Rumsfeld says no plans for quick pullout as Washington wants Iraqi elections in first half of 2004
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived on Friday in Tokyo a day after Japan announced it would not send troops to Iraq. Rumsfeld is expected to press on Japan and South Korea to commit troops to Iraq amid worries about the deteriorating local security.
South Korea also decided to limit its contribution to 3,000 troops, President Roh Moo-hyun announced.
Speaking to reporters Friday en route to Asia, Rumsfeld said countries that decide to participate in military operations in Iraq should do so only if they believe it is in their own interest.
"It’s a dangerous country, it’s a violent country," Rumsfeld said. "It’s been a violent country for a long time and it very likely will be for a long time. Certainly people need to participate there with their eyes open."
Later, he told American troops stationed on the Pacific island outpost of Guam "There is no decision to pull out (of Iraq) early, indeed quite the contrary." "We will stay there as long as necessary to see that that country is put on a path" to democracy, Rumsfeld added, according to Reuters.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official said the Bush administration is proposing elections in the first half of next year and formation of a government before a constitution is written.
For months, the administration has insisted that Iraqi leaders write a constitution and hold elections before power shifts to Iraqis. But on Thursday, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Iraqi Governing Council has resisted that American timeline.
"It is still important that the Iraqi people have a permanent constitu- tion and elections for a permanent government. Nothing has changed," Rice said. "But what is also important is that we find ways to accelerate the transfer of power to the Iraqis - they are clamoring for it, they are...ready for it."