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Rumsfeld Promises Freedom, Stability for Iraq - 2003-04-30

In Baghdad Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Iraqi people that coalition forces are there to help create stability and security so they can form their own government.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld promised the United States will help the Iraqi people make the transition "from tyranny to freedom," by helping them take control of their country and create a new government.

His message to the Iraqi people was recorded at one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, which is now the headquarters of U.S.-led military forces in Iraq. It was to be broadcast to the Iraqi people on a U.S. military radio station.

In the statement, Mr. Rumsfeld promised coalition forces would stay only as long as necessary and not a day longer.

Later, he addressed U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital, praising them for rescuing a nation.

"You've liberated a people. You've deposed a cruel dictator and you have ended his threat to free nations," Secretary Rumsfeld said. "You braved death squads and dust storms. And, unlike many armies in the world, you came not to conquer but to liberate and the Iraqi people know this. You unleashed events that could unquestionably shape the course of the country, a fate of a people and very likely affect the future of the entire region."

The defense secretary suggested the campaign to take Baghdad may be remembered as the fastest in modern day military history. But he also said the U.S. military's work in Iraq is far from over.

"The remnants of that regime needs to be removed from every corner of this country. We still have to find and deal with the remaining elements of the former regime. We have to root out and eliminate terrorist networks operating in this country," he said. " We have to help Iraqis restore their basic services. And, we have to help provide stability and security so that the Iraqi people can form an interim government and then ultimately a free Iraqi government based on political freedom, individual liberty and the rule of law."

Mr. Rumsfeld called on Iraqis to help capture senior members of the former ruling Baath party to ensure their influence is completely removed. He also said foreign fighters in Iraq must be captured, saying they are attempting to hijack the country.

The defense secretary is the highest ranking U.S. administration official to visit Baghdad since U.S.-led forces took the city three weeks ago.

From Baghdad, Mr. Rumsfeld is expected to travel to Afghanistan, where U.S. forces carried out a similar liberation operation in late 2001.