(Note: Because the briefer and questioners were off mike, this transcript contains numerous inaudible portions.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (In progress) -- against the armed opponents of democracy in Iraq.
So this new cabinet which has been announced today along with the presidency is, we think, deeply committed to democracy. And their willingness to take these responsibilities in such difficult and dangerous times is inspiring, I think, to all of us who love freedom.
So with those comments, I'm happy to take your questions. If you could identify yourselves, I'd be grateful. (Off mike.) Okay, so I'll just -- I'll spread them around as best I can.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think you'll have to use the mike. Begin again.
Q As far as the interim --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Can I have somebody -- (inaudible.)
Q There had been an agreement with the Governing Council and with the women -- (inaudible) -- for a quarter of the new government to be women, and this looks like you have six of 33. That's less than a quarter. Could you talk about that?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, this was -- the outcome was the result of enormously intense and complex discussions. As you know, the political geometry in Iraq is complicated, so there are many, many factors that were balanced one against the other. I think as you get a chance to see the biographies of these women, you'll be impressed.
Why don't we go to somebody on the side of the room. Okay. (Off mike.)
Q (Off mike) -- with the Washington Post. The U.N. released a statement earlier today saying that Dr. Pachachi was offered the position of president, but declined for personal reasons. And then Dr. Pachachi at a press conference just a little while ago said that the reason he had declined it was because there were people inside the Governing Council who didn't want him to be the president. Can you talk to us a little bit about the process of the selection of the president and how we, you know, got from Pachachi to Ghazi Yawar?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I don't want to intrude on Ambassador Brahimi's purview. He'll, I think, explain the latest events in that respect -- (off mike) -- in the statement that you mentioned.
I will say several things. We had, as we went through this process in this (four-cornered ?) way, many, many suggestions of who ought to be the president of Iraq. About -- now about a week ago, the list was narrowed and -- (off mike) -- the cabinet -- (off mike). And -- but the -- (off mike) -- just explain the process, but it was narrowed; however, really up until yesterday, other names started appearing. So someone would say, "Well, that's good, but have you thought of so-and-so?" So this was evolving really right on up through yesterday -- (off mike) -- including the presidency where there were some other names that came up late in the process.
But I think it was clear that Sheik Ghazi and Ambassador -- Minister Pachachi had the most significant support, so the preoccupation was centered on them, both of whom I think are exemplary.
One thing I did want to say in that regard is, I noticed -- you all are in that -- (off mike) -- but I noticed that several days ago, somebody wrote that Pachachi was the American choice; some of you wrote it, maybe even somebody in this room. And then every other story said this. I think this is -- (off mike). It's not true. In the middle of last week, when it looked as if these two were the strongest contenders -- (off mike) -- were those two gentlemen, Ambassador Bremer and I went back to Washington for guidance. We asked our -- the top of the administration -- these are the two; please express whatever preferences you might have. And fairly rapidly, within, indeed, I think, several hours, the answer came back, either of them would make an excellent president of Iraq, and we don't have a favorite.
And therefore, as these discussions went on, we lobbied for either one. You won't find any of these people that we talked to who will tell you -- truthfully, anyway -- that we went to them and said you should choose A or B.
By the way, there were some other stories, although they're fewer in number, that had exactly the opposite argument. We didn't lobby -- (off mike.) We said that we thought either one of them would make a fine president of Iraq. So I've corrected that, for what it's worth.
Q (Name off mike) -- from -- (off mike) -- newspaper. Yesterday we heard about the -- (off mike) -- with Sheik Ghazi and Mr. Pachachi. Can you describe to us -- (off mike) -- nominate and how has he been chosen -- how the Governing Council or the -- (inaudible) -- Sheik Ghazi -- (off mike)?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not, of course, going to name who else's name came up, not least because they didn't get the job. (Chuckles.) I don't think that would be (smart ?).
But I think I've just said all I need to say about the process that produced these decisions. And essentially, it was Ambassador Brahimi put out the statement, and you would want to talk to him, and you ought to ask him about it.
Sir? (Off mike.)
