The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, March 7, 2004.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Friday was to be a big day in Iraq, a formal ceremony at which the 25 members of the Governing Council were to sign an interim constitution. But at the last minute, five Shiite members had reservations about the plan, leaving the document unsigned.
And earlier in the week, terrorist attacked Shiite worshipers, killing more than 180 people.
For more on Iraq, we welcome Ambassador Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator, from Baghdad.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. Good to have you with us today.
L. PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Nice to be with you.
WALLACE: As we reported earlier, there are reports out of Iraq that Ayatollah Ali Sistani has now signed off on the new constitution. Is that true? And if so, when will the new constitution be signed?
BREMER: Well, I don't want to speak for the Ayatollah. We hope that the signing ceremony will happen tomorrow. We've noted a statement by the current president of the Governing Council that they do intend to sign it tomorrow.
And I think it's a remarkable thing that here we are less than a year ago when Saddam Hussein was still running a dictatorship here that you've got Iraqis debating about a democratic constitution. It's a wonderful thing, and we certainly hope we can move forward with the signing.
WALLACE: Have the Shiites, as you understand it, agreed to the constitution as it was written last week, or have they made some changes that the rest of the members will now have to consider?
BREMER: I think it's a little early to know. A number of the people who had been out of town have not yet come back. And I'm sure they will want to talk among themselves and talk to the other members of the Governing Council. And we'll just have to see — we'll have to see how that goes tomorrow. We're certainly hopeful that, as the president of the council said, we're going to sign it tomorrow.
WALLACE: Mr. Ambassador, the two issues that caused this delay on Friday involve the minority rights that are being given to the Kurds and to Sunni Muslims. Isn't this really all about the Shiite majority wanting to ensure that it will be in control?
BREMER: No, I don't think that's fair. I think you've got people in Iraq who have never experienced democracy, and they're wrestling with some of the big issues of democracy. Democracy's not just about majority rule; it is about protecting minority rights.
And I think, again, it's pretty extraordinary, the spectacle of Iraqis all over the country now debating things that we debated 200 years ago ourselves: freedom of speech, freedom to demonstrate, freedom of assembly. I think it's a wonderful thing.
And minority rights are an important protection in democracy, and it's not an easy thing to understand. And I think that they now have begun to wrestle with that. And I'm hopeful that when we get together tomorrow as planned, we'll find that they've worked their way through this.
WALLACE: But this is at least the third time that Ayatollah Sistani has either delayed or sidetracked plans for the new government, the new operating regime in Iraq. Doesn't Sistani, in effect, have veto power over whatever's going to happen there?
BREMER: I don't think it's a good idea to talk about veto powers at this point. What we are seeing here is a, perhaps, confused and, perhaps, initial way in which democracy works. Although, you know, if Fox had been around a couple of hundred years ago and you had been covering the writing of the American constitution, you'd probably have seen a couple of bumps along the road then, too, from one day to the other.
This is kind of normal democratic habits working themselves out. And I think it's a rather very hopeful sign that the Iraqis are doing that. Let's see where we get tomorrow before we draw any conclusions about vetoes and so forth.
WALLACE: But, Mr. Ambassador, I mean, this is more than just bumps along the road. All of these problems — when originally you wanted to set up a caucus system or some of the other Iraqis wanted to set up a caucus system, and then Sistani was asking for elections — it's all been about, hasn't it, the fact that he wants the Shiite majority, which has for so long been oppressed in his mind, for the Shiite majority to, in fact, be in charge? Isn't that what has been going on all along the road here?
BREMER: Again, you're asking me to speculate about what somebody else's intentions are, and I just am not able to do that.
BREMER: I don't know. I think he can speak for himself.
But the thing to focus on here is not the fact that caucuses are or are not going to be used. The fact is, since November the entire Iraqi country has been brought up in a broad debate on the question of how they get from where they are to a democratic country.
And we've laid out a path that included writing this interim constitution, which I hope we'll be able to sign tomorrow, handing over sovereignty to an Iraqi government on time, June 30th, which all Iraqis want to have happen and so do we, and moving to elections next year.
The big picture, the historic picture, is the fact that we're moving in that direction, not whether or not caucuses were used or some other method was used to choose the interim government. That really is — I think historically will be, if it's lucky, make it into a footnote.
WALLACE: Let's switch topics and not to a very pleasant one, those terrible terrorist bombings this week that killed more than 180 people.
