Updated: 22-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches


21 June 2005

Press point

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and H.E. Mr. Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of Iraq

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the Foreign Minister will each make a brief opening statement. Then we'll have time for some questions. Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Let me start by very warmly, again I should say, welcoming Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari to NATO and to the North Atlantic Council. As always welcome. We had... just had a session. We had a brief bilateral meeting and a session with the North Atlantic Council.

It goes without saying that Minister Zebari comes to Brussels and comes to NATO at a very important moment, given the fact that tomorrow the EU and U.S.-sponsored conference will be held in Brussels. And that's a conference where not, as I said in my closing remarks, and the Minister I know will agree with me, where not the international community will speak about Iraq, but Iraq will speak and will be supported by the international community, including NATO.

NATO will be represented. The Deputy Secretary General will be there. I will be there. And it was clear in the meeting with the North Atlantic Council that there is a continued and strong commitment by the allies of going on with the program under the heading, training the Iraqi security forces, equipping the Iraqi security forces, setting up, as you know, the Training, Education and Doctrine Centre in Ar Rustimiyah, in the fall, doing that inside Iraq, which is, of course, very important. Outside Iraq as well.

So what we saw this afternoon was a continued commitment of NATO of the democratic process in Iraq on the basis of Resolution 1546. Of course, a sign of encouragement to the legitimate, democratically-elected government of Iraq to say bon courage, good luck in your very important and publicated(sic) task of steering Iraq further along the democratic path. I mean, the landmark elections, I've mentioned them many times, also from this place, I mentioned them again.

There were the cynics who did not expect these very important landmark elections. There were elections. Iraq is now in the process of writing the constitution, fighting at the other hand the insurgency, fighting the insurgency of which we all hope that that fight will be very successful indeed.

In brief, Minister Zebari came here to give us his opinion, his vision of the political situation in Iraq, his line of thinking about what Iraq can expect of the international community and NATO showed continued commitment.

I can leave it here, again saying that you're welcome as many times as you wish, Minister Zebari, to come today to the North Atlantic Council.

HOSHYAR ZEBARI (Foreign Minister of Iraq): Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. I'm very pleased to be here. This is my third visit to NATO Headquarters, and really we've come here to discuss the political situation and development in Iraq, and to thank NATO for their support to the build-up of Iraqi military and security forces.

I've updated and briefed the Council on the progress we are making with this valuable contribution in terms of the training, providing equipment, setting up a staff military college for the command... Iraqi commanders. And with Iraqi contribution also in this effort, this has been most helpful.

This government is committed to improve security, to ensure basic services for the Iraqi people and also definitely to live up to its commitment under Security Council resolutions to meet the deadlines of writing a constitution, having a referendum and holding elections at the end of the year.

We are here also to attend tomorrow's International Conference on Iraq. This conference is a very encouraging platform that the international community is united on Iraq, is going to listen to the Iraqi government. This platform is for us, for the Iraqi government, in fact, to address the international community, to ask their assistance or support.

Tomorrow we are gathering to lay out our vision, our priorities, our needs to all the participants in the political, economic, justice, rule of law and security areas. And we hope that the conference will come out with a strong message of political support to the new elected Iraqi government that there would be some follow-up, some tangible results on the pledges of donor countries, of other pledges for training, for increased support for the security and justice institutions of our country.

So I'll stop here. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much. Mack Yusef(?) from Nile News, Egyptian Television. Secretary General, the commitment of NATO to give help to train the Iraqi, in Iraqi, outside and inside, was done long time ago, so I'm wondering in such an occasion like the International Conference for Iraq tomorrow what is NATO is willing to give extra more than what he commit himself before.

And for Mr. Zebari, I'm just wondering, are you here just to thank the NATO for his help, or you need also to ask for some extra things from NATO? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: So you want to start?

ZEBARI: I'll start. No, we came to thank them, definitely, but NATO is helping us on the ground, so this is not a secretive thing. The process has been very transparent. We wanted their help. We invited them, we asked them to help us to build a viable Iraqi security.

