Bremer Says Great Progress Has Occurred in Iraq Over Past Two Weeks
Outlines tasks that lie ahead during Washington media events July 23
By Phil Kurata
Washington -- The administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said great progress has been achieved in improving the lives of the Iraqi people during the past two weeks.
In a speech at the National Press Club and in a press conference at the Foreign Press Center in Washington July 23, Bremer spoke about the successes and challenges in converting Iraq from a totalitarian state to stable, peaceful democracy after the toppling of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
In the past two weeks, Bremer said all Iraqi universities have reopened and students are taking their final exams. He added that 90 percent of public schools have reopened.
All Iraqi hospitals and 95 percent of health clinics have reopened and are providing medical services to Iraqi citizens, he said.
The Iraqi Governing Council has been formed, launching Iraq on the path to democracy, he said.
Bremer added that the Baghdad city council has been formed, creating a political situation in which all major Iraqi cities and 85 percent of Iraqi towns now have town councils.
"From north to south, democracy is on the march," Bremer said.
The administrator said the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul July 22 showed American armed forces at their finest.
"They are on the front lines of securing freedom for the Iraqi people and ensuring that Iraq no longer poses a threat to the world or America," he said.
Bremer said the coalition forces were able to locate the hideout of Uday and Qusay Hussein because of a partnership that has emerged between the coalition and the Iraqi people. In recent weeks, Bremer said, Iraqi citizens have begun stepping forward and informing Iraqi police and coalition forces of the whereabouts of members of the Hussein regime.
On the economic front during the past two weeks, Bremer said a unified Iraqi currency has been issued, marking the first time in 12 years that Iraqis can use the same currency to buy goods anywhere in the country.
He also noted that the Central Bank has been detached from the control of the Ministry of Finance so that it will no longer be a tool to print money to finance deficits as it did under Hussein. He said the coalition has drafted an emergency budget to cover the immediate needs of the Iraqi people for the remainder of 2003. The coalition already has injected hundreds of millions of dollars into the Iraqi economy since the toppling of Hussein, he said. Stepping in to pay Iraqi salaries was a key move in avoiding a refugee crisis, he said.
"The scars in Iraq run very deep," Bremer said. "The secret police, the thugs, the informers, the torture chambers, they may have gone, but the people of Iraq will be coping with the horrors of the mass graves in the individual and family tragedies for years to come."
The administrator said the task of repairing the material, human and psychological damage inflicted during three decades of Hussein's rule will be accomplished only if there is "a real partnership" between the coalition, the international community and the Iraqi people.
Bremer said the international community has begun to support the reconstruction of Iraq, with 19 countries having sent troops and more than 24 countries having pledged funds for the reconstruction effort. He said he hopes that a donors' conference scheduled in October will result in more pledges of financial support.
Bremer said Iraq will be a poor country for years to come, with a budget deficit of $4 billion in 2004. He said he expects Iraq to overcome its deficit after 2004 as a result of oil revenues.
The administrator said the reconstruction of Iraq is proceeding on three fronts -- security, economic and political --simultaneously, with clear goals set for the next 60 and 120 days.
Bremer said the Iraqi forces that are attacking coalition troops are remnants of the former regime localized in an area northwest of Baghdad, a traditional base of support for Hussein. He said the guerrillas do not represent a broad-based insurgency with popular support and it is only a matter of time before they are wiped out.
Regarding the political agenda, Bremer said following the formation of the Iraqi Governing Council, the next step will be the formation of a constitutional council to draft a new constitution with nationwide participation and debate. The final step to returning sovereignty to Iraq will be holding national elections under a new constitution.
Bremer said the United States or the coalition will not participate in drafting a new constitution.
"[I]t is essential that the constitution be written by Iraqis. This is a constitution under which Iraqis will have to live long after the coalition has faded away, and so it's very important that the Iraqis wrestle with the key political issues that will have to be addressed by that constitution, and there are a number of them that they are going to have to decide on, issues that, in my view, are so important to the future of Iraqi society that we should not be offering our views and solutions," Bremer said.
Bremer said the coalition will act as a facilitator, offering encouragement and help in figuring out a timeline. He said he hopes that Iraq will be ready for elections in 2004, but he added that ultimately that matter lies in the hands of the Iraqi people.
Bremer said the greatest challenge that the Iraqi people will face will be similar to the recovery of the Romanian people after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu.
"The very first question was a very good one we had from Romania: How do we get these people out from a climate of fear to a climate of hope? How do we get them to see the fruits of this liberation that they have received? And that really is our challenge," Bremer said.
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