Q (Name off mike) -- from National Public Radio. Thank you. Do you expect the Governing Council to dissolve? There's been some discussion --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: My best understanding is it did.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think it dissolved this morning.
STAFF (?): Yes, they dissolved this morning. (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Okay. It dissolved this morning. It dissolved itself, I believe, if I'm not mistaken. It dissolved itself.
Q Did they make a statement or anything?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I'm --
STAFF (?): (Off mike) -- we can set up --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Okay. I know I -- (off mike) -- you'll have to -- (off mike).
Q (Off mike.) So who is running things on the Iraqi side -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: The prime minister and cabinet.
Q They've actually taken (things over ?)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, there's a ceremony today, as you know, which we all, if we can, will go see, at -- this afternoon at 4:00. And then, they're the interim government of Iraq until the election.
Q (Off mike) -- today, and what's the difference between today --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, from now until June 30, the sovereign authority in Iraq, on behalf of the Iraqi people, is the CPA. And between now and June 30, you have an interim Iraqi government, which will prepare to acquire that full sovereignty on the 30th of June. And that -- that's -- under international law, until June 30th, the CPA is the sovereign authority in Iraq. And then, on the afternoon of June 30th, this interim government, led by the prime minister and the cabinet that you've seen, will take control of sovereignty and begin to exercise it.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: But I said that Ambassador Bremer and myself went to Washington and said these are the two final candidates, (most liked ?); do you have a preference? Because we get to have our opinion, too.
Q Did you go to Washington?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Oh, no, no, no, I didn't go -- (inaudible) -- not that. I meant --
Q You talked to -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yeah. (Inaudible.) That would have been dramatic, into the night, fly off -- you didn't even miss me -- (inaudible). As I say, I don't know where that story started. (Inaudible.)
I better go over here. Yes, sir? But I'll be back.
Q Eddie Sanders from the LA Times. In the cabinet, do you know what the ethnic breakdown is? And were you looking to hit any specific targets in terms of --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: You should -- I'm not going to comment on that. There are many complexities -- geographic, ethnic, religious. So you just have a look and see what you think.
Q Can you talk about whether or not that was one of the factors in your determinations?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, balance of various kinds. Where are they from? Are they from -- (inaudible) -- all of us to have all of the various dimensions of Iraq that we could reflected in a cabinet, and I think you can see. So it's got --
Q And I would ask one tag-on to that. Were you specifically looking for people that were not part of the GC now in trying to round out that cabinet?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, we were looking -- yes, the answer is we were looking for new faces, and we were looking for people, individuals who had indigenous roots and support. We were looking for excellence. And of course, some number of members of the Governing Council qualify on all those accounts. Some of them -- I'm not going to announce which ones -- some of them took themselves out of the interim government, didn't wish to participate in it, and so forth. So, but yeah, we were looking for essentially a new team. And as you look at the names, you'll see it's a new team.
I'll go back over here. Sir?
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yes, sir.
Q How do you see that -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Of course, that's the most fundamental question that's been asked so far. We think it's an extremely strong, talented group. And of course they have, as we've seen today, even around where we are, what a daunting, difficult task they have. But we think that they are up to it, and we think that they will perform well. We think that they have the qualities, the talent, the strength, bravery, now and historically -- (off mike) -- I suppose, bravery. They know that the new security situation -- (off mike). So we think this is really quite an extraordinary group of people that Brahimi's come up with, and think that they're up to the task. And we'll do our best to support them.
Q Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. At the beginning of the process, I think Ambassador Brahimi said he felt that there would be a conflict of interest for people in this interim government to put themselves up for election to the transitional government. So have any of these people pledged not to run for election? And what kind of oversight or restriction would there be on them not to abuse their powers given them, absent of any Congress, absent of any kind of -- (off mike) -- holding the purse strings to make sure that they don't use -- (off mike)?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I think those are two different questions. I'll try to take them seriatim. The first one is no, there's no prohibition on running for office. And I think, if I may ask -- (inaudible) -- to ask questions about what Mr. Brahimi thinks, (you can direct it to him ?).
