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Coalition Envisions 'Iraqi Government of the People'

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2003 – Iraq is capable of creating a viable government, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. In the meantime, the U.S.-led coalition has a responsibility to ensure food, water, medicine and basic services are provided to the Iraqi people.

Iraq's reconstruction is not just a "postwar phenomenon," the deputy told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee April 10. "We are already discovering that most of the rehabilitation that is needed in Iraq is rehabilitation from 30 years of a tyrant who spent the country's money on other things."

Reconstruction will require close coordination by coalition military and Iraqi civilians, Wolfowitz said. Coalition forces will help restore law and order and provide the secure environment key to creating a democratic government and fostering economic development.

"For the first time in decades," he said, "the wealth of Iraq will be devoted to the welfare of the people, not to palaces or armies or instruments of repression."

Coalition officials see the United Nations as a partner in this effort, playing a major role in helping to mobilize international support. Wolfowitz said a number of countries have already said they want to contribute stability forces, money or both.

"We want to see a situation where power and responsibility is transferred as quickly as possible to the Iraqis themselves, with as much international assistance as possible," he said.

The coalition intends to help Iraq create "a government of the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people and for the Iraqi," he said. The coalition's task is to create the security conditions whereby Iraqis can pick their leaders freely.

Next week, U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, Central Command commander, will host a meeting of Iraqis, organized in partnership with the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland, the three coalition countries with troops on the ground. The meeting will include Iraqis who've opposed Saddam Hussein's regime from outside Iraq, leaders from northern Iraq, as well as Iraqis coming out of liberated areas in the south.

"The only criterion is that to come to this you need to have a commitment to a free and democratic Iraq and not be a Ba'athist killer," the deputy said.

Coalition officials aim to help the Iraqis create an interim authority to begin directing the political and economic reconstruction of their country. The Iraqi Interim Authority will include members of all Iraq's religious and ethnic groups, as well as Iraqis from inside and outside the country.

One IIA early task will be to create a new government by setting up local elections and drafting a new constitution. "This is a process that foreigners cannot direct," Wolfowitz stressed. "It must be a process owned by Iraqis."

The IIA will serve as a bridge from the initial administration of basic services by the coalition, to a government that represents the Iraqi people, he said. In the meantime, the coalition's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, headed by retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, will oversee delivery of humanitarian assistance and initial efforts to provide essential services.

Garner's office will help restore medical care, water, and electrical services and ensure the Iraqi civil servants who administer these services are paid. As soon as basic services are running again, the deputy said, the reconstruction office will turn over administration to the IIA.

The retired general is particularly well-suited for the task, Wolfowitz said, because he played a leading role in Operation Provide Comfort in 1991. The operation provided relief right after the 1991 Gulf War to Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq and protection for humanitarian relief efforts. Garner helped the people of northern Iraq set up a governing authority in the territory under their control.

"That process enabled coalition forces to withdraw completely underscore completely without any peacekeepers left behind, six months after Operation Provide Comfort had created a sanctuary in the north for free Iraqis," the deputy said.

The coalition will also help protect Iraq's natural resources and infrastructure until the new government is in place, Wolfowitz said. Efforts are under way to protect oil fields in the north and to restore oil production as quickly as possible, he noted.

"The United States is dedicated to ensuring that Iraq's oil resources will remain under Iraqi control for the use of the Iraqi people," he said.

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