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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
June 4, 2004

INTERVIEW

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage
On Abu Dhabi Television with Hany El-Konayyesi

June 3, 2004
Washington, D.C.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Let me, first of all, thank you for accepting the Abu Dhabi TV request to interviewing yourself.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And thank you for the opportunity.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Thank you very much. Starting with the Iraq issue, President Bush, in his latest speech, stressed, repeatedly stressed, that the Iraqis will have full sovereignty and end of occupation by June the 30th.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Mm-hmm.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: However, he also stressed that U.S. troops will stay in Iraq under the U.S. command. What exactly do you mean by sovereignty in Iraq and end of occupation?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, the UN Security Council resolution will make it very clear that this is a fully sovereign Iraqi government. We will only be in Iraq under UN mandate with the invitation of the government of Iraq. They have invited us in. They can invite us out. And that seems to me to be pretty sovereign.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: When it comes to the role of the U.S. troops in Iraq after June 30th, especially when it comes to combat kind of situation, what exactly will be the role of the U.S. troops?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we have been invited into Iraq under this UN mandate to provide security for Iraq, to try to affect positively the security environment. So it will be everything from protection of the United Nations sites to actual military operations against anti-coalition militants.

Obviously, to the extent Iraqi forces, whether it's police or army, to the extent they conduct the operations, that's much better, perhaps with our support or perhaps we'd just stand back. But this will be something we work out with the sovereign Iraqi government.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: But will the Iraqi government have any say on how the U.S. troops will be dealing with any combat situation?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, already they've had a say when it wasn't a fully sovereign government. Look at the situation in Fallujah. We started down one path and we listened carefully to the Iraqi Governing Council. They had other ideas about the way to go, so we listened.

So I think this is something we know how to do, we've done it in many countries, and we don't look forward to large problems.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Talking about Fallujah and Najaf, the hotspots in Iraq
--

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes, right.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: -- when do you think the Iraqi forces, security forces, will be ready to take over and take control of these hotspots?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, of course, there is a brigade of Iraqis in Fallujah city now, and, to my knowledge, we haven't had in the city a security incident since the 3rd of May. In Najaf, there are already Iraqi forces who are going into areas in which coalition forces are best advised not to go in, and I'm talking about near mosques and holy places.

So they are already doing this. Now, they've not taken over fully, but they're taking over more and more of the responsibility.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Dissolving the CPA in Iraq, and people expect that they will see Mr. Negroponte, Ambassador Negroponte, taking over for Mr. Bremer in Iraq. How different is the role of Mr. Negroponte?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: First of all, Mr. Negroponte is not taking over for Mr. Bremer. Mr. Negroponte will join 48 other missions -- that is, embassies -- in Iraq as the 49th mission, or embassy, in Iraq, and he will be the first U.S. ambassador to the sovereign Iraqi, or new Iraqi, government. He is not Jerry Bremer II or Jerry Bremer, Jr.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: So what his role will be like in Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It'll be like an ambassador of any other country. I grant you that he'll have a large amount of reconstruction money, U.S.-appropriated money, to work with the government of Iraq on to see that it gets to the people and to the needy. He will also have -- or be an ambassador of a country which has 138,000 soldiers. So he'll be a person of significant authority, but he won't be sovereign and he won't be the ultimate authority, as Ambassador Bremer has been.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Handling the oil revenues is one aspect, one major aspect, of Iraqi sovereignty.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Absolutely.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Will the U.S. have any kind of supervision on the spending of the oil revenues?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: No. Will the Iraqi government have any say when it comes to the U.S. funds spent on the reconstruction projects in Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, clearly, though it is U.S.-appropriated money and our ambassador will make the final decision, clearly this is something we'll work out with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Reconstruction and all the various interested parties. We wouldn't want to do something that doesn't support the people of Iraq, so we'll need the advice of the government of Iraq.

