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US Iraq Administrator says Recent Violence Underscores Need for Coalition Forces - 2004-02-15

The U.S. administrator for Iraq says continuing violence and bloodshed in the nation underscore the need for U.S.-led coalition forces to remain in Iraq beyond the Bush Administration's planned handover of power on June 30.

Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, Ambassador Paul Bremer said Iraq is suffering at the hands of terrorists from outside the country, as well as loyalists of the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Bremer said, under these circumstances, there can be no withdrawal of coalition security forces from Iraq on June 30. "We have to be realistic. Iraq is going to have a serious security threat for some time to come, which means that even after there is a sovereign Iraqi government at the end of June, they are going to need help from outside until such time as their security forces can handle it themselves. I think it is quite clear that the Iraqi security forces, brave as they are, are not going to be ready [to assume sole responsibility for Iraq's security], so there will have to be a (continued) international presence here," he said.

But Mr. Bremer was quick to add that, regardless of the security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration is not contemplating pushing back the deadline for transferring power. "Iraqis all want sovereignty back as soon as it can be done. We believe June 30 is a date that can be hit and will be hit," he said.

Even so, the ambassador admitted that questions and hurdles remain if the transfer of power is to be successful. Asked what the United States will do given Shi'ite resistance to the Bush Administration's original proposal of holding caucus-style elections, Mr. Bremer would only say that the situation is "complicated."

"How do you get a process in place that can produce a legitimate, sovereign government by June 30? Caucuses are complicated. Partial elections are complicated," he said. "There are a lot of ideas [being pondered]. The U.N. representative [Lakhdar] Brahimi said it was a complicated problem, and he did not offer a solution."

Ambassador Bremer said before commenting on Iraq's political future he will await a U.N. report on the feasibility of direct elections and other options.