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 Home > News & Policies > April 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Excerpts from the Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer, April 28, 2003 (Full Transcript)

QUESTION: Please. Thanks. Some of the Iraqi -- or at least one Iraqi group has served notice that it wants to issue a communique to the President to say that they want to control their own destiny. What is the administration's reaction to that sort of sentiment?

MR. FLEISCHER: We want the Iraqi people to control their own destiny. There's no difference in that. That's one of the reasons that the second meeting took place today with all the various Iraqi groups to talk about the structure of the IIA. And we understand there are going to be different people have different thoughts about the pace of how quickly Iraqis will be able to take over. But there are many others who want the United States to continue to lend a hand, particularly on security and organizational efforts. And as the President said, and he'll talk about this in his remarks, but we are here for the purpose of helping the Iraqi people to arrive at that point. But then we want to leave.

QUESTION: Ari, are there just Iraqis, or are there other Arabs, as well?

MR. FLEISCHER: Other Arabs, as well. The roundtable -- we're distributing the list of people who are going to participate in the roundtable, you'll have that. I don't remember if the roundtable is exclusively Iraqi, but then the speech will be Arab Americans, Iraqi Americans.

QUESTION: Will the President discuss the Middle East road map or prospects for the Middle East?

MR. FLEISCHER: The speech is about the future of Iraq.

QUESTION: And why were oil fields protected, if they're correct

-- are they correct in asserting that oil fields were protected but other civilian buildings and so forth were not?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course it gets into the plan that CENTCOM had. And I think CENTCOM would tell you is day one, it was from a military point of view physically easier to land hundreds and hundreds of miles away from downtown Baghdad, for defensive purposes, than it was to arrive at a building, for example, in downtown Baghdad, on day one.

So some things flowed directly from a war plan and the physical arrangements to protect our forces as they secured assets throughout Iraq.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about -- what's the administration's position on whether Islamic Sharia law should be part of the new Iraq? There are a lot of people in Iraq calling for the adoption of the Sharia legal code, which is very strict and very traditional.

MR. FLEISCHER: These are the issues for the Iraqi people to figure out, to settle on themselves. But the administration believes what should guide any of these discussions is transparency, rule of law, tolerance.

QUESTION: So you're open to it?

MR. FLEISCHER: Transparency, rule of law, tolerance. We've always said that there can be an Islamic democracy -- not an Islamic theocracy like Iran, but an Islamic democracy.

If nothing else --