Published September 22, 2003
WASHINGTON – The United States "made the right decision" to invade Iraq and will now ask the United Nations to help make the country more secure as it takes steps to become a democracy, President Bush told Fox News in an exclusive interview to be aired Monday night.
"I will make it clear that I made the right decision and the others that joined us made the right decision," Bush said in an exclusive interview with Fox News' Brit Hume. "The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein."
In an address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Bush will defend the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq but says he's open to the idea of the international body having a somewhat expanded role in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Hume's interview with Bush, conducted Sunday, can be seen on the Fox Broadcasting Network at 8 p.m. EDT Monday, and then will be replayed on Fox News Channel at midnight EDT.
"We would like a larger role for member states of the United Nations to participate in Iraq," Bush said. "I mean, after all, we've got member states now, Great Britain and Poland, leading multinational divisions to help make the country more secure."
In the interview, the president continued to insist on an orderly transfer of authority to the Iraqis rather than the quick turnover demanded by France.
In an interview published in the New York Times on Monday, French President Jacques Chirac repeated his call for the immediate transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to the Iraqi people. He indicated that France would approve only a new resolution that recognized this need but said France would not veto the resolution unless it became "provocative."
"There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible," Chirac said.
There is a growing sense that France is being isolated from the United Nations. Bush is scheduled to meet with Chirac in New York on Tuesday.
Bush said he doesn't think the United States will have to cede too much political power to the United Nations in order to get the resolution passed.
"The key on any resolution, however, is not to get in the way of an orderly transfer of sovereignty based upon a logical series of steps," Bush said. "And that's constitution, elections and then the transfer of authority."
U.S. officials recently circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution formerly asking more countries to send troops and aid to the region. The formal resolution may be introduced later this week.
Some countries, before sending troops to Iraq to act as peacekeepers and security forces, want the United States to relinquish control of military operations in Iraq and give the United Nations more responsibility.
Administration officials and military experts argue the country is not yet secure enough for that to happen.
"The path to sovereignty is very clearly laid out," L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, said in a television interview Monday. "There must be a written constitution followed by democratic elections. That will then lead to a fully sovereign Iraqi government. This will happen as quickly as Iraqis can write the constitution."
"It's too soon -- they [the coalition] are turning it over and they're going as fast as they can," added Fox News military analyst Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney. "They are moving toward Iraqi-ization very fast."
Officials also argue it's only natural for the country with the most troops in the region and which led the war to control those operations.
"We have seen this model work in many occasions in the past and we are confident it will work now," Secretary of State Colin Powell said recently.
'A True Test for Our Allies'
Sen. Jon Kyl , R-Ariz., said he thinks the United States will succeed in getting the resolution passed, but "the real question will be, how much help will we get?"
"Obviously, you're not going to let countries like France and other countries like that take over the operations after what the United States has gone through," Kyl told Fox News.
Bush said, however, that he's open to the possibility of giving the United Nations a role in overseeing some postwar politics.
"I do think it would be helpful to get the United Nations in to help write a constitution … they're good at that," Bush said. "Or, perhaps when an election starts, they'll oversee the election. That would be deemed a larger role."
Bush will tell the United Nations that while some countries did not agree with the U.S.-led military action in Iraq, it's now in the international community's best interest not only to rebuild Iraq, but to rebuild Afghanistan, fight AIDS and hunger, deal with slavery and the proliferation of heinous weapons.
He said the United Nations has a chance to do more as a result of U.N. resolution 1441, passed unanimously in November, that threatened Baghdad with "serious consequences" if it failed to hand over or destroy its weapons of mass destruction. The Security Council failed to act on it to declare war on Iraq.
"At least somebody stood up and said this is a definition of serious consequences," Bush said.
Bush Has A 'Big Job' Ahead
Former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Burt, told Fox News that Bush "has a big job ahead of him" in selling his case to the U.N.
France and Germany have both said they would help in small ways, such as training Iraqi police.
But "they've made it very clear at this stage they don't want to send a large number of troops and I don't think they want to spend a lot of money" in reconstruction efforts, Burt said.
Over the weekend, Germany, France and Britain agreed that the U.N. needs a more significant role and a fast transfer of power to Iraqis but were divided on how quickly that should happen.
"I think that they'd like to bury that hatchet on the one hand," Christopher Dickey of Newsweek told Fox News. But "the French feel very strongly" that the United States continuing to go to war with any country seen as a perceived threat, "is really not acceptable in the modern world."
"[France is] going to do anything they can to fight against that," Dickey said.
Germany's ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger, told Fox News that the bad blood between the United States and countries that led the U.N. anti-war fight "is all past history."
"We must join forces, we must work together, to get the issue of combating terrorism right," he said, calling Germany is the United States' "best ally in Afghanistan" but said Germany is prepared "in a limited way" to help in Iraq.
"We're not here to make the mission in Iraq more difficult," Ischinger said. "We're here to help."
Bouthaina Shaaban, Syria's new minister of expatriates, told the Associated Press Tuesday that Syria, a U.N. Security Council member that opposed the war, would consider sending peacekeeping forces to Iraq if certain guidelines are imposed.
"Syria would be ready to send troops to Iraq only after the United Nations has the final say in Iraq and if a deadline for the American withdrawal [from Iraq] is put," Shaaban said.
Fox News' Eric Shawn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.