Verbatim: Rice and Straw in Baghdad

'We've come here fundamentally to encourage the political process forward.'

condy rice 88 (photo credit: )
condy rice 88
(photo credit: )
The following are excerpts from remarks by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on April 3, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq. FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: This is the second day of the visit by Secretary Rice and myself to Iraq. We've held a series of meetings with leaders of all the communities in Iraq. What we've said to them is, first of all, we recognize the huge progress that the Iraqi population have made towards establishing a democratic government here in Iraq. And although the news in the last few weeks has been bleak, not least with the attack on the holy shrine in Samarra on February the 22nd and all its aftermath, the fact that the Iraqis last year had one election, then put together a constitution, then had that ratified in a referendum, and then had these elections on December the 15th with a 75 percent turnout, peaceful on the whole, recognized as free and fair, is astonishing against a background of tyranny and oppression and politics entirely by violence, which had dominated this land for almost four decades. But we have also said to those that we have met, that whilst they have made progress... It is now crucial that they move forward quickly to ensure the nominations of the senior positions, have those agreed and then agree the cabinet, because there is frankly no doubt that the political vacuum that is here at the moment is not assisting the security situation, and the country's got to be able to move forward. We have emphasized, Secretary Rice and myself, time and again that who becomes nominated and then elected to these leadership positions, including the prime minister, is a matter for sovereign decisions by the sovereign parliament, the Council of Representatives of Iraq; but the international community, particularly the United States, whose forces have lost so many brave men and women, and the United Kingdom a similar situation relative to the strength of our forces, that we are entitled to say that whilst it's up to you, the Iraqis, to decide who should fulfill these positions, somebody has to fill these positions and fill them quickly. And we have urged those that we've been speaking to, to do so. One last thing that we both want to say which is this, that although there have been difficulties, I think we both recognize and people around the world recognize that without the remarkable spiritual guidance shown by His Eminence, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, this country, for all the problems that it now faces, would not have in its hands the potential of a very much better future. And we salute the guidance and the restraint that Grand Ayatollah Sistani has been able to bring to his people, the majority community. And we also recognize that the United Islamic Alliance, the Shia alliance, given the fact that they represent the largest congressional grouping and the majority of people in this country have a right to nominate the key position, the prime minister. SECRETARY RICE: ...It has indeed been a very busy 24 hours or so. And we came here principally to underscore the importance of bringing to a close the negotiations on the formation of a government, the appointment of the most important positions, those who will govern and lead Iraq. ...And indeed the international partners, particularly the United States and Great Britain and others who have forces on the ground and have sacrificed here, have a deep desire and I think a right to expect that this process will keep moving forward, because it is after all the political process that will disable those who wish to engage in violence against the Iraqi people... REPORTER: ...With two-thirds of the American public disapproving of President Bush's handling of the war, to what extent was this trip designed to be a political message to the American people that the US is actively involved in setting up an eventual American troop withdrawal? And Foreign Secretary Straw, the same question to you: To what extent is this trip sending a similar signal to the British people? RICE: Well, first and foremost, the reason for this trip is to encourage and urge Iraqis to do what Iraqis must do, because the Iraqi people deserve it. But yes, in fact, the American people, and the British people, and others who have sacrificed need to know that everything is being done to keep progress moving here... STRAW: Yes, as the Secretary said, we've come here fundamentally to encourage the political process forward... And the skepticism certainly in my country is understandable as long as there appears to be slower progress than anticipated, so that's a good reason, another reason, for pushing that forward... REPORTER: ... Yesterday some, you know, read from the signs, the signs on the face of Secretary Rice, that you were much happier with Adil Abd al-Mahdi than you were with Al-Jafari. Was this truth?... RICE: You know, I would caution against trying to read my facial expressions. ... REPORTER: Don't you think that this an interference in the Iraqi affair... RICE: ... Let's be very clear that there are Americans and Brits and others who gave their lives so that Iraq could be liberated from a tyrant and Iraq could be sovereign. The transfer of sovereignty took place almost two years ago now and we have done nothing as an international community and as a coalition force but support the process by which the will of the Iraqi people will be made evident...