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Cheney says U.N.'s role should be humanitarian

©Associated Press

April 10, 2003

NEW ORLEANS -- The United States and its allies will lead Iraq's transition to a new government once the war is over and the United Nations should lead the relief work, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday.

"The key role -- especially as long as there is a security threat -- has to reside with the United States government," he told the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

"We don't believe that the United Nations is equipped to play that central role. It will play a very important role, but I think the central role will reside with the coalition," he said.

He noted that in Afghanistan, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a representative to be involved in creation of a new government. "That may be the right way to go" in Iraq, he said.

"Kofi Annan has indicated his vision is pretty close to what ours is: transfer to Iraqis, not the United Nations or any other group."

Annan, who has said the U.N. should play "an important role" in rebuilding Iraq, is discussing details with European leaders this week. He is expected to visit officials in France, Germany, Britain and Russia.

Cheney said he expects France and other opponents of the war to have humanitarian involvement in postwar Iraq. He also said a meeting is scheduled for sometime after Saturday in Iraq with different Iraqi groups to discuss the nation's new government. He said he did not know which groups would attend.

Cheney's comments came as Marine and Army units were welcomed by applauding Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad. He cautioned that Saddam Hussein's regime still controls a lot of territory in northern Iraq, but praised U.S. leaders for "one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted."

He dismissed critics as "retired military officers embedded in TV studios."

Cheney said the United States would make an effort to convince the Muslim world that it isn't interested in controlling Iraq and merely wants to reconstruct the country and pull its troops out as quickly as possible.

"Our record may not be perfect," but the U.S. government has often acted to protect Muslims, not attack them, he said. He cited the liberation of Kuwait and U.S. intervention in the former Yugoslavia.

The United States is committed to ensuring that revenue from Iraq's oil fields goes to the citizens of Iraq, he said.

"The oil revenue is not to be diverted to anything but to service the immediate and eventually the long-term needs of the people of Iraq," Cheney said.

Since the United Nations put sanctions on Iraq, the country has lost $100-billion in oil revenue, Cheney said. "What revenues came in, (Saddam Hussein) spent on himself building magnificent palaces around the country" and on weapons.

Cheney said the oil could bring Iraq up to $20-billion annually. He said the United States will set up an organization, made up largely of Iraqis, to oversee the oil industry. The fields could be pumping 2.5-million to 3-million barrels per day by the end of the year, he said.

Rumsfeld wags warning at Iraq's neighbor Syria

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld accused Syria on Wednesday of giving haven to some members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government and assisting others to additional safe locations.

Citing "scraps of intelligence," Rumsfeld also renewed his accusation that Syria provided Iraq with night-vision goggles and other military technology.

Later, he told reporters on Capitol Hill that he was not referring to highest level Iraqi officials.

"These are regime-type people" about whom U.S. officials have "intelligence scraps" suggesting they are heading toward Syria, he said.

"I didn't want anyone to get excited and think that we're talking about very senior, senior people," he said after a closed-door briefing with House members.

On Capitol Hill, Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said they would seek action on legislation authorizing President Bush to punish Syria through curbs on exports and the sale of equipment with military use, and restrictions on Syrian diplomats' travel in the United States.

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