Now, as your earlier question indicated, the money that is received from the sale of oil will 100 percent belong to Iraqis, and they will make the decision on what to do with it.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Mr. Armitage, you've just come back from Brussels, where you've met with NATO ambassadors. What exactly the role you expect the NATO to play in Iraq after June the 30th?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we made no secret that we would like NATO, perhaps a headquarters element or something like that, to come be present to participate in the security activities in Iraq. But I think I have to acknowledge that already there are 16 NATO members, including ourselves, who have troops on the ground, and NATO countries are providing 17,000 soldiers already, but they're doing it bilaterally and individually, not as a great coalition -- or, excuse me, as a great alliance of NATO.

Right now, however, our sole concentration is on the UN Security Council resolution, and I told the ambassadors at NATO yesterday that we'd be back to have further discussions about the possible role of NATO.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Outside the NATO countries, do you expect any other countries to send troops in Iraq after June 30th?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, this will be a decision they'll have to make after they look at the UN Security Council resolution and the debate that surrounds it. We would be desirous of having countries -- we've had
-- of participating. There will be an element of the UN Security Council resolution that calls for countries to make forces available to protect the UN, both fixed sites in Iraq as well as convoy. And so there will be plenty of opportunity. I can't predict whether as countries will step up and actually provide troops.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: But no specific country has showed an interest in sending troops?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we've had discussions with countries in South Asia, but the situation is still unclear to them and they haven't made any commitment at all.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Now with the U.S. troops will stay or remain in Iraq under the U.S. command, what about the British troops and other coalition troops after June 30th?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it will be under a multinational -- the multinational force will be under a U.S. commander; that is, the coalition will be under the overall command of the United States, which seems appropriate seeing we have 138,000 of the soldiers there, the great majority.

We have a longstanding both rule and tradition that our soldiers don't go under other commanders, and we'll follow that in this case.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Again, talk about the UN resolution, the awaited UN resolution. With the new -- with the latest changes to the original U.S.-British proposal to the UN, what are the outstanding differences remaining between France, Germany and Russia, on one side, and United States and Britain on the other side?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, my own view is there is less difference than meets the eye. I think, first of all, there has to be a full discussion in New York. I note that Foreign Minister Zebari will be in New York this afternoon, this Thursday afternoon, to discuss these matters with the General Assembly. There are other Iraqi government officials-designate who are coming to New York to talk about these matters.

So I don't think we're going to have huge differences. There is some desire on the part of some to have more specificity on the ending of the mandate of the UN, things of that nature, but they're all within the realm of the doable, achievable. And I believe, as I said yesterday at NATO, we'll have relatively smooth sailing on this.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: When do you roughly expect the UN resolution to be --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, I can't say. You know, the ways of New York and the United Nations are very mysterious to me. But, clearly, we desire it before the 30th of June because it is our desire, no later than the 30th of June, to turn over sovereignty to the Iraqi government.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: What about after June 30th, and President Bush has repeated again, stressed that the elections, the Iraqi elections, will have to be held before January 2005.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Right.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Does this mean that the Iraq -- we can see the Iraqi elections taking place before the U.S. presidential elections?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's possible, but I think unlikely. Ms. Pirelli, the UN special representative for electoral matters in Iraq, has been very clear that she thought the earliest possible date was in December or no later than January. She has announced a slate of possible electoral commissioners, which seems to me a very good start on organizing Iraq for elections, which will be a very noteworthy event in the Middle East.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: And to what extent are you consulting with other Arab countries when it comes to the future arrangements in Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We've sent out cables to all of our embassies to have them go in and discuss these matters with neighbors and to countries more broadly. I was out in the region about three weeks or so ago consulting on the whole question of Iraq and the possibilities of a UN Security Council resolution. So I might conceit myself, but I think there are not many countries who are uninformed.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: What are the possibilities of Arab countries sending troops into Iraq after the UN resolution?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that from the Iraqi point of view, that's not a particularly desirable phenomenon. However, there are
-- there have been offers from various countries to train police or to be helpful in training police, such as Jordan, who has helped us set up an academy to train police. And that's a very good effort and we're very grateful, and I think Iraq will be grateful.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Again, to what extent do you think the security situation is holding the election process in Iraq?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I was quite heartened by Ms. Pirelli's comments. She is an expert on these matters and she thinks it's possible. Clearly, the enemies of freedom will try to disrupt elections because this will be the death knell for them. Equally, I think those who support this for Iraq have to work assiduously to make sure they happen.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Now, with only a few days before the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, what do you expect to come out of this summit with regard to the reform project in the Middle East?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think it will finally become clear to all our friends in the Middle East that the broader Middle East and North Africa reform are not something that are going to be pushed down on the tops of heads of countries. That would be impossible. But there will be a recognition in Sea Island that in almost every country in the Middle East there are changes in civil society, changes in transparency, changes in education; and I think the G-8 will want to support these changes in a way that's comfortable to the people of the individual states and is culturally correct for the people of the individual states.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: And how do you perceive the Saudis and Egyptians turning down your invitation to the G-8 Summit?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: President Mubarak was certainly invited. We listen carefully to our friends from Egypt, and particularly the leadership. It was his choice to make. Some others have made decisions to attend, and that's fine. This was a sovereign country making their own decision.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Now you've changed the terminology for the Greater Middle East project into Broader Middle East and North Africa.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Broader Middle East and North Africa.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Does this mean that the sought democracy is confined to the Arab world?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, but I was just listening before I came down to Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, who was making the point that democracy is not only for those countries which have enjoyed it for a long time; that every nation is certainly, he believes, desires it and is perfectly capable of thriving under it. That's all it means.

