Transcript: Paul Bremer on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: The announcement in Baghdad this weekend that a timetable now exists for turning Iraq back to the people raises questions about America's future role in the country.

Joining us with answers, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, U.S. civil administrator in Iraq. Also here, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.

Ambassador Bremer, we are told now that, quote, "occupation will end next June." Does that mean your office completely shuts down and packs up and heads back to the States?

L. PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Yes, it does. Several things happen. First of all, when the occupation ends, the coalition provisional authority, which I had, dissolves, and we transfer full sovereignty and independence to a newly elected Iraqi government. And that will be an important day for Iraq and a great day for us, as well.

SNOW: Ambassador Bremer, there's also some question about U.S. military continuing in Iraq after that date. You have said that you will be asking the new government to go ahead and approve the use of U.S. troops. Is it your understanding already that that government will say yes?

BREMER: Yes. Every indication we have in our discussions with the Governing Council, with administers and all of the polls suggest a very strong desire on the part of the majority of the Iraqi people to have the coalition forces stay here until the situation is stabilized.

We're in a war against terrorism here and a low-intensity conflict against the former Baathists. And we want to help the Iraqis win both of those wars.

SNOW: Is it your sense that those Baathists are gaining strength? They certainly are becoming more lethal.

BREMER: I think it's clear that there is a more sophisticated campaign against the coalition and those people who are working with us -- the Italians, for example, this last week -- over the last 45 to 60 days.

Part of that, of course, is the fact that we've got a lot of international terrorists now in the country, and we're going to have to defeat them.

Part of is it that the Baathists are showing covert tactics, I would say. They are using standoff tactics, using these improvised explosive devices, rather than directly attacking convoys with machine guns and rifles.

But we know how to deal with that. We've got to have more Iraqis involved in their own security, which will get us better intelligence. And by giving Iraqis more control over their political life, we believe we will also help with the security situation.

SNOW: Do you believe that Saddam Hussein had made arrangements, before the war even had begun, with Al Qaeda for postwar activity against occupying forces?

BREMER: I don't know of any evidence suggesting he had made arrangements with Al Qaeda, at this point. But I think there are some indications that he had prepared for a low-intensity conflict, terrorist war, the kind we're seeing now, beforehand. There had been some documents that have come to light since liberation that suggest there were preparations.

HUME: Mr. Ambassador, the Black Hawk helicopter crash -- 17 known dead. What is your understanding of what happened?

BREMER: It's hard to know at this point. As you said at the top of the hour, the investigation is going on.

It appears that the two helicopters did collide in midair. They were apparently on separate routes and separate missions, so they were not flying in formation, which would mean they wouldn't be aware of each other's presence as much, perhaps, if they'd been flying in formation.

There are reports that there may have been ground fire, and one of them may have been trying to avoid that. We just don't know at this point.

It's obviously a very great tragedy for the men and their families.

HUME: Mr. Ambassador, this is not the first day of late when there have been a lot of Americans killed. As you noted earlier -- as was noted earlier, the lethality of the attacks seems to be growing.

Why should not people in this country, looking at this series of events lately, not conclude that we're losing?

BREMER: Well, we're not losing. And I think it's important to remember a couple of things here. Ninety-five percent of these attacks on the coalition forces are taking place in a very small part of the country. They are being conducted by a few thousand men, at most. And they pose no strategic threat to our operations here. They do, obviously, and very unfortunately, have an ability to cause casualties. But it's not a strategic threat to our position here in Iraq.

HUME: You're setting a lot of store by the training and putting out onto the streets of, what, now more than 100,000 Iraqis under arms of one kind or another. It does create an impression that this Iraqi armed force, or forces, is growing very rapidly.

What assurance do people have that these police and guards and others are really properly trained to make an important contribution and eventually take over in a military situation, which so far, in the Sunni triangle, our own highly trained military has been unable to suppress?

BREMER: First of all, one of the advantages of having Iraqis assume more responsibility for their own security is that it will improve the quality of our intelligence about the enemy. This has been one of our biggest gaps. We haven't had enough good intelligence about the enemy.

When we get Iraqi policemen and soldiers out there, we get something we don't really have. We get knowledge of the local terrain, the landscape, the language, the customs, the rhythm of life.

