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Iraq: Rice Assures Continued Engagement

  • Robert McMahon --> Condeleezza Rice (file photo) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has assured Iraq's foreign minister that Washington remains committed to Iraqi security. Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari, in turn, told Rice that his country's constitutional process will include all constituencies in Iraq. Following a month that saw a surge in Iraqi civilian deaths in insurgent attacks, al- Zebari also pressed Syria for more cooperation in securing its territory.

Washington, 2 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Al-Zebari has so far secured key pledges of international support for Iraq's
fledgling government during his visit to the United States.

The UN Security Council on 31 May agreed to extend the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force "until the
completion of the political process in Iraq." And 1 June, al-Zebari told reporters that Secretary of State Rice
had confirmed Washington's commitment to help safeguard the process until its completion.

"It's very important that the commitment of the United States, of the coalition countries, could be firm and solid. Nobody
should draw any misunderstanding and this is what I have heard from Dr. Rice today, that the U.S. is fully committed to
complete the mission and they are there as long as they are needed," al-Zebari said.

There are nearly 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and more than 22,000 soldiers from 27 other countries. U.S. officials say
they are making progress in training Iraqi forces to assume greater responsibility for security.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in a separate news conference yesterday, said the multinational force has trained about 165,000 Iraqi soldiers and police. But he said they are not yet capable of fully handling their own security needs.

"Good progress is being made, and the United States has indicated, and the coalition has indicated, they intend to stay
and complete the job in proper order," Rumsfeld said.

While affirming support for Iraq's security, U.S. officials have pressed Iraqi leaders to include Sunni Muslims in the
drafting of a new constitution. Sunnis largely stayed away from the January parliamentary polls, and Shi'a Muslims and Kurds have so far dominated the political process.

Al-Zebari, who is Kurdish, said yesterday he assured Rice all Iraqi communities would participate in the constitutional
process. Rice told reporters she was confident the process would be inclusive.

"The Iraqis have met every political challenge that has been put before them -- the transfer of sovereignty, the elections
that were held on 30 January, of course the writing of the transitional administrative law -- and they now are meeting the
challenge of the development of a constitutional process that will be inclusive," Rice said.

Al-Zebari's visit to the United States comes after a month in which surging violence killed and wounded hundreds of civilians and police in Iraq. The vast majority of attacks are blamed on Sunni insurgents targeting security forces and civilians.

The Iraqi foreign minister yesterday repeated assertions that Syria was not following through on pledges to prevent the flow of insurgents through its territory into Iraq.

"Really, they have not been cooperative, as cooperative as we want them to be. Our dialogue is still continuing with them, of course. We want them to help, especially to help us on stopping the flow of all those terrorists who are using Syrian
territories to enter Iraq and to blow up innocent Iraqi lives every day," al-Zebari said.

Al-Zebari also said his government was looking forward to a 22 June donor conference in Belgium, which more than 80 countries and international organizations are expected to attend. The conference will aim to secure international support in building institutions and areas such as the court system and economic development.