselves at risk, that are strongly committed patriots to their country. While they bring different views and come from different parts of Iraq, I think they have a shared commitment to trying to plant the roots of democracy in Iraq and make the life better for the Iraqi people.
So I was very impressed with every individual I met, including, I might add, the people in the Town Council in Fallujah, who operate at a different level. But whether they were sheikhs, whether they were former military, whether they were engineers, I felt they were people who were trying to commit to improve the life of people in Fallujah.
QUESTION: In your discussions there are two reported issues, the issue of the formation of the new Iraqi Government and you must have discussed this with the Prime Minister Dr. Jaafari, and also the issue of the constitution. I'd like to ask you, after the discussions you made with these leaders, when will the new Iraqi Government will be formed and are there any insistence on the part of American government not to exceed the set -- the time limits and the time that was set?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The Iraqis have set for themselves no more than four weeks, so that takes up until May 7th. So we hope, and I think a lot of Iraqis hope, that that process will get done more quickly. But the Prime Minister wasn't specific because I think, in part, he's still negotiating with different parties, including Prime Minister Allawi's party, to distribute the various ministries. There are over 30 ministries so they have to get the right balance among the different groups and parties. So on that one, I was just interested in trying to get a sense of the direction and the interest in moving that forward.
And I think your second question related to the constitution development and there I got a strong sense that people across the different posts all want to try to do their best to get the process done by August 15 so as to have the referendum later in the year. But these schedules are the schedules that Iraqis have set for themselves and I think that they help maintain the momentum of the elections so that, in addition to regaining sovereignty, that Iraq will do so as a democratic country.
QUESTION: Mr. Zoellick, thank you very much.
Released on April 15, 2005