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Rumsfeld Welcomes Strong Iraqi Stance Against Insurgents - 2004-07-07


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he thinks the assertive new security role by Iraq's interim government will help generate public support against the insurgency there. The U.S. defense chief spoke at the close of U.S.-Australian talks in Washington Wednesday that included a pledge by the Canberra government to maintain its troop presence in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld says it is unclear what the new security law signed by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will mean in practice, including whether U.S.-led coalition forces might be called upon to help enforce emergency regulations.

But the Defense Secretary says the forceful role being taken by the interim government on security "ought to be reassuring" to the Iraqi people and at some point lead to public support for, and cooperation with, the Baghdad authorities in their drive against the insurgents.

"It seems to me that at a certain point, the Iraqi people will decide that they're against that, and they will be supportive of the government, and find opportunities to dissuade people from engaging in that kind of an insurgency and reporting those individuals that do, and providing intelligence to the Iraqi government so that their security forces can take appropriate action against the people who are willing to do that type of thing," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld spoke at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Colin Powell and their Australian counterparts, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill that focussed on Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

Australia, one of the original members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, has about 850 soldiers and military advisers there. Mr. Downer said that while difficulties remain, the situation in Iraq has entered a "new and more positive phase" with the transfer of sovereignty and that Australia has no intention of reducing its troop commitment:

"It won't come as a surprise to any of you to hear that we reaffirmed that fact that Australia is going to stay the course in Iraq and stick by the Iraqi interim government, and help them achieve their objectives and help Iraq become a free nation," he noted. "This is not a time for a country like Australia to turn its back on the Iraqi people and cut and run."

A U.S.-Australian joint statement issued at the close of the day-long ministerial said the assumption of authority by Iraq's interim government is a time for "greater, not diminished" international support for Iraq. They said that success in building a stable, secure and democratic Iraq would be a significant gain in the fight against terrorism.

On East Asian issues, they welcomed growing international engagement by China, including its hosting on six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, while urging China and Taiwan to resolve their differences peacefully. They also welcomed Indonesia's "successful" elections this week and said they are both committed to working with the Jakarta government to promote economic development and democracy.

Mr. Rumsfeld and Defense Minister Hill signed a memorandum of understanding on increased missile-defense cooperation and agreed on upgrading three Australian military bases for joint training exercises.