U.S. Ready to Help New Iraqi Government, Rice Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Apr. 27, 2006 The United States stands ready to help and support Iraq's new unity government in any way it can, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said here today.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice address the media after meeting at the U.S. Embassy on April 27. Rumsfeld and Rice made an unannounced visit to the country to meet with senior military commanders and Iraq's new Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki to show continuing support for the building of an Iraqi government. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rice spoke along with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at a news conference this morning. The two Cabinet members arrived here yesterday for a series of meetings with U.S. military and Iraqi government leaders.
"I think it's fair to say that all of these Iraqi leaders recognize the challenges before them, (and) recognize that the Iraqi people expect their government to be able to meet those challenges," Rice said. "It is obviously going to take some time to do this work, and we found government representatives who are focused, who are inspiring in listening to them, and I think who understand very much the work before them."
She said the U.S. message at the meetings with Iraqi officials was that the United States wants to be a supportive partner and is prepared to do whatever it can to help.
"It was a really inspiring time," Rice said, "because these are great patriots who, very often at great personal risk, are taking on the work of building this democratic and prosperous Iraq. And they're going to have a good friend and partner in the United States in doing it."
Rumsfeld said he came away from the meetings "very encouraged" by what he heard.
"The first step, obviously, for the government is to fashion a Cabinet, the heads of the various ministries, soon with people who demonstrate to the Iraqi people who went out and voted for them that they have stepped forward and assumed responsibility for their sovereign nation, and then to continue to develop the Iraqi security forces," Rumsfeld said.
The Iraqi people, he added, will be impressed by their government's leaders.
"I think that the impression that the people of this country will have of the government will be the impression that Secretary Rice and I garnered from our meetings with them -- that they're serious people, they recognize the difficulties of the tasks they're facing, and they intend to get about the task of governing this country in a responsible way," Rumsfeld said.
Rice agreed, adding that it's important for the new government to choose capable Cabinet ministers who will reflect the values of a national unity government.
In recounting a meeting today with former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Rice downplayed Allawi's widely publicized statement several weeks ago that Iraq was in a state of civil war. Their conversation, she said, focused on Iraq's future and "the need for a government that takes advantage of all of the very capable people who have fought to bring Iraq to this point -- that is, an Iraq that is free of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and that is now in the work of trying to build a stable government."
Describing Allawi as "a good friend of the United States and an Iraqi patriot," Rice said she knows no one more devoted to the notion of national unity than Allawi, a notion she said is shared by all the leaders she's met here.
"They're all very devoted to that notion, and that's the best answer to those who are trying to and who believe that they can tear this country apart -- that there are leaders here, and I'm quite certain the great majority of the Iraqi people, who are determined that they will not be torn apart," she said.