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Iraq: Powell Says U.S. 'Not Occupiers'

Baghdad, 15 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says he is convinced that the "winds of freedom" are blowing across Iraq, despite the daily attacks on U.S. forces there and other security problems. Powell spoke to reporters in Baghdad, where he arrived yesterday (14 September) to become the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country since the U.S.-led invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Powell said U.S. forces had come to Iraq as "liberators" and would not stay in the country any longer than was necessary. However, he gave no indication when U.S. forces might leave or when power might be turned over to Iraqis.

"We are not occupiers. We have come under a legal term having to do with occupation under international law, but we came [to Iraq] as liberators. We have experience being liberators. Our history over the last 50, 60 years is quite clear. We have liberated a number of countries and we do not own one square foot of any of those countries except where we bury our dead," Powell said.

As Powell met with U.S. and U.S.-backed Iraqi officials, the U.S. military reported that a U.S. soldier was killed and three others were wounded when their convoy hit a roadside bomb near the city of Al-Fallujah.

Powell came to Baghdad after holding talks in Geneva with the foreign ministers of the four other veto-holding members of the United Nations Security Council -- Russia, France, China, and Britain. The talks failed to agree on a timetable for restoring Iraqi self-rule or on a future role for the United Nations in Iraq.