Updated: 14-Jul-2004 NATO Speeches


13 July 2004

Press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari

13/07/2004 - NATO
First visit to NATO by Iraqi Foreign Minister
Audio file of the press conference
High resolution photos

de Hoop Scheffer: Let me start by saying that we appreciate very, very much indeed, Foreign Minister Zebari's visit to the North Atlantic Council this morning and I think he has delivered two very clear messages.

The first one is that the Iraqi people want, as soon as possible, to be in charge of their own security. Second, they want speed, "a race against time" Minister Zebari used, in delivering assistance. Also assistance by NATO, training, it's of the essence, speed, because of the elections in January of course. NATO is committed to assist Iraq in reaching these objectives as soon as possible.

You know that a military team just came back from Iraq, they are writing their report now, they'll report to the North Atlantic Council very soon indeed and the North Atlantic Council will discuss the decision on training made in Istanbul, let there be no mistake, it will be an implementation of the decision which was taken in Istanbul to train the Iraqi Security Forces.

Of course, we are looking at options at this very moment. These options can include, for instance, training for border security; training collectively or individually in Iraq; helping to establish an Iraq-wide command and control capability; opportunities for training, as I said, outside Iraq. These efforts and the results of these efforts must be visible very quickly indeed to inspire confidence. Foreign Minister Zebari is very right when he says that it's up to us--the interim government--not to convince you NATO people or the European Union for that matter that we are in charge, no, it's convincing the Iraqi people and NATO is ready and willing, as you know, to assist.

So we'll see two reports being discussed in the North Atlantic Council, the first of course, the decision implementation of the decision on training and secondly, the other element of the decision taken by Heads of State and Government in Istanbul two weeks ago, that is my report, the Secretary General's report on what could be done more by NATO and that report will also--I'm preparing that report now I can't give you any details--but that report will certainly also be discussed in the North Atlantic Council before August at the end of July. The North Atlantic Council will go on meeting in August but I would like very much to see the decision on training implemented before August and the discussion on my, the Secretary General's, report (the homework the Heads of State and Government gave me) also be done in the coming weeks.

So in brief, Minister Zebari reinforced the message Prime Minister Allawi sent to NATO in his letter of two and half - three weeks ago. I think he did that very convincingly and we're now going at work. Thank you.

Zebari: Thank you Mr. Secretary General. In fact today was an important and I would say historical day for Iraq to address the North Atlantic Council. It was a very good meeting, we briefed and explained the current political and security situation in Iraq to members of the NATO organisation, we also answered their questions in a very friendly interactive way to give them all the facts of the situation.

As the Secretary General explained to you, in fact, we've come here with some specific requests as a follow-up to our request formally to the NATO Summit of Heads of State and Government in Istanbul. Our requests have been that we need this training you promised us in Istanbul to be carried out as soon as possible. We need it, in fact we are in a race against time and it's a matter of urgency.

Also we requested equipment for our military, for our security forces and we wanted that if both components can be carried out, as like, a package just to save time and to deliver them or to do them. Of course we want this training for matters of time, for other logistical issues to be carried out inside Iraq but if there would be individual countries willing to provide some training abroad I think we would welcome that.

The other issue we discussed with the Council and with the Secretary General, our need for more, closer communication between the Iraqi government and NATO and this we have requested for the purposes of a follow-up to this program of training, of equipment, to establish some liaison within the Iraqi Embassy here with NATO, a Liaison Officer, could follow-up on this issue. This doesn't mean that Iraq is going to join NATO, I mean not to frighten other people but really it's for the purposes of coordination and liaison for this training and equipment and also we expect NATO, really, to look into other options for us also. I mean we have a serious problem with border control and we want NATO can help and assist us in that there is a wealth of expertise by many individual members.

Also, we are committed to a political process, to hold elections and we need the United Nations to be established in Iraq. The United Nations needs security of its facilities, installations, personnel; so we have made that request of NATO as an organisation or its individual members to help us. Of course we want this to be done in a collective manner, from the organisation, for us it's much easier to deal with the organisation as such.

These are some of the issues, in fact, we have raised and we explained the situation to members of the Council and I'm pleased to say that it was a very good meeting and thank you for organising it. Thank you.

Questions and answers:

Q: (Arabic)
Zebari: (Arabic)

de Hoop Scheffer: I thought I could manage with my languages at NATO but I must say that I stand to be corrected here. The word NATO I understood though!

Q: Thank you. Mike Yussef from Nile News, Egyptian Television. If I understand while you were talking about helping and securing the border in Iraq, but I'm just wondering, aren't you worried maybe this is, will cause you some problem with the neighbours of Iraq, especially with Iran and Syria?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well it is, it is as I said, one of the options which came to the table also from Minister Zebari, it's one of the options: training border guards by NATO. I think, I think we still, let me repeat what I said many times before, we need a different mindset as far as Iraq is concerned, it's the Iraqi government, fully legitimized by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1446 who sets its priorities and if Minister Zebari comes to NATO with a plea and a request, if Prime Minister Allawi writes me a letter, if Allied Heads of State and Government make a decision in Istanbul on training, then the answer cannot be: Excuse me Foreign Minister but this is not an option we are going to study, of course we are going to study this option.

So to answer your question more directly, no, I'm not afraid.

Q: Foreign Minister I'd like to know, what is the actual situation of the Armed Forces in your country? How many men do you have under arms and how many do you expect to have with this training and what has happened to the old army?

Zebari: Well we all know what happened to the old army. But, really this is a process; we are trying to build our capabilities. I may not have specific figures for you at the moment but really the plan is to establish four Iraqi divisions, to spread them across the country and other units like the National Guards unit, in fact, would be serving as an interim force between the army and the police like the Gendarma force to help the police in certain operations.

We have border guards, we have the police force, we have re-established the Iraqi Defence Ministry with all its command structure. We have re-established the Intelligence Service in Iraq as well, you see, to help and assist. The figures really fluctuate, it might not be helpful to you, but the goal of this army is to be able to defend Iraq's border, Iraq's national interests, it will not be an expanded army, it will be a professional army basically, it will not be as was raised and built before for other purposes.

The army is governed by the Iraqi interim law which is the Transitional Administrative Law, not to intervene in internal politics and be accountable to a civilian government and leadership. So these are really the main elements of building the new Iraqi army.
The old army, of course, disintegrated and it was banned. Many officers, many senior professional commanders, in fact, have been re-introduced, let's say, in the new army structure and this process will continue.

We seek training, in fact, because of the disconnect between the old regime and the new regime that we are trying to build which would be different so we need that training in order to integrate those elements or the new recruit into an organised, professional army to defend Iraq in the future.

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