The meeting of Iraqis scheduled in Baghdad for April 28, 2003, is another "important step forward," according to US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Called the Central Iraq Meeting, Wolfowitz said the event will be the second in a series of meetings to be held around the country, in which Iraqis will exercise "their newfound freedom to speak. ... Iraqis will set the agenda and discuss the vital issues.”
“This should accelerate the dialogue and transition to the establishment of an interim Iraqi authority," he said at a Foreign Press Center briefing for Arab and Muslim media April 25. Setting up an interim authority is vital because "the United States and other coalition countries have no interest in governing or occupying Iraq.”
“Our intention ... is ... to leave behind an Iraqi government that preserves the territorial integrity of the country; that uses the resources of the country for the benefit of all the Iraqi people; and that poses no threat to Iraq's neighbors," Wolfowitz said.
An interim authority, Wolfowitz continued, should be representative of all of Iraq's people, and include religious representation. He said he sees the interim governing body as having two main tasks: to take over administration of basic Iraqi governmental functions; and to lead the way to the formation of a democratic government to work on drafting a constitution and an agenda for legal and economic reforms, and to organize elections.
He suggested, as an example, that a "bill of freedoms" could be written, guaranteeing all Iraqis the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and ownership of private property. Quoting from President Bush's speech April 24 in Lima, Ohio, Wolfowitz said, "One thing is certain: We will not impose a government on Iraq. We will help that nation build a government of, by and for the Iraqi people."
Asked how he saw “the liberation of Iraq having an effect on other Middle East countries”, Wolfowitz answered, "I can't help but think that the existence of a free and democratic country in the Middle East, and particularly one of the largest and most important countries in the Arab world, is going to have an important and positive influence both on political development and on the [Palestinian-Israeli] peace process, at least in the medium-to-long run, and perhaps in the short run."
Responding to a questioner who asked whether the United States considered the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to be a Kurdish city, Wolfowitz replied, "Kirkuk is not a Kurdish city. Kirkuk is an Iraqi city. It's inhabited by Kurds and Turks and Turkomans and Arabs."
He added that the important disagreements there, especially concerning property rights, must be resolved peacefully, and that the United States was consulting with central European governments that had faced the same kinds of issues, such as the government of Bosnia.
On the question of the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Wolfowitz pointed out the difficulties."[R]emember, [Baghdad] is a city the size of Los Angeles. So stop and think about it. We know they were hiding things in houses. We know they were hiding things in tunnels and basements. The places that are most obvious to look are also the most obvious places to move things out of, so it'll take time. We'll have to talk to people, have to get information," he said. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )