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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Powell, Bremer Hold News Conference

Aired September 14, 2003 - 11:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: We are watching pictures now of Secretary of State Colin Powell taking the microphones with Paul Bremer in Baghdad, so we'd like to listen to the secretary's remarks.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... representing the people of Iraq, and then I had very exciting meetings with the new Governing Council, and then finally with the Baghdad city council before coming back over here.

I'm deeply impressed by what I saw. I saw people hard at work rebuilding a nation, rebuilding a society. I saw people hard at work, knowing that the United States is going to support them in that work.

And that work has a very simple, direct and clear purpose. And that is to help rebuild this country economically, its physical infrastructure, but most importantly, politically as well, so that we can move forward, the Governing Council, with the appointment of cabinet ministers now. And then we will get on with the writing of the constitution, the Iraqis will get on with the writing of the constitution, ratification of the constitution leading to free elections.

And those free elections, when over, there will be a new leadership, a leadership committed to democratic principles, a leadership that will make the Iraqi people proud of it. And at that time, we will have no greater honor than to pass full authority back to the Iraqi people.

I extended to all of the Iraqi leaders I met today the best wishes of the president and the American people and gave them, as a sign of our commitment, the president's request to the Congress for $20 billion of assistance to come to Iraq in this year, as a supplement to the year's budget -- the largest we've ever done for any country.

The need is great, and we hope that other nations around the world will join us in this effort.

I must say that I was impressed by the spirit that I saw. The city council meeting I just left talked about the kinds of things you would expect a city council in meeting to talk about -- the environment and about education, about the role of women in the city's life. And so there is vibrancy to this effort, a vibrancy that I attribute to the winds of freedom that are now blowing through this land.

And I am very honored to be here as secretary of state of the United States of America on my first trip to Baghdad.

And I would like to thank all of the Iraqis I met with today for their hospitality, and especially thank Ambassador Bremer and his staff for all their hard work.

Now we'd be delighted to take some questions, and I think Richard will be pointing people out.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, today you have met with the Iraqi Governing Council, with our foreign minister, and with Baghdad city council. Have these emerging leaders given you a single message from Iraq?

POWELL: The single message I got from them is many messages. It is almost hard to single out one.

First of all, gratitude for the effort the United States and coalition partners put into freeing Iraq, liberating Iraq and giving them this new chance. Gratitude for the work that our soldiers are performing, gratitude for the commitment of the American people, especially the commitment of President Bush.

And I also, as I said earlier, saw in them an energy that I hope we will see in the weeks and months ahead.

It's really quite astounding how much has happened over the last few weeks, just the last few weeks since the formation of the Governing Council, 25 cabinet ministers. My new colleague, the foreign minister, attended an Arab League meeting and was able to arrange to be seated as a representative of Iraq for a one-year provisional period.

The announcement within the last two days that there will be an independent judiciary in this country; town councils meeting all over; the basic services starting to come back up, whether it's electricity or sewage or water. Everybody is eating. Health care is being restored to pre-war levels.

And there was an expression of gratitude on the part of the Governing Council members and the city council members for our efforts working with our coalition partners and working with Iraqis to bring this about.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I notice you haven't had a meeting with David Kay or any of his team here. Irrespective of whether you have had meetings or will have meetings on that subject, is there any light that you can shed on how his work is going?

POWELL: No, David isn't here, and so I couldn't meet with him. I think he's back in Washington preparing his report. And with the schedule that I have, I wasn't able to meet with members of his team, and it was no particular need to, because I know that David will be putting out a report in the very near future. And I look forward to seeing it, as everyone else is.

From what I have heard, he has assembled a great deal of useful information, but I don't know the specific results that he will be coming forward with or what conclusions he has drawn yet.

QUESTION: I would like to know, two days ago there was an incident in Fallujah in which nine Iraqi policemen were killed. Does the government of the United States envisage any kind of monetary compensation to the families of those people?

And the second question is that the Spanish minister of foreign affairs, Ana Palacio, is here. Have you met, did you have a meeting with her?

Thank you.

PAUL BREMER, IRAQ'S CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR: The very regrettable incident in Fallujah is still under investigation by our military. We have expressed regrets for it publicly. When we have reached conclusions about how the incident came about, we'll take appropriate steps.

In the past, we have paid -- we have paid families in the past where we have felt that it was appropriate, but this particular incident is still under investigation.

QUESTION: The quantity of money that you have paid?

BREMER: No, I'm sorry. That would be a matter for the military to specify after they finish the investigation.

POWELL: I met with Foreign Minister Palacio in my office in Washington a few days ago. I was hoping to meet with her here, but our paths crossed, so I talked to her on the telephone as she was at leaving the airport.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, this morning you said that the press had not presented enough of the positive side of developments in Iraq. Do you feel that you have seen a fair representation of what has happened, since you are not leaving the security bubble during your presence in Baghdad?

And, secondly, have you, or will you, meet with anyone who is unhappy with the U.S. presence?

POWELL: Well, I don't know if I will have the opportunity to go around town and ask for people to say they're unhappy and come forward. I am not able to get everywhere that I might like to go in a relatively short visit, but I think I've been around long enough to understand things I'm being told and to see behind the things I'm being told.

And a lot of the things I've heard about are things that I've been reading about in the daily reporting that I get in Washington from Ambassador Bremer, from the military, as well as from my own people at the Agency for International Development.

And there is just a great deal that is happening in this country, whether it's the formation of PTAs in local schools, whether it's our brigade commanders giving $500 to each school in their district as long as that school comes up with a PTA, something unheard of here before, and uses that PTA to determine how the money will be spent. That's grassroots democracy in action. All the town councils that have been formed.

So there is a great deal that is going on that tends not to get reported. I'm not picking on the press on this, because it tends not to be as newsworthy as something that tends to be more visual and more negative in nature, and that's the nature of news.

But while reporting that, as everyone should -- everything should be reported -- I think perhaps a little more time and attention and energy and access should be given to the good stories that are out there. And there are a lot of good stories that are out there. And I think if that received more attention, then the public, the American people, as well as the rest of the international community, might get a slightly more balanced picture.

I'm not, in any way, suggesting that I'm an editor for television and newspapers and magazines. That is their job, not mine. I'm just making an observation.

QUESTION: (SPEAKING IN ARABIC)

POWELL: You'll have to forgive me and do the first part again, please.

BREMER: He's asking about the...

POWELL: Did you get it, Jerry?

BREMER: Yes.

POWELL: Let me give it to the ambassador. I didn't hear the first part of the question.

BREMER: You're quite correct. Iraq has an enormous overhang of debt, estimated by some people as high as you said, at $130 billion.

We are in the process now of trying to get a better inventory of what the actual debt is. The Group of Eight ministers and leaders, in their meeting in Evian in June, agreed there would be no payments on this debt for a year and a half.

So during the next 15 months or so, we anticipate we will be discussing with Iraq's creditors, which includes the United States, how best to deal with this problem.

QUESTION (through translator): I have three questions. One, the people thank you for liberating it from the doomed regime, and no one beside you could liberate Iraq. What is the prize (ph) for this liberation?

The second question, is there any intention to provide authority to the first authority which is information ministry to the people of Iraq? Until now, the information has not been provided to the people of Iraq. Is it possible that you're going to give the authority to the Iraqis? You have not given them an information ministry. How could you do that?

This last one, can you inform the media how much oil is produced and where the money going?

Thank you.

POWELL: I know that President Bush would welcome the opportunity to visit Iraq. I don't know when he will be able to do that. And I have learned that it's best for me not to speculate on what my president might do with respect to his travels.

Your next question with respect to what price would we charge? The only thing we're expecting in return is a free democratic Iraq that will be a friend and partner of the United States and a friend and partner of their neighbors in this part of the world and a responsible player on the world stage. And that is what we came here to do. That is what our young soldiers gave their lives for, and that is what we're committed to helping Iraq achieve.

With respect to information ministry, Ambassador Bremer may wish to say a word, but in the course of our discussions today we talked about the need to accelerate and enhance our efforts to provide information to the Iraqi people about what we're doing. It goes back to the question that Ms. Wright (ph) raised a little while ago: Are we doing enough to get the word out with what is going on, an honest word out, with respect to what is going on within the country?

And the specific question of oil shippings and revenue return I'll give to the ambassador.

BREMER: Yesterday we produced 1,624,000 barrels of oil. We've been averaging about 1.5 million barrels a day for the last 10 days.

POWELL: The funds, Jerry.

BREMER: Oh, yes, sorry. The funds, 95 percent of the revenue flows directly into the development funds for Iraq, which was established by U.N. Resolution 1483. Five percent is given to a separate account, which is counted against the reparations for Kuwait for Saddam Hussein's aggressive war against Kuwait.

QUESTION: Some leaders of the Governing Council have been asking for a faster handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Ahmed Chalabi, this month's Governing Council president, recently said that a handover of sovereignty would make the Americans look like liberators again, and that the Iraqi people don't understand the logic of occupation.

I'd like your reaction to such demands. And would you be willing to accelerate the timetable in response to these demands from the Governing Council leadership?

POWELL: Well, we had a long meeting today with the Governing Council, and Dr. Chalabi was in the chair, and he expressed no sentiment to me.

What I expressed to the Governing Council was that the only way to get to where we have to be is with a deliberate process that first and foremost builds up the institutions of government. You can't just say you're a government, fine, go, you have full authority. Coalition Provisional Authority is responsible for security now, and it will be some time before any new government could take over the responsibilities inherent in being in charge of security.

You have to build capacity to govern.

And then governments, to survive, the kinds of government we want to see Iraq have, has to have legitimacy. And legitimacy comes from having a constitution, a constitution that's been ratified by the people. And once you have that constitution, you then give legitimacy to the new government through elections, elections that represent the view of the people.

That's our strongly held view, and I conveyed that to the Governing Council in very direct terms earlier today. And I think they certainly understand our position. And I'm sure they will be discussing our conversation today, and I look forward to any observations that they'd like to feed back to Ambassador Bremer or to me.

Everybody would like to accelerate this. Everybody wants this to go fast. We don't want to stay here a day longer. It is expensive. Our young soldiers would like to get home to their families.

So we are not hanging on for the sake of hanging on. We are hanging on because it's necessary to stay with this task until a new government has been created, a responsible government.

The worst thing that could happen is for us to push this process too quickly, before the capacity for governance is there and the basis for legitimacy is there, and see it fail.

We are not occupiers. We have come under a legal term having to do with occupation under international law, but we came as liberators. We have experience being liberators. Our history over the last 50, 60 years is quite clear. We have liberated a number of countries, and we do not own one square foot of any of those countries, except where we bury our dead.

QUESTION: (SPEAKING IN ARABIC)

POWELL: The U.N. has an important role to play in the reconstruction. And I think Mr. Sergio de Mello, who tragically lost his life in service of the U.N. and the service of Iraq, was certainly here trying to carve out that role. And many U.N. agencies had come into Iraq. Because of the incident on the 19th of August that took Mr. de Mello's life and the life of a number of others, they have had to trim back their efforts.

But with this new resolution we are working on in New York, we hope it will once again put a strong political mandate behind the role of the U.N. The U.N. has a vital role to play. We want to involve it as much as possible. And that's why we are working so hard for this new resolution.

FRAZIER: And as the secretary of state listens to yet another question here, we just want to let you know that he was speaking from Baghdad and was flanked there for some of his remarks by U.S civil administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. One quick thing, he mentioned discussing issues with David Kay. That is a weapons inspector who led his team in Iraq and who is now back in Washington preparing his report.

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