Bremer Says Deadline for Turning Sovereignty to Iraqis Stands Firm
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2004 As reports of explosions in Baghdad scrolled across the bottom of the television screen today, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the majority of Iraqis do not blame the United States for terrorist acts.
"You can always find somebody on the streets to give an interview who will blame us in the heat of the emotion," Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III said in an interview from Iraq. "But if you look carefully at the press and polls, the vast majority of Iraqis are very fed up with these terrorists attacking them, and they don't blame the United States. They blame the terrorists and that's where the blame belongs."
Still, Bremer said, it's an understandable reaction for Iraqis to blame the United States when security goes wrong.
"The way we have to fix that is with better intelligence so we can get the terrorists before they attack us," he added. "If you have people who are willing to put on explosive belts and put themselves into a big crowd such as happened in Karbala a couple of weeks ago, it's very hard to stop," said Bremer.
As he sat in the room where "Baghdad Bob" used to hold his "so-called press conferences," Bremer said it's been a great year for the Iraqi people.
"I'm sitting in a free Iraq, sitting in an Iraq where more than 200 newspapers have sprung up since liberation, where more than 25 million people are thirsting for democracy," he said.
Bremer said the June 30 deadline for turning sovereignty over to the Iraqis stands firm. On March 8, the Iraqi Governing Council approved the Transitional Administrative Law, which will serve as Iraq's interim constitution between June 30, 2004, and December 31, 2005. An interim government will assume sovereignty June 30. Elections for a national assembly will be held in December 2004, paving the way for a transitional government until a permanent constitution is written and ratified by referendum in the fall of 2005.
The Iraqi Governing Council, Bremer said, invited the United Nations to come back and help with setting up an electoral commission, writing electoral law and getting a voter's list ready.
"All of these things have to be done very quickly to meet the deadline for the first of four elections in January next year," he said.
One of the best things of the past year, said Bremer, is that Iraqis recognize how much better off they are now.
"Even more important," he added, "the polls show they're very optimistic about how they're going to be next year, and I agree. Next year, they'll have an elected government here."