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Powell Meets Interim Iraqi President - 2004-06-08

Secretary of State Colin Powell held talks in Washington Tuesday with the new president of Iraq's interim government, Ghazi al-Yawar. Mr. Powell said the assumption of power by the interim government means that insurgents operating in Iraq will be fighting the interests of their own people.

The interim government will not assume formal sovereignty until the hand-over of power from the U.S.-led coalition at the end of the month.

But Mr. Powell nonetheless accorded Mr. al-Yawar the treatment of a visiting head of state, traveling with other senior administration officials to see him at his downtown hotel rather than meeting at the State Department.

In a talk with reporters there, Mr. Powell said the approval by the U.N. Security Council of the new resolution endorsing the interim government is an important development that clarifies the relationship between the Baghdad government and U.S.-led coalition forces and invites a broader world role in Iraqi reconstruction and debt relief.

He said the resolution, and the June 30 transfer of power, will make it clear to all that the interim government is sovereign and means that Iraqi insurgents will no longer be attacking the Coalition Provisional Authority, but their own government and interests of the Iraqi people.

"They are now challenging their own leaders," he noted. "They are now fighting against the dreams of their own people. The coalition is there to help their government, and they are now attacking their own government and they are attacking their own interests and the interests of their people and they must be defeated. They cannot be allowed to deny the Iraqi people this hopeful future. They cannot be allowed to drag them into the past."

The U.N. resolution speaks of a "security partnership" between the Iraqi interim government and the multi-national force and stops short of granting the Iraqi administration an outright veto over major operations by U.S.-led troops.

But in his comments to reporters, Mr. al-Yawar downplayed the prospect of discord between the government and U.S. commanders.

He said he and his colleagues in the interim administration "cannot afford to be pessimistic" and that he expects close coordination with the multi-national force in preserving law and order until Iraq establishes its own security capability.

Mr. al-YawAr is due to take part, with other regional leaders, in discussions at the G8 summit meeting at Sea Island, Georgia before returning to Washington for more talks with U.S. officials later in the week.