Rice Expects Europe, NATO to Support Iraq
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2004 Europe and NATO are ready to help the new Iraqi government, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said today in Ankara, Turkey.
Rice, in Turkey to attend the NATO Istanbul Summit, told Brit Hume on "Fox News Sunday" that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546, passed at U.S. urging on June 8, has been helpful.
"We have been getting a very favorable reaction from European nations, all saying that with the U.N. Security Council resolution, it's time for everybody to pull together and support this new Iraqi government, as it tries to build a stable and secure Iraq," Rice said.
NATO representatives have said, in effect, that Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi can expect a positive answer from the alliance to his letter requesting training help for Iraqi security forces, Rice said. "I think he will also get a strong political commitment that the countries of NATO understand that the future of Iraq is important to them," she added.
With the sovereignty turnover in Iraq only three days away, Rice said the enemies of a free and stable Iraq have stepped up their efforts to derail the process. "It's absolutely obvious that those who have no future in the new Iraq and the foreign terrorists are trying to derail this political transition," she said. "But Prime Minister Allawi and the Iraqi government have been very strong in saying that they are not going to succeed, that they are going to proceed. We are going to proceed with the handover to the Iraqis."
Besides trying to disrupt the political process, Rice said, the terrorists and insurgents also are targeting Iraq's electrical and oil-producing infrastructures, slowing reconstruction. "But it continues," she said, "and we're going to continue to press through, and so will the new Iraqi government."
While rebuilding Iraq's security forces probably will involve using highly trained personnel from Saddam Hussein's regime, Rice said, the new government will be careful about the which ones will have a role in the new Iraq.
"The Iraqis want everyone to know, and indeed the Iraqi government continues to say, that while they want to invite some trained personnel back, they are as concerned as everybody that people with blood on their hands not be brought back," Rice said. "They recognize that the future of Iraq cannot be built on the pillars of the worst of the old Baath Party."
Asked about assertions that Saddam Hussein had no connection with the al Qaeda terror network, Rice said no one is saying Saddam directed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. "But we know that going back for more than a decade, there have been contacts and connections between security personnel from the Iraq security services and al Qaeda," she said. "We know that they provided expertise in bomb-making, in document forgery."
Rice added that the network of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, whom she called "the face of terror today in Iraq," was operating out of Iraq, and Zarqawi known to be in Baghdad from time to time. She noted Zarqawi was involved in the murder of U.S. aid worker Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan, in 2002.
"So it's simply not true that there was no contact, that there were no relationships between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," Rice said. "I would say that, yes, it wasn't operational control, but there was some facilitation of what al Qaeda was trying to accomplish."
Rice said Saddam may not have run al Qaeda or other terror organizations, but he did help them. "You don't have to have operational control of al Qaeda or operational direction of al Qaeda in order to help al Qaeda," she said. "Helping them with document forgery or with bomb-making is helping al Qaeda. Supporting Palestinian rejectionists and paying $25,000 to suicide bombers is 180 degrees from the interests of the United States and peace in the Middle East."
Rice asserted that Iraq posed a serious threat before the coalition drove him from power. "This picture that somehow emerges of a relatively benign Iraq is simply at odds with the entire decade and two years since his defeat in 1991," she said. "And that says nothing of the horrors that he committed against his own people. So we need to get back to the picture here of what the United States and the coalition achieved.
"We overthrew one of the worst tyrants of the 20th century who was well into those activities in the 21st century," she continued. "The Middle East is safer for it. America is safer for it. And we should celebrate for the Iraqi people, that they're finally about to move toward a decent government, because heaven knows they suffered long enough under this bloody tyrant, as did the neighbors under the shadow of his threats."