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US Official: Neutralizing Saddam Important for Iraq's Transition - 2003-07-23

The U.S. administrator for Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer told a Washington news conference Wednesday the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons is a positive step toward Iraq's transition from dictatorship to democracy. Mr. Bremer also outlined the U.S. administration's three-phase plan for carrying out that transition.

U.S. envoy Bremer has welcomed news of the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons but said ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein is key to Iraq's break with the past. "I've said for a couple of months that I think it is important to kill Saddam or capture him because his continued uncertain state has allowed people to play on that uncertainty and make the argument that the Baathists would come back. Of course, killing his two sons reduces the force of that argument but killing or capturing him would put a conclusive end to that," he said.

Looking to the future, Mr. Bremer outlined the three-pronged program for Iraq that sets a series of goals over the next two to three months. He has been discussing details this week with administrative officials and U.S. lawmakers.

"Today we have three challenges in Iraq: securing the country, setting the economy on the path to prosperity and building the foundations of a sovereign, democratic government," Mr. Bremer said.

Mr. Bremer expects Iraqis could hammer out a constitution and organize elections in another year.

But he cautioned that transforming the economy from a controlled to a free market system will take a lot more time and investment. "We need to get on the path to economic transformation. I don't think we will succeed in a full economic transformation in less than a few years," Mr. Bremer said.

In the midst of criticism of the administration's management of the situation in Iraq, Mr. Bremer insists there has been a good deal of progress already in restoring electricity, banking services, water supplies and school.

As for improving security, Mr. Bremer said programs are underway to rebuild a volunteer Iraqi army and train new police officers, border guards and judges for a reconstituted court system.

Mr. Bremer said the cost of rebuilding Iraq will be in the billions but he refuses to estimate just how many. He said the World Bank is assessing reconstruction needs and will offer its estimate sometime in September.