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Iraq: Rice -- 'Now Is the Time To Unite Behind Iraqi People'

  • Robert McMahon

Amid intensified attacks against military and civilian targets in Iraq, U.S. national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice has called for greater international support to help the U.S.-led coalition in the rehabilitation of the country. Rice told a briefing of foreign journalists that Iraq should no longer be "hostage" to the differences among world powers about the war to oust Saddam Hussein. She said repeatedly that Iraq is at the center of attempts to spread democracy in the Middle East.

New York, 31 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice has appealed for greater international support to rebuild Iraq and combat the forces involved in a mounting number of attacks in the country.

Rice told a briefing at the Foreign Press Center in New York on 30 October that the surge in attacks is an attempt by terrorists -- some Ba'athists, some foreign fighters -- to spread chaos and cause the U.S.-led administration there to leave.

She said the Bush administration and its allies remain committed to rebuilding Iraq and assuring an orderly transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. "The world has a responsibility and a historic opportunity to help the Iraqi people build a just and decent and modern democratic state in the heart of the Middle East," Rice said. "We are determined to meet our responsibilities and to seize that opportunity."

Rice, one of U.S. President George W. Bush's top foreign-policy advisers, said she understood why the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross were withdrawing international staff after suicide bombings this week. She expressed hope they would soon return in full strength.

But she had sharper words for countries such as Germany and France that have declined to contribute donations for reconstruction beyond disbursements through the European Union.

She stressed that donations should not be viewed as assistance to the United States but to Iraq. The international community, she said, needs to unite around Iraq in these difficult days. "The Iraqi people have had enough," Rice said. "How long do people want to hold the Iraqi people's future hostage to differences that we may have had? It's the Iraqi people that will be helped by international contributions. The United States, with all due respect, does not need financial assistance. The Iraqi people need financial assistance," she said.

Germany, France, and Russia supported a UN Security Council resolution earlier this month that calls for a progressive handover of power to Iraqis and confers UN authority on the U.S.-led multinational force deployed in the country. But the three countries said they were unsatisfied with the pace of the political transition and the lack of a dominant UN role in that process.

Rice repeated the Bush administration's position that it has no desire to run Iraq any longer than necessary. But she said a premature handover of power could make circumstances worse and said the Iraqi constitution-drafting process will require time and patience. "They have difficult decisions to make about how to protect minority rights, the role of religion in their society, the nature of federalism in their society. They have a lot of hard issues to work on," Rice said. "So this is not the coalition hanging on to authority and power because we want to hang on to authority. This is a matter of simply trying to do this in a way that it will work."

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council is to submit to the Security Council by 15 December a timeline for drafting a constitution and holding elections.

Rice also called on Iraq's neighbors Syria and Iran to do more to prevent the flow of terrorist forces into Iraq. She said the two countries also were contributing to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of their support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah.

But she indicated that the United States was not interested in pursuing military action against the two states, saying the Iraqi situation that prompted the war "is not really analogous to any other." She noted that the United States has sought to deal with allegations of an Iranian nuclear weapons program through the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The national-security adviser stressed that Bush is committed to the "road map" that calls for Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting peacefully.

Palestinian authorities, she said, have a responsibility to dismantle terrorist infrastructures. But the Israeli government also must meet its obligations and ease conditions for Palestinians under occupation. "The [U.S.] president has been very clear with the Israelis that their policies toward the Palestinians which lead to daily humiliation to the Palestinian people and dangers for innocent Palestinians are not right and that they are not going to lead to circumstances in which you will have the emergence of a Palestinian state," Rice said.

Separately, Rice also had praise for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's moves against terrorism. She said there is increasing cooperation among the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to try to bring order to parts of the Pakistani-Afghan border region that have not been governed for years.

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