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Work to Rebuild Iraq Will Go Forward, Says Senior U.S. Civilian in Iraq

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2003 – The United States' work with the United Nations to help build Iraq will go forward, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, said today.

"(This was) obviously a very unfortunate incident, but it does not derail our efforts," the ambassador said on CNN's "American Morning." "As the president said in his statement at Crawford (Texas), we're going to go forward. We have a very good plan to deal with problems of security and more importantly to get the economy going here. The political process is well under way."

As the investigation of the Aug. 19 truck bomb attack on the United Nations in Iraq continues, Bremer said it's "certainly possible" his friend Sergio Vieira de Mello, top U.N. official in Iraq and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights, could have been a target. De Mello is one of at least 17 who perished in the attack, according to news reports. There has been no official word on the number of casualties.

"Whoever did this positioned the truck in a place that was quite clearly in front of his (de Mello's) office," he added.

The ambassador extended his sympathies to families during an interview on NBC's "Today." "This terrible attack reminds us that wherever in the world it appears, the face of terrorism is ugly and evil, whether it's in Baghdad or Jerusalem as it was yesterday or in New York or Washington."

Another possibility, Bremer told CNN, is that the terrorists thought they could scare the United Nations into leaving the country. "They have not succeeded in that, as the (U.N.) secretary general has pointed out," he added. "We're not going to rest until we find these terrorists. It's part of a global war against terrorism that was declared on us on Sept. 11 (2001). It's a war that we have to fight where the terrorists are and unfortunately they're here in Iraq."

The ambassador told NBC there are at least two hypotheses on who is responsible for the attack on the United Nations. "One is that it was done by remnants of the Saddam regime," Bremer said. "This is the pre-eminent view of the members of the Governing Council here. It is also possible it was done by people from the outside."

Bremer added that the Governing Council, the interim government of Iraq, issued a "very strong" statement condemning the attack as being an "attack against the Iraqi people and saying that it would not deflect them from their determination to rebuild their country. And I think that accurately reflects the views of most Iraqis."

The ambassador visited the site several hours after the explosion. He told CNN there were Iraqi civil defense rescue people and Iraqi police working side by side with Americans to clear the rubble and to preserve evidence.

"It was an awful scene," he said. "It's a scene that reminds you how ugly the face of terrorism is wherever it appears."

But Iraq is not a "country in chaos," Bremer said in an interview on CBS's "Early Show." "The streets of the main cities, including Baghdad, are safe today," he stressed. "You find thousands of Iraqis on the streets. Right now, if you went downtown, you'd find them walking around. The shops are open. Men and women and children are there."

Terrorism, added the ambassador, does not mean chaos. "It does mean an outrage against humanity and it is something we have to deal with and we will deal with it. But it is simply wrong to extrapolate these terrorist acts to a conclusion that this country is in chaos. It's simply not true."

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