Sunday, Apr 13, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
At a "Invitation Only" briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Centre, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, said Washington is aware of the suspicions in the region. "Given the history of the region, that is understandable," he said.
With Mr. Wolfowitz was the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace. Mr. Wolfowitz said the Bush administration was not seeking "regime change" per se in Syria; rather it was seeking a "change in the bad behaviour" of Damascus. He referred to some of the allegations made by other senior administration officials such as the Defence Secretary about military assistance to the Saddam Hussein regime.
"Syria should not meddle in Iraq," Mr. Wolfowitz asserted, adding that "hopefully" Damascus has started getting this message.
He said the conflict in Iraq was only three weeks old and that coalition forces "are on track and on plan".
The United States, he said, had thus far given $ 375 millions in food assistance, about $ 200 millions of this to the United Nations Food Programme. Referring to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance led by retired Gen. Jay Garner operating out of the Pentagon, Mr. Wolfowitz said this was not a ``provisional government''; and that this office will turn over functions to the Interim Authority, which in turn will hand over to a truly representative government. ``The task is an Iraqi task.... the country is theirs'', he said.
On when an ``Iraqi face'' would emerge in the post-conflict Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz said the war was still going on; execution squads were still out; and that it was unrealistic to expect all issues to be sorted out quickly.
The bottom line was that Washington wanted the Iraqis to pick an ``Iraqi face''.
Asked to comment on views that this Republican administration was planning to use the victory in Iraq as a springboard to restructure the dynamics in West Asia and thereafter execute the larger imperial designs globally, he said, ``I can't respond to every piece of nonsense''.
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