President Bush said Wednesday he anticipates the selection in the next two weeks of the president and top ministers of the interim Iraqi government that the U.S. plans to hand power on June 30.
Bush reaffirmed his commitment to transferring power on that date from the U.S. occupying authority, although it is not known now who will head the interim government.
“I anticipate in the next couple of weeks, decisions will be made toward who will be the president and the vice presidents, as well as the prime minister and other ministers,” Bush told reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting.
Bush offered no hint of his administration’s preference for those leaders nor did he say who would choose them.
General says handover is ‘achievable’
At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said the handover on June 30 “is achievable — but it needs to emerge soon as to who is going to be in charge (among the Iraqis) — what their names are and what they’re going to do.”
Bush said he had briefed the Cabinet on plans by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to give that government shape.
The president also said Secretary of State Colin Powell is in the process of consulting with U.N. Security Council members on a resolution that “will embrace the new interim government and the need to provide security so that free elections will happen as promised to the Iraqi people.”
Bush said the recent murder of Nicholas Berg, an American civilian in Iraq, showed the “vivid savagery” of the insurgency.
“The decapitation of a U.S. citizen reminds us all about the barbaric nature of those who are trying to stop progress toward freedom,” Bush said.
“We understand the nature of that enemy. We also understand the nature of our brave troops,” he said. “They’re motivated, they’re skilled, they’re well trained. They will accomplish the mission.”
No mention of prison abuse scandal
Bush did not mention the prisoner abuse scandal.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has come under harsh criticism over the matter, sat directly to Bush’s left. Powell was on the president’s right.
Though daily violence has bedeviled U.S. troops, Bush offered a favorable progress report on Iraq.
“A lot of progress has been made already” toward the transfer of power, he said. “Eleven ministries are now run by Iraqi citizens — I might add, capably run by Iraqi citizens.”
But, he acknowledged, “We’ve got hard work to do.”