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Iraq's Interim President 'A Terrific Leader,' Rice Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2004 – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice today praised Iraq's interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer.

Appearing on a bevy of television morning news programs, Rice noted on ABC's "Good Morning America" that al-Yawer is "a terrific leader for Iraq."

U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi yesterday announced that al-Yawer would be Iraqi's first president in the post-Saddam era. Ibrahim Jaafari and Rowsch Shaways, he said, would serve as deputy presidents. Ayad Allawi is the interim prime minister.

"We want strong leaders in Iraq, and we've got strong leaders," Rice said.

Intensive consultations about who'd fill positions in the new Iraqi interim government had been ongoing for weeks, Brahimi noted in a recent statement.

The turnover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government is slated for June 30.

"What happened yesterday is that a whole group of Iraqis emerged who are ready to take sovereignty for their country, ready to move forward for their country," Rice pointed out on NBC's "Today" show. Iraqis, she added, can focus on improving security, reconstruction, and preparing for general elections in early January 2005.

"That's the really important story for the Iraqi people," Rice asserted on "Today," "and indeed for the people of the United States."

Yesterday, President Bush noted at a White House press conference that he'd raised the issue about a new Security Council resolution on Iraq with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

That resolution, the president said to reporters, would "express international support for Iraq's interim government, reaffirm the world's security commitment to the Iraqi people and encourage other U.N. members to join in the effort of building a free Iraq."

Rice said on "Today" that U.S. forces in Iraq would continue to be under U.S. leadership after the handover of sovereignty. For example, she noted, while American troops in Bosnia and Afghanistan serve alongside multinational forces, the Americans "clearly continue to serve under the command of the president of the United States."

"That's the case whenever our forces serve in multinational forces abroad," Rice pointed out.

The Iraqis, she observed, "will have their own forces which will serve under the command of an Iraqi minister of defense and prime minister." Iraqi government leaders would work with U.S.-coalition and U.N. officials, Rice explained, to "work together to decide how to best secure Iraq."

The new Iraqi government, she pointed out, "has made it clear that it needs the support and the help of multinational forces until it is capable of securing itself."

Rice told the CBS's "Early Show" that terrorists "have no political vision for Iraq except to take it back into the 12th century."

Terrorists "won't succeed in Iraq," Rice vowed. However, she predicted more bloodshed in the days and weeks leading up to the handover of Iraqi sovereignty.

"There may be an uptick in violence. In fact, I think you can expect one," she concluded.

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Condoleezza Rice

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