Bremer Calls U.N. Report on Iraqi Elections 'Constructive'
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2004 A United Nations report that says elections in Iraq can take place late this year or early in 2005 if preparations begin now is helpful, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator said Feb. 23.
In a statement issued from his Baghdad, Iraq, headquarters, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III called the report "a constructive contribution to our mutual goal of transferring to the Iraqi people a sovereign, democratic Iraq."
Bremer said the coalition shares the U.N. view that direct elections as soon as possible are important and U.N. concerns about the feasibility of elections before sovereignty transfers from the CPA to the Iraqi people. "The report makes clear that we must stand firm in handing sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30, and we will meet that milestone," his statement noted.
Earlier in the day before the U.N. report's results were announced, Bremer had told Pentagon reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the United States will change from an occupying force to an invited guest upon the turnover of sovereignty.
"At that point, the position I'm in goes away," he said. "But it's very important to stress that that's about all that changes, because there will be the world's largest embassy here. That embassy will be responsible for overseeing the spending of $18.6 billion, the largest amount of aid we have ever given to any country."
Bremer said the American presence will continue to be strong in Iraq, "and we will stay here until the job is done, as the president has said. And that's going to take time." He added that he will leave Iraq upon the turnover of sovereignty, to be replaced by a U.S. ambassador to the newly sovereign nation.
He said Iraq has "a real thirst for democracy," but is finding out that democracy doesn't mean smooth sailing. Bremer said he reminded the Baghdad City Council Feb. 22 that "democracy is messy."
"What's tidy is dictatorship," he said. "We did that here, and it's gone, and they're glad it's gone." He said he's encouraged and proud that the Iraqi people are moving toward a bill of rights that he called "revolutionary in this part of the world."