Transcript: Bush and Blair on Iraq Transfer
Monday, June 28, 2004; 11:16 AM
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair discuss the transfer of political authority in Iraq while at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey. Here is a transcript.
BUSH: Good afternoon.
Earlier today, 15 months after the liberation of Iraq, and two days ahead of schedule, the world witnessed the arrival of a free and sovereign Iraqi government.
Iraqi officials informed us that they are ready to assume power, and Prime Minister Allawi believes that making this transition now is best for his country.
After decades of brutal rule by a terror regime, the Iraqi people have their country back. This is a day of great hope for Iraqis and a day that terrorist enemies hoped never to see.
The terrorists are doing all they can to stop the rise of a free Iraq. But their bombs and attacks have not prevented Iraqi sovereignty. And they will not prevent Iraqi democracy.
Iraqi sovereignty is a tribute to the will of the Iraqi people and the courage of Iraqi leaders.
This day also marks a proud moral achievement for members of our coalition. We pledged to end a dangerous regime, to free the oppressed and to restore sovereignty. We have kept our word.
Fifteen months ago, Saddam’s regime was an enemy of America and the civilized world. Today, Iraq’s government is an ally of both.
BUSH: Fifteen months ago, Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism. Today Iraq’s leaders, with our support, are systematically fighting terrorists across their country.
Fifteen months ago, we faced the threat of a dictator with a history of using weapons of mass destruction. Today the dictator is a threat to no one from the cell he now occupies.
Fifteen months ago, the regime in Baghdad was the most aggressive in the Middle East and a constant source of fear and alarm for Iraq’s neighbors. Today, Iraq threatens no other country, and its democratic progress will be an example to the broader Middle East.
Fifteen months ago, Iraq was ruled by a regime that brutalized and tortured its own people, murdered hundreds of thousands and buried them in mass graves. Today Iraqis live under a government that strives for justice, obeys (ph) the rule of law and defends the dignity of every citizen.
Iraq today still has many challenges to overcome. We recognize that. But it is a world away from the tormented, exhausted and isolated country we found last year.
Now the transfer of sovereignty begins a new phase in Iraq’s progress forward full democracy. Together with the Iraqi government, we’re moving forward on every element of our five-part plan for Iraqi self-government.
Iraq’s interim government has gained broad international support and has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. The United States and our coalition partners are helping prepare Iraqis for the defense of their own country. And we appreciate NATO’s decision to approve Prime Minister Allawi’s request for assistance in training Iraqi security forces -- in training the Iraqi security forces.
We’re helping Iraqis rebuild their country’s infrastructure. And Iraq will continue moving toward free elections, with important assistance from the United Nations.
All this progress is being attacked by foreign terrorists and by thugs from the fallen regime. The terrorists know they face defeat unless they break the spirit and commitment of the civilized world. A civilized world will not be frightened or intimidated.
And Iraq’s new leaders have made their position clear. Prime Minister Allawi recently said that, "The insurgents are trying to destroy our country and we’re not going to allow this." The struggle is first and foremost an Iraqi struggle. The prime minister said of his people, "We’re prepared to fight and, if necessary, die for these objectives." America, Great Britain, our coalition, respect that spirit, and the Iraqi people will not stand alone.
BUSH: The United States military and our coalition partners have made a clear, specific and continuing mission in Iraq.
As we train Iraqi security forces, we’ll help those forces to find and destroy the killers. We’ll protect infrastructure from the attacks. We’ll provide security for the upcoming elections.
Operating in a sovereign nation, our military will act in close consultation with the Iraqi government, yet coalition forces will remain under coalition command.
Iraqis’ prime minister and president have told me that their goal is to eventually take full responsibility for the security of their country, and America wants Iraqi forces to take that role. Our military will stay as long as the stability of Iraq requires and only as long as their presence is needed and requested by the Iraqi government.
Today, at the moment sovereignty was transferred, the mission of the Coalition Provisional Authority came to an end. Ambassador Jerry Bremer has been tireless and dedicated, and he returns home with the thanks of his country.
Thousands of American civilians have labored for progress in Iraq under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. They also have our gratitude.
From the first hours of Operation Iraqi Freedom and to this very hour in their battles against the terrorists, America’s men and women in uniform have been unrelenting in the performance of their duty. They have had staunch allies like Great Britain at their side.
We asked a lot of our military, and there is still much hard work ahead. We’re grateful for the sacrifice of all who served. We honor the memory of all who died. The courage of our military has brought us to this hopeful day.
BUSH: And the continued service of our military assures the success of our cause.
© 2004 FDCH E-Media