Bremer Again Makes Case for Bush Supplemental Request
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2003 The $20 billion reconstruction portion of President Bush's $87 billion supplemental for Iraq is "an important part of the war against terrorism in Iraq," Ambassador L. Paul Bremer said at the Pentagon today.
Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator in Iraq, said during a press conference that without the $20 billion earmarked for reconstruction efforts there is a "very real risk, indeed a likelihood, that Iraq will become the kind of breeding ground for terrorism that we've seen in the last 20 years."
The money is part of an integrated budget request. The rest of the money would go to the Defense Department and fund on-going operations in Iraq.
Bremer said the $20 billion is all the authority will ask for in terms of a supplemental this year. "If there are additional needs, it will be done through the regular appropriation process when the (fiscal) 2005 budget is submitted to the Hill," he said. "We do not believe that there is anything like this kind of request that is needed again. This is what we think we will need for fiscal 2004."
Bremer also spoke about political developments in Iraq. He said the United States is as interested as the Iraqis in seeing "a coherent reasonable process to get back to a sovereign Iraqi government as quickly as that can be done."
The long pole in the tent is organizing a constitutional conference and writing a constitution. He said once a constitutional conference is agreed upon and the players meet that six months is a "reasonable time" for them to write the document. The United States is not setting any deadlines, Bremer said.
The Iraqi Governing Council appointed a preparatory committee to examine how to convene a constitutional conference. That committee is due to report back to the council by Sept. 30, Bremer said. "We obviously would like them to move right along," the ambassador said. "We are not standing in the way of a rapid return to sovereignty to the Iraqi government, provided it is done in a reasonable and politically sensible way."
Bremer tried to forecast Iraq's budget for calendar year 2005. He said the authority expects Iraqi oil production to match the prewar maximum of 3 million barrels a day by October 2004. The cost of running Iraq is about $15 billion per year. Oil and tax revenues should bring in about $20 billion per year. The excess could be used for long-term infrastructure repairs, he said.
Bremer said the biggest obstacle to peace and reconstruction in Iraq is the need to continue to defeat the terrorists so there is a secure environment. He said this has not had an impact on reconstruction yet. The authority has completed work on 8,000 reconstruction projects throughout Iraq over the last three months.
"But we have certainly seen an influx of foreign terrorists over the last three months al Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam and others and that is a threat to our soldiers, to the Iraqi people and obviously to the United Nations," he said. "We're making very substantial progress in the other areas we're worried about - restoring essential services, getting the economy going, the political process.
Bremer said "the focus of this supplemental is very much the question of what do we need do to be sure that we can defeat the terrorists in Iraq and we don't have Iraq become a breeding ground for terrorism in the future."