WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell proposed a postconflict four-stage transition plan Thursday for a new Iraqi government and called for a long-term U.S. commitment in Iraq.
In a hearing before the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Powell said if the United States goes to war with Iraq to topple President Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military commander in charge of the operation will also take charge of the country for a period of time.
But Powell said a quick transition to civilian leadership, either an American civilian or an international figure, is necessary.
“We don’t want an American general running a Muslim country for any length of time,” he said.
Powell said the civilian leadership should then be replaced by an organization to be created by the international community to establish a government representing the Iraqi people as soon as possible.
“We have to be prepared for a fairly long-term commitment,” he said, “a commitment that will change in shape, scope and dimension over time.”
Powell said the U.S. military should get out of Iraq as fast as it can, but some military presence may be necessary for a period of time to ensure stability.
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said a U.S. military presence in Iraq should be as brief as possible, but added it is uncertain how long the U.S. military will be stationed in Iraq, depending on what happens in the country.
“Clearly, the goal would be to go in and see that what resulted was better than what was there beforehand,” Rumsfeld said. “That means the United States simply has to be willing to stay there as long as is necessary to see that that is done, but not one day longer.”
“We have no interest in other people’s land or territory,” he said. “We have no interest in other people’s oil.”
President George W. Bush, meanwhile, rallied U.S. troops at the Mayport Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla.
“If force becomes necessary to disarm Iraq and enforce the will of the United Nations, if force becomes necessary to secure our country and to keep the peace, America will act deliberately, America will act decisively, and America will act victoriously with the world’s greatest military,” he said.
Bush urged the U.N. Security Council to enforce the resolution it adopted in November to dismantle Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
“Free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society,” he said.
Bush’s visit to the U.S. base came one day before chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix presents an updated report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction at the U.N. Security Council.
The report could bolster the U.S. case with allies or further divide the Security Council, already split over whether the time has come to use force to disarm Hussein.
British diplomats said the United States and Britain could present a proposal by Saturday for a new resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Both Powell and his British counterpart, Jack Straw, were to attend Friday’s briefing by the inspectors, and then hold meetings immediately afterward with the 13 other members of the United Nations Security Council.
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