What is it that the U.S. forces, what is it that the new Iraqi forces can do to prevent the opposition from inflicting that kind of carnage?
BREMER: First of all, it's important to be clear about what is happening here. What is happening here is we have international, trained terrorists conducting attacks against Iraqis. It's quite different from the insurgency who are attacking coalition forces.
And these internationally trained professional killers are coming in here from outside the country. So the first thing we have to do and what we are working very hard on with the Iraqis now is getting better control over Iraq's borders.
Don't forget that out of respect for these holy sites and at the request, explicit request, of Iraqi authorities, American coalition forces had pulled back from these shrines and asked the Iraqis to take over the internal security.
But no matter what, you cannot body search a million people. There were a million people on the streets of Karbala on Tuesday when the bombings happened. So there is a certain degree of difficulty in stopping these kinds of suicide attacks that will always be there no matter how hard we try.
What we have to do is get better intelligence against these terrorists and go out and capture or kill them before they kill again. And that's one of the main thrusts we've got, plus doing better on the borders.
WALLACE: Mr. Ambassador, you talk about beefing up security on Iraq's borders, but we can't seal off our own borders with Mexico. How do you seal off borders with Iran and Syria?
BREMER: I don't think we will seal them off, and it's a good point you make. The borders of Iraq actually are about the same length as the border between the United States and Mexico, and we know how much trouble it is. And the borders here are actually harder, from a topographical point of view, because they're more mountainous and more deserty.
We can't seal them off. What we can do is be sure that we've got people on the authorized crossing points. There are 20 of those. We do have people on those now. We need to beef that up. We can work more with our neighbors, particularly Iran and Syria, that they should do more on their side of the borders, and we can do better with intelligence.
But there's not going to be any such thing as 100 percent security here any more than there is in Chicago or Los Angeles.
WALLACE: There's a report today that a U.S. team is coming over to Iraq to prepare, in effect, the legal brief against Saddam Hussein. Are we talking about wide-ranging Nuremberg trials?
BREMER: The team that's coming over here, headed by a senior prosecutor, is coming to help the Iraqis pull together the evidence, not just against Saddam Hussein but against any of the others, senior people that will be brought before the special tribunal.
The Iraqis have established this tribunal. They now need to people it with investigators and judges and prosecutors. And what we will be doing is helping them figure out how to pull together the evidence.
The way in which it happens and when it happens are matters that still lie in the future. I'm not going to characterize what they'll be like. We have simply said we will provide them every assistance we can to be sure these trials go off as soon as they're ready to present them.
BREMER: Mr. Ambassador, as we sit here today, you still don't know the shape of the government to which you'll be handing over power in less than four months. Given the political turmoil, given the continued terrorism, do you give any thought at all to delaying the turnover of sovereignty on June 30th?
BREMER: No. I think, as I said earlier, everybody here, among the Iraqis and certainly in the coalition, understands the importance, the symbolic importance, of giving the Iraqis full authority and sovereignty on schedule on June 30th. That's our intention.
And I'm confident we, in fact, will have an Iraqi interim government to which to hand over sovereignty. We're obviously going to be working on that as soon as we finish work on the interim constitution.
WALLACE: But isn't there pressure from the American political campaign, the election, to set this arbitrary deadline and perhaps to do things fast instead of doing them right?
BREMER: Well, you know, I've heard that before, Chris, but I can tell you, I've discussed this many times with the president, and the president's been very clear. We're supposed to do what's right for Iraq, and that's what we're going to do.
It's the Iraqis who are insisting, quite understandably, on ending the occupation. It's not nice to be occupied. I might add, as an aside, it's not very nice to be an occupier either.
But the Iraqis want their sovereignty back. We think it will help with the political situation, and we think it will help with the security situation. So it is in our interest, as well. And we will proceed on schedule.
WALLACE: So, Mr. Ambassador, you're saying, no matter what happens in Iraq, in view of the political situation or in the security situation, that you are hard and fast bound to this June 30th deadline?
BREMER: We have an agreement with the Iraqi people to return sovereignty on schedule on June 30th, and that's our intention. And we will proceed along those lines, as I said, getting ready to put together an interim government in consultation with the Iraqi people, with the Governing Council and with the United Nations. And we'll do that well before June 30th, so that on June 30th we have a government to hand over to.
WALLACE: Well, Mr. Ambassador, we hope to see you at that signing ceremony tomorrow, and we want to thank you very much, sir, for joining us today.