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Rumsfeld Discusses Iraq Reconstruction in London - 2003-05-02

On the home stretch of a week-long trip that took him to Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a brief stop in Britain to discuss stabilization and reconstruction in Iraq.

Underscoring that major hostilities are now over in Iraq, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the focus now must be on post-war reconstruction. "We will have as many forces in the country as is necessary to see that it is a sufficiently secure and permissive environment, so that the humanitarian and reconstruction work can go forward, and so that the Iraqi people can fashion some sort of an interim governmental authority, and then ultimately, a final authority," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld spoke at a news conference with his British counterpart, Geoff Hoon, after meetings that included British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Rumsfeld was asked about the the United Nations' role in post-war Iraq. "Coalition forces have been in contact through the foreign ministries with the United Nations and secretary general, and I suspect that there will be over the coming period, intensive discussions as to what role the United Nations may or may not wish to play," he said. "Personally, I am hopeful that they do play a role."

Some countries want the United Nations to play the central role in post-war Iraq, but the United States disagrees.

For the moment, coalition forces are trying to establish security and restore local services. Britain's Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, who visited Iraq last week, said British forces based around the southern cities of Basra and Umm Qasr could provide a model for the next phase of coalition operations. "We have got a significant presence on the ground," said Geoff Hoon. "British troops working closely with local members of each of the communities that we are responsible for. We have joint meetings between the military and local leaders. They are saying what kind of changes, what kind of improvements in their physical infrastructure they want to see. And we are engaged in delivering that."

Following the news conference, Secretary Rumsfeld left for Washington, concluding a trip that also took him to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Afghanistan.