Bush Praises Iraqi Government, Says U.S. Troops Will Stay
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2004 President Bush praised the new Iraqi interim government, saying it possesses "the talent, commitment and the resolve to guide Iraq through the challenges that lie ahead."
Bush spoke during a White House press conference. He said U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to help maintain order and stability and help the Iraqi government set up security forces.
He said the U.S. forces in the country will remain under U.S. control. "The American people need to be assured that if our troops are in harm's way, they will be able to defend themselves without having to check with anybody else other than their commander," he said. "At the same time, I can assure the Iraqi citizens as well as our friends in Europe, that we have done these kind of security arrangements before. Witness Afghanistan. There's a sovereign government in Afghanistan, there are U.S. troops and coalition troops there, and they're working very well together."
Bush said that Iraqi security forces will have their own chain of command. Iraqis, not coalition commanders or Americans, will command the Iraqi army.
The president praised the role that U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi played in choosing the men and women who will be in the interim government.
Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi a strong leader who "has always been an Iraqi patriot."
The president said he had "zero" input into Brahimi's decision on interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar, an engineer from northern Iraq.
The 33-member cabinet contains members from all over Iraq. There are six women in the cabinet, and all major ethnic groups and religions are represented.
"The foremost tasks of this new interim government will be to prepare Iraq for a national election no later than January of next year and to work with our coalition to provide the security that will make that election possible," Bush said. "That election will choose a transitional National Assembly, the first freely elected, truly representative national governing body in Iraq's history."
The president said he spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan about a Security Council resolution that will "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."
Bush said the interim government brings Iraq one step closer to a fully sovereign nation with a representative government that protects the rights of all Iraqis as it serves their needs.
Bush said that many challenges remain. He told reporters that violence in Iraq will probably increase as the handover occurs. "The killers know that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror," Bush said. "The return of tyranny to Iraq would embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings and more murders of the innocent around the world."
He said that a free Iraq will be "a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the civilized world and for the security of America."