Skip to comments.Iraqi Foreign Minister: no "Iraqi parties... support an immediate withdrawal, or even a timetable"
Posted on 05/30/2007 6:09:31 AM PDT by Int
["Today's Encounter" programme featuring an interview with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari by Ahmad Zaydan; place and date not given - recorded]
Al-Jazeera Satellite Television at 1730 gmt on 27 May broadcasts a recorded 25-minute interview with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari by Ahmad Zaydan within its "Today's Encounter" programme. The place and date of the interview are not specified.
Asked to react to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's call for sending Islamic forces to Iraq under UN auspices, Zebari says: "This proposal is not new. It was presented to us in the past. However, the issue was not followed up. We in the Iraqi government had adopted the position that any peacekeeping forces that arrive in Iraq to help must be outside the framework of Iraq's immediate neighbouring states. We do not want Iraq's immediate neighbours to participate in any peacekeeping forces because they have certain interests and certain agendas in Iraq.
"Secondly, any forces that might arrive in Iraq must acquire the approval and agreement of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government is a coalition and, therefore, it must approve such a proposal. Thirdly we must define their tasks, specially since Iraq now has international obligations, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, which govern the mechanism and mandate of the foreign forces and the Multinational Forces. I believe that all these questions have to be answered but the principle is that the mandate of the Multinational Forces will end when the Iraqi security forces complete their preparations and become ready to defend themselves. The Multinational Forces will then leave. This is the principle that we are following."
Asked about demands by the US Democratic party and members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives for a timetable for the withdrawal of US force from Iraq, he says: "We do not support the demand for a timetable of withdrawal for many reasons. I believe we have expressed our position on these reasons on many occasions." He says that the timetable is implicit within the UN Security Council resolutions and adds: "The latest UN Security Council resolution says that every six months there is a periodic discussion of the mandate of these forces and the Iraqi government would give its opinion. Is it in need of this presence? By the end of each year the validity of the resolution expires and unless it is renewed by another resolution, there will be another opportunity. Therefore, we believe that the timetable practically exists within the UN Security Council resolutions but this decision must be made by the Iraqi government.
"Some people's deputies and others have demanded a timetable. I believe that conditions have reached a very critical phase. Currently, the Multinational Forces, which are working in accordance with an international mandate, are preventing the dismemberment of Iraq. Therefore, all Iraqi groups and parties, regardless of their policies, do not support an immediate withdrawal, or even a timetable. True, there are different viewpoints, which we respect, but the official government stand is linked with the ability of the Iraqi government and its capability and readiness to take over full responsibility over security."
Zebari says that rebuilding the security forces will take time, noting that the performance of these forces is good and the ordinary citizen now trusts these forces. He adds: "We have problems with other security formations in the Interior Ministry but these services and forces are being purged of bad elements. Those who are perpetrating certain violations in the name of the security forces, have been dismissed. According to the information available to me, many of the violators - more than 4,000, including police commanders - were dismissed."
Asked about the Sharm al-Shaykh conference's demands from the Iraqi government, Zebari says: "We have taken major steps forward to realize the required reforms concerning foreign investments, lifting government subsidies of oil byproducts, correcting the ration card system, and moving from the central state economy to the free market economy, and all these are burdens on the government and this is a very difficult process. That was what the International Concord With Iraq demanded."
He says the demands of the conference, such as national reconciliation, constitutional amendments, the Deba'thification issue, the Law on Oil, and the militias "were part of the government policies and were not imposed on us from abroad. They are not dictates or external demands." He notes that "there are a number of people and committees working on how to present a plan or a political initiative that takes all things into consideration." He says the Baghdad security plan has not failed but it will take some time, noting that there is improvement in winning people's trust, providing security in certain areas, removing the militias from the street, and providing services. He says the increase in bombings had been expected because those "who wanted to abort the imposition of the law-and-order plan believe that if the plan fails the US forces would leave."
Asked about reports that certain Arab sides are trying to establish a front composed of Al-Tawafuq [Accord] Front and other parties to counter the Al-Maliki government, Zebari says that this is part of the democratic atmosphere in Iraq, arguing that the government coalition is "strong and enduring," and noting that the current government is backed by the vast majority of the Iraqis and enjoys a parliamentary majority. He adds: "It is difficult to effect changes under the current circumstances and any external attempt to impose anything from abroad like the creation of a "national salvation government" is also unacceptable.
Asked to comment on reports about Saudi displeasure with Al-Maliki's government, Zebari says that this issue "has been blown out of proportion in the media," noting that Al-Maliki was in Egypt, Kuwait, and in the United Arab Emirates and has been issued other invitations, and there is no Arab boycott of our government, the national unity government." He says: "True there was a desire to visit Saudi Arabia. The brothers in the Kingdom did not reject such a visit but said that the timeframe that we proposed was inconvenient because the custodian of the two holy mosques would be preoccupied with an internal tour during that time. This does not mean that we cannot go to Saudi Arabia and meet with other officials."
Zebari adds: "We held meetings with Saudi officials. Prince Sa'ud al-Faysal participated in the Sharm al-Shaykh meeting and we met and held talks with him. We have relations in this regard. In fact there is a misunderstanding, which we need to remove by direct contacts. The results of the Sharm al-Shaykh conference were positive and reassuring to all."
Asked if anything has been realized concerning the release of the Iranian diplomats who were detained by the United States, Zebari says: "In fact they were not diplomats. They were Iranian employees and were at that time preparing to transform the liaison office there into a consulate. It was an open and not a secret office. We always asked the US Army authorities and the US Government to release them and our statements were made in the open. However, the Iranian participation at Sharm al-Shaykh was not contingent on releasing them. Based on our friendship and brotherly relations, we drew their attention to the fact that the two issues would be difficult to link. We told them: Come to the conference and present your demands and we will stand by you. That was what they did. Their decision was a wise and sound one and they participated.
"No direct or bilateral meetings took place at Sharm al-Shaykh but we arranged a meeting on the experts level. I do not know how many minutes it lasted and who participated, but it was fruitful because it led to another meeting which will be held in Baghdad by the end of this month, also on the experts level. I believe that this is a great achievement, because it is in Iraq's interest to defuse this tension between the United States and Iraq, as well as other states." He says that Iraq will be present at the talks "because the issue under discussion is Iraq's security and stability."
In conclusion, Zebari is asked about national reconciliation efforts. He says that there are political figures and sides that are prepared for negotiations but it would be unacceptable to negotiate with Al-Qa'idah, the extremists, or some former Ba'thists who are bent on taking over power by force.
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1730 gmt 27 May 07
Two thumbs up for Iraqis.
Take this democrats.