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Iraqi Public Works Minister Thanks U.S., Seeks Continued Support

By Staff Sgt. Stephen Hudson, ANG
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2003 – Nasreen M. S. Berwari is thankful the United States led the effort to free her country from one of the most brutal governments in history.

Berwari is Iraq's newly appointed public works minister. The only female member of Iraq's new cabinet of 25 ministers heads a department of about 45,000 people.

The graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a degree in public policy and management has a Herculean task ahead of her: helping her homeland recover from what she describes as "35 years of neglect and bad management."

Three weeks after taking office, Berwari traveled to the United States seeking continued support from Congress for rebuilding Iraq. She took a few minutes between meetings in Washington to reflect on the changes her country faces and to thank the American people who have in her eyes done so much for Iraq.

"I would like to give tribute to the lives that have been lost," she said. "We are very grateful.

During the torturous years under Saddam Hussein, Berwari said, 3 million Iraqis were displaced for seeking a better form of government. In the village of Halabja, Saddam's regime used chemical weapons to kill 5,000 Iraqis. The dictator led the Iraqi people into three wars, one with Iran and two with the United States and its coalition partners.

Berwari said the more than 100 unearthed mass graves sites expose the regime's brutality. "If the people cannot see it in the first mass grave, then I am sure that by the second and third they will realize the atrocities," she said.

The challenges the minister faces in her work are "daunting," she said. "We need and seek support."

"Without (the United States') help, we cannot move ahead," she said. "The investment that was made during the war in changing the regime may be lost if we do not now invest in the reconstruction process."

America's continued investment, she said, "will be put in good hands and will make Iraq stand on its feet by the end of 2004."

"Iraq is a country of resources," she said. "We are rich with oil and water, but above all, (with) human resources. We are passing through a critical time, but we will go through it with help from the United States."

Berwari foresees Iraq becoming a center of economic prosperity. She hopes Iraq will become a world leader upholding the ideals of peace.

With America's continued support, she said, Iraq will become a stable, secure nation, free of tyranny, a country that will not serve as a haven for terrorists.

"It's only with wise and committed leadership," she said, "that good things can happen in the world."

(Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Stephen Hudson is assigned to DefendAmerica.)

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