So if any other areas is needed we have a direct communication in Baghdad through the officers, and the liaison officers that already are there.

Of course, we are interested from NATO, from other countries, you see to even from our Arab countries to help us, support us in building up our military forces, our security forces. So this is what I have discussed with the Secretary General.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: And I can fully agree. I mean, what we are doing is indeed continuing a strengthening of the training program, as I explained to you, going from the international zone to Ar Rustimiyah, increasing the number of trainers, increasing the number of trainees, increasing the number of Iraqi going to the NATO schools, be it in Germany, be it in the NATO Defence College, be it elsewhere.

So that's a process in which we are engaged at the moment. We have, as you know, the trust fund where we have a number of millions of dollars, subsistence for the Iraqis going abroad. In other words, we're well on track, and Minister Zebari re-indicated this. He just said himself that also this legitimate directly-elected government is of the same opinion as the same Minister Zebari was when he was Foreign Minister in the previous government, interim government, and that is that training is the first priority. And I can understand why and that is what NATO is doing, and that is what NATO will go on doing.

Q: Mark John from Reuters. A question for Minister Zebari. There was a U.S. statement from a Pentagon briefing today that the U.S. might be ready to start withdrawing or reducing troop numbers in Iraq from early 2006. Do you think that this timetable is realistic and if not, what is your view of when a withdrawal, or pull-down, is possible?

ZEBARI: I would not be surprised. Mainly because really the presence of the multinational force, or the mandate of the multinational force, is organized under 1546 and through the understanding between this force and the new constitutionally-elected government after the December election, have to be decided.

But that correlation is such the more we build our forces, our troops and assume more responsibility, the less role the multinational will have in Iraq. And all the Iraqis really understand this reality. They are providing a valuable contribution to the security and stability of Iraq. So... but if there would be some withdrawal, let's say early 2006, I think it would be understandable, because by then also the capacity of our military forces would be greater and better equipped, better trained, and already on the ground really there are many responsibilities that's being transferred gradually to Iraqi units from the multinational forces.

But there would be actually, as we move, there would be reconstructioning of the force again. There would be even some consideration along the way for a SOFA agreement later on between the Iraqi... new Iraqi government and multinational force.

So the more progress we make, in fact, toward achieving our goal of a stable, democratic Iraq with a viable security force, because only Iraqi can defend themselves at the end of the day. I mean, we are grateful to what the multinational forces have done so far in liberating us from this tyrannical regime, but at the end of the day I think that task will fall on the shoulder of Iraq.

Q: Leon Bruneau, Agence France-Presse. A question for the Foreign Minister. It's been reported today, quoting your Minister of Justice, that the trial for Saddam Hussein should take place... would take place before the end of the year. And at the same time suggesting that the U.S. may be withholding information that they have on Saddam.

Could you comment on this?

ZEBARI: Well, I really am not going to venture and give you any specific date when Saddam is going to be brought to justice. I can only say that the sooner he's brought to justice the better. This will have an impact on the security situation, positively.

There are some legal procedures. There are some issues related to the trial of Saddam and his lieutenants, but a special tribunal corps that is established is working very hard to gather all the evidence that it needs, and to prepare the case against Saddam and others. So I hope it would be sooner rather than say before the end of this year.

As for the U.S. withholding evidence, I think we, the Iraqi have all abundant of evidence against Saddam and his people, about the crimes they have committed against our people. We don't need any further evidence of what they have done to us personally.

So I hope that the trial really will be soon. I mean, a fair trial, a transparent trial, will give him the justice he has denied us all these years, definitely. But the sooner he's being tried the better.

MODERATOR: Last question.

Q: (inaudible)... from the Arab Television, Embassy of Arabia. I ask favour to ask my question in Arabic for the... for the television. (SPEAKS IN ARABIC)...


DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Minister, once again (inaudible)... a very nice day (inaudible)...


ZEBARI: (inaudible)...

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Be well, and we'll see each other tomorrow at the conference.

ZEBARI: (inaudible)...

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