It's also -- changing the terminology is an acknowledgement that countries like Morocco and Tunisia and others have made some broad strides for reform, and not in a way that threatened anyone in those countries. And I think that's a good signal for people of the Middle East in general.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: You have imposed sanctions on Syria --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: -- and warned Iran against more intervention in Iraq.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Mm-hmm.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: How did -- how was their response? And if they don't respond positively, what are your options?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, of course, we've made it very clear with Syria that they are at a fork in the road and they can be a part of the vibrant life of the Middle East or they can be isolated, in which case the U.S. Congress has already voted a wide variety of sanctions and the President would have the opportunity to apply even harsher sanctions.

On the question of Iran, Iran knows very well that although she has interest in Iran -- in Iraq, how she projects those interests is very much of interest to us. If she does it diplomatically, that's fine. If she, however, causes difficulty and dissent in Najaf or Karbala or anywhere else, then this would call for a different action on our part.

But I make no threats. It's just an obvious point that we're watching very carefully what Iran does.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Is military action an option in this case?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't like to talk about that. The President has made it very clear that we have a wide range of options. I don't like to talk about military options.

We're involved in Iraq right now. We see the interference of Iran as not being -- I've described it as somewhat schizophrenic. In some cases they've helped us, in some cases such as keeping the number of pilgrims relatively limited during the Arbayeen so as to -- they wouldn't be in danger. And sometimes we find them a little less helpful, trying to use money, particularly in the south, the southern part of Iraq, to have their way. So they're schizophrenic on the issue.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Talk about the Middle East, I can't avoid a question on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Of course.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Are you aware of the new Sharon plan of involving or engaging Egypt and Jordan in security preserving in Gaza and West Bank?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, our position has been that we supported the 14 April plan, and that was full disengagement of Gaza and the 21 settlements there and the four settlements in the West Bank; and, secondarily, that this was not in place of final status negotiations, but it was on the way to supporting the roadmap and final status negotiations.

There have been discussions I'm aware of with Egypt and others about security matters, and our friends in Egypt and our friends in Jordan will keep us very informed.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: One last question. The news has just come about the resignation of Mr. Tenet.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: What are the reasons for this resignation, and who is the candidate?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I have no idea who the candidate is, but George Tenet called me this morning before his resignation and told me he did it for his family reasons. And what I said back to him is I haven't seen a better patriot or a greater patriot in the time I've worked in government than George Tenet.

So I think we should take George at his word that he resigned because of family reasons. He's had an exhaustive tour for almost seven years, and no man could have labored more.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: But do you personally think that it has anything to do with Iraq situation?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I think it has to do with the fact that after seven years of basically being away from his family -- his son is growing up very rapidly -- that he's a very devoted husband and father, and he wants to turn back to that.

MR. EL-KONAYYESI: Mr. Armitage, thank you very much for the time you've spent.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you very much, sir.

(end transcript)

 

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