And we are already seeing with having these policemen and soldiers out there that we're getting more information about the enemy and it allows us to go and capture or kill them.

So it isn't just a question of their military or policing capabilities. It's also a question of the intelligence we get. And we've already seen an improvement in that, just in the last couple of months.

HUME: Mr. Ambassador, one other thing. There was this CIA report that came to light this week which suggested, in effect, that the occupation forces there and you and your administration there are in a kind of a race against time; that the cumulative effect of the attacks and those that have been successful has begun to sew seeds of doubt in the Iraqi people's minds, and that if things don't change, they'll begin to lose --they are losing confidence in the occupation. And some, perhaps in some number, are beginning to turn and support the resistance.

What about that, Mr. Ambassador?

BREMER: Well, we are in a tough fight here, there's no doubt about that. And we have some determined opponents, particularly the international terrorists who have been coming into the country in the last four or five months.

But if you look at the polls here -- and they are primitive, but nonetheless the polls do tell us something -- they tell us that the majority of the Iraqi people, a large majority of the Iraqi people, want American coalition forces to stay here until the place is stabilized.

There is a lot of good news going on. And I think one of the reasons they feel good about our troops here is we are reconstructing the country, even in this period of dangerous security. We've done over 15,000 individual reconstruction projects here in Iraq in the last six months.

So the process of reconstructing Iraq goes forward. And I believe that we will see, as that goes forward and as we give the Iraqis more responsibility, both in the political field and in the military field, I think we'll find that we're going to get our security in a better position than it is now.

SNOW: Ambassador Bremer, can American forces afford to leave before Saddam Hussein somehow is either captured or otherwise accounted for?

BREMER: It certainly would be important, I think it is important, I've said it all along, to capture or kill Saddam Hussein.

He's finished here. He's not coming back. But fact that he's still alive and on the loose gives the ability of people around him to hold open the idea that the Baathists will come back. So it is important to kill him.

Now, as far as how long American troops stay here, there are two points to make. Number one is the one that the president made in the interview you broadcast. We're not going to cut and run. We're here to get the job done, and we will stay until the job is done.

Number two, the new Iraqi government and we are going to negotiate an agreement that will provide for our continued presence in Iraq to help them stabilize their country and to help them stay at peace with their neighbors. They have some pretty rough neighbors. And they're going to need our assistance, I think, for some time.

SNOW: General Wesley Clark today said that the idea of turning over power to the Iraqis is a good thing, and we ought to do it tomorrow, not in June. What would the practical effect be if tomorrow you said to the Iraqi Governing Council, "It's all yours"?

BREMER: I think that would be a mistake. We have to find the right balance here, Tony, between doing it too soon before there is some kind of a written interim constitution in place. And we believe that we can get a constitution in place, working with the Governing Council, in a couple of months.

But we also believe it would be a mistake to turn over power to a government that's not elected. And we are going to arrange to have an elected government receive sovereignty from us in June, as you point out.

I think both of those things are important. They've always been important, to have some kind of a constitutional framework that guarantees individual liberties, guarantees a bill of rights, guarantees the freedom of worship. I think it would be a mistake to rush to turn over sovereignty at this point until we get some of those guarantees in place.

SNOW: Mr. Ambassador, many critics here in the states have said the United States needs to give greater cooperation from the, quote, "international community."

What do you believe the transfer of sovereignty will mean in terms of getting cooperation either from the United Nations or from individual countries in reconstructing and providing security in Iraq?

BREMER: Well, I'm always puzzled by this statement about more international cooperation. We have troops from 33 countries on the ground today, here, within the coalition. I have citizens from 17 countries working for me in the coalition authority. In Madrid, two weeks ago at the donors' conference, pledges were made by 73 countries to help in Iraq's reconstruction. There is a very substantial international effort already under way.

Now, as for the U.N., we have said all along that we think the U.N. has an important role to play in Iraq. Lamentably, the U.N. has withdrawn its personnel. I hope sooner or later they will come back, and they'll resume playing an important role here.

The degree of international cooperation with a new Iraqi government will be a matter for the new Iraqi government to undertake on its own. We will, of course, encourage more international cooperation, just as we have since we've been here.

SNOW: Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, thanks for joining us today.

BREMER: Nice to be with you.