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The World's Task Is to Help Rebuild Iraq, Says Powell

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2003 – After many meetings at United Nations headquarters in New York this week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said world leaders are putting aside past differences to help the Iraqi people.

"Every leader that the president spoke to this week said, 'Let's move forward, let's not worry about the debate we had earlier. That's over. Let's come together. Let's show what the international community can do to help this country, help these people,'" Powell said during a Sept. 25 interview on the CBS "Late Show With David Letterman."

The task before the world, continued the secretary, is to "help the Iraqi people build a better nation for themselves, better lives for their children and to create a country that they will be proud of, that will live in harmony and peace with its neighbors."

Asked about the nearly daily reporting of American loss of life in Iraq, the retired general told Letterman the United States did not end major combat operations in Iraq prematurely.

"We're very proud of the young men and women who went into harm's way on behalf of freedom and serving their nation," he said. "And we regret every life lost; but not one of these lives were lost in vain. We defeated the Iraqi army handily. They essentially collapsed. But many of them stayed behind and are now giving us some difficulty.

"There are those who want to go back to the days of Saddam Hussein," Powell continued, "and those are the ones, the remnants of the old regime, that are attacking our soldiers."

Citing the bombing at U.N. headquarters, the attack on the NBC network office and the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy, all in Baghdad, Powell noted that Americans are not the only targets.

"They're not just coming after the United States. They're coming after all those who are there to make sure that that kind of regime does not come back, all those who are there helping the Iraqi people to a better life, these remnants are attacking," Powell said. "And we will deal with them."

He said he hopes more nations will join the 30 now helping in Iraq.

"We have to get others to help us, and especially build up the Iraqi forces again so that they can take care of their own security, protect their own communities and pull our troops out of that kind of work," he added.

Progress is being made, said Powell. "We've started the creation of a new government. We're anxious to see a constitution written and ratified within the next six months or so, if that's possible. They're working hard on that. Hospitals are open and the economy is starting to rebound."

The secretary spent two days in Iraq last week, and told Letterman the Iraqis are "overjoyed that Saddam Hussein is gone. They would like to see things move faster. They would like the economy to rebound quicker. Everybody wants a job. Everybody wants their kids in a good school. So they want all the things that we want for them."

That's why, he added, the president is committed to asking Congress to pass the $87 billion supplemental spending bill to help support rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Most of the money is to support our troops and deployments," said the secretary. "And these two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, have been given a new lease on life. We've put hope before them. And what we have to do now, is stay the course, and make sure that we don't allow them to slide back into the chaos from which they have emerged."

Regarding the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the secretary said he believes there will be tangible evidence, but added, "We're waiting to see what Dr. (David) Kay, who heads up this effort for us, is going to say in his report next week," Powell said. "He has accumulated miles of documents, a great deal of evidence. He's interviewing hundreds of Iraqi scientists and military personnel. So we'll wait and see what Dr. Kay says."

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