Q Well -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yeah. (Off mike.) But anyway, the answer is no. I think there are other countries where serving members of the government can run for reelection. (Off mike) -- think of one.
Q (Inaudible) -- congresses and --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: That was what I was going to say next, which is the issue of checks and balances. If you look at the TAL, you will see that the creation of the presidency -- (off mike). And if you'll also look at the TAL annex, (which we don't have to look at ?), there will be a supreme court. And then of course there will be this council, this interim council that will be stood up probably in early -- about mid-July by the time we do it. So I think there will be oversight of -- (off mike).
Let me try and pick someone I haven't -- (inaudible.)
Q Yes, Mark Jolley (sp) from Reuters. There's a widespread perception in the street of Iraq that all of these politicians you've talked to or appointed since day one, the whole process has been signed and sealed by the Americans. How much time did you actually go out and spend with people in the street asking them who they want versus these various organizations you talked with and women's groups?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, this is, of course, always a problem when one -- I'm a social scientist, so I actually know something about databases. This is a problem in democracies, if you -- the talent to try to understand what votes who aren't organized think. And we did give our best at doing that.
But as always in these exercises, we mostly speak with representatives. So you try to find women's groups and you talk with women about how they see Iraq and so forth. So you mostly -- (inaudible) -- I don't know exactly practically how (you go to ?) any other. And by the way, if I may be tedious -- the tedious professor here, in social science terms, anything you discover in such anecdotal encounters -- (inaudible) -- it really depends on who you (drop ?) into. So can't meet with 10 people.
So we did what people do. We (engulfed ?) as broad a -- as a matter of fact, all together thousands and thousands of people, maybe even some of them were ordinary Iraqis. I know who you think the street is, but thousands of people, thousands of people. And that process -- which as I say, took the last month -- won't satisfy everybody. I suppose in democracies, you can't.
But what happened as the process went on is some names begin to be mentioned more and more and more. And so we -- and I'm not saying -- the U.N. was extremely entrepreneurial in itself going out. They didn't just sit and wait, "Well, who wants to come and see?" They were out soliciting -- "Who should we talk to? Who should we talk to" -- all the time, and we were as well.
I guess over here, sir.
Q Dexter Filkins with The New York Times. What promises did you receive from the members of this government on -- that they wouldn't amend the interim constitution and they would not -- (inaudible) -- political freedom -- (inaudible) --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No.
Q And if you didn't, then why didn't you?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I don't exactly know how we would require them to -- (inaudible) -- promises. On the first point, of course, there's the TAL, and if you read the TAL, that answers your question.
On the second -- well, maybe --
Q I mean, so many groups have said that they -- (inaudible) --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I know, but the problem is that it wouldn't be legal if they did, so I don't think that's going to happen. (Inaudible) -- they run into the law of the land here someplace.
On the second point, we didn't ask for any such, "Raise your right hand, do you solemnly swear," because we didn't have a government. And one of things we'll want to do in June, now that -- starting from, I guess, 6:00 tonight, we'll have an Iraqi prime minister, an Iraqi defense minister, interior minister. At some point -- I don't know when, but not too far -- we'll start having discussions with them about the security arrangements -- (off mike). So, we couldn't do it beforehand because we didn't have an entity with which to do it. But that will be fairly soon, I think. They'll have to settle in to some degree, of course, because there are so many new people that (define their ?) ministries, and so forth. But once they get their feet on the ground, we'll start having that discussion.
Q (Name off mike) -- with the AP. Ambassador Brahimi -- (off mike) -- to us. What are the differences between this government today and the government you gave Iraq after the invasion? What's the main --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think that that invites you to make invidious comparisons between -- directed at a group of people, some of whom lost their lives by carrying out their responsibilities as members of the Governing Council. I think that's your (applicable ?) job; you do it, you look at it and make your judgments. But I'm not going to say anything critical of these people in the Governing Council. They did the best they could under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and some of them died. And all of them were under threat all the time; there were close calls, and so forth. So I take my hat off to them. There's nobody -- nobody forced them to do this; they kept at it, and I take my hat off to them. I think it was an extremely difficult situation that they faced.
Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) I'm just still a little bit unclear about how the president was chosen. I know you said that you -- (inaudible) -- Washington; they said either one would be fine. But what happened from there? How did -- (off mike)?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, there were -- these were discussions -- again, this is something that you should ask Ambassador Brahimi about. He released a statement today. So have a word with him about the naming -- (off mike).
Q (Name off mike) -- from Knight Ridder. Besides Adnan Pachachi, were there others who were offered positions who declined? And if so, what were the reasons?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I don't -- I think there were a couple, and I think they were basically personal -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No, no, no. Personal. That I have a sick somebody or other that I -- (off mike).
STAFF: We have time for one more.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Most said yes, most of them. There were a couple.
(Off mike) -- I think two more, two more.
Q (Off mike) --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I'm sorry can you -- (off mike)?
Q (Off mike) -- spoken for the past few weeks and said -- (inaudible) -- this process, not just, you know, the presidency, but all along, and how -- (off mike). Can you comment on that? I know you say -- (off mike) -- but how much -- (off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: We have -- (off mike). We were one of these four -- (off mike) -- and we were expressing views and we were coming up with names. But it was collaborative. I can't speak to whether we conducted ourselves -- (inaudible) -- manner. There are people, if I might say, and it's completely natural and fine, who are disappointed their particular favorite didn't make it across the finish line, or their -- by the way, the one thing I would just point out to you all if I might, maybe this will show up as a -- (inaudible). What's been happening here, including in addition to the presidency, is a process that's called whoa, politics.
What is politics? People going out and saying -- (inaudible) -- I have to have seven ministries or I shall not this and this, or I -- and this is what happens with -- (inaudible) -- politics. It's exciting. It's never happened here before, by the way, in how many millennia? Ever. Okay? I know that may be too long a time span for your readers. (Laughter.) I'd like to start my lead with Mesopotamia -- (off mike). But it's true. I mean, I know maybe it's hard -- it's certainly hard for me -- (off mike) -- step back and say, this is actually sort of out of control. And so -- (inaudible). Oh, he's getting so -- (off mike). But I could just (feel it ?) that through -- (off mike).
Oh, it's not as good as elections, and you will find that people on the street in January get to make the definitive. It's not as good as elections. We could have had elections earlier, but we're -- (off mike) -- not to -- (off mike). But given what happened, I -- (off mike) -- see these people emerge from this process.
Okay, last question.
Q (Off mike) -- the president and the prime minister --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: This sounds like a hypothetical -- (inaudible) -- (briefer's name) didn't give -- (off mike).
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No hypotheticals. No -- (off mike). If I were (wonderful ?), I'd answer that question.
Q Okay. (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (Off mike.)
Q Do the president and the prime minister have the right to say whether --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, this is -- what I'm trying to say is they have full sovereignty. They're just -- they're a country. They have full sovereignty. And we have had -- I'll just say this: We've had more than 50 years of successful security arrangements with nations and governments that face similar threats. And how do we do that? You get that by talking to them and then reaching arrangements. And that's what I think will happen. We haven't been able to do that before because we didn't have the entity. We now have a prime minister, Defense minister, just like that. And so we'll be talking to them soon about this. And let me say -- let me give you a prediction: It'll work out fine. And the reason it'll work out fine is that the threat to those characteristics that I began with about what do people want, they want security, personal, all relatives; they want kids to be able to go, leave the house and home; they want economic development, prosperity. They want what Homo sapiens want. And on the security side, they can't do it themselves now. But they'll be working hard with us to create the capabilities where they can do it all themselves. And when that moment arrives, the coalition leaves. They can't -- I don't know of any Iraqis who is arguing that they can do it themselves. So that will occur, this discussion, in the next month or so, and I think it will work out between ourselves and this interim government which will take full sovereignty on June 30th.
(Inaudible cross talk.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (Off mike) -- that was one of the last acts -- (off mike) -- CPA.
Q They did that today?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yeah, sworn in.
(Inaudible cross talk.)