Rumsfeld: Iraq Needs to Talk Border Issues With Iran, Syria
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
EN ROUTE TO BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jul. 27, 2005 Iraq needs "to be aggressively communicating" with its neighbors to stop the infiltration of foreign terrorists across its borders, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.
Speaking to the traveling press aboard his C-17 aircraft en route to Baghdad after visits to the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Rumsfeld asserted that the behavior of Syria and Iran in allowing insurgents to enter Iraq "has been harmful" to the Iraqi government.
Iraq should work with Syria and Iran "to see that foreign terrorists stop coming across those borders," Rumsfeld said. Iraq's neighbors, he added, shouldn't be harboring or financing insurgents that seek to come into Iraq to work mischief against Iraqis or U.S. and coalition forces.
The political front is also moving ahead in Iraq, Rumsfeld noted, as its citizens are working to draft a new constitution for the country by Aug. 15. A referendum on the draft constitution is slated for Oct. 15.
The drafting of a new constitution is "enormously important" to Iraq's citizens, Rumsfeld said, noting it will give them a stake in their country.
Iraq's new political system will continue to go forward, Rumsfeld predicted, and in tandem with a rejuvenated economy and improved domestic security forces, it will ultimately assist to "dampen" the insurgency.
"It will make it much more difficult for insurgents to be successful" in Iraq, he noted.
A new, democratically elected Iraqi government is slated to take over in January, Rumsfeld said.
He also reported that planning is under way to eventually transfer responsibility for Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government, as Iraq's new criminal justice system gets stronger.
It's also time for the Iraqi government to find opportunities to thank coalition countries that have helped it become free and sovereign, Rumsfeld said, noting some of the 25 to 30 countries that have helped Iraq will stand down or reduce their forces in Iraq.
The secretary said he'd visit with American troops during his Iraq visit and discuss current issues with U.S., coalition and Iraqi military and government officials.