WASHINGTON – Any request for international support in Iraq after the June 30 transfer of political power will come from the Iraqi interim government, not the United States, Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said.
The comment, in an interview taped Friday and broadcast Saturday on India's New Delhi Television, reinforced the U.S. commitment to cede full sovereignty to the Iraqis a month from now.
Powell also said the U.S.-led occupation will end on June 30. U.S. and Iraqi officials have indicated that American and other troops will remain at the request of the Iraqis under a status-of-forces agreement currently being worked out.
Powell's statement was in response to a question whether a formal request for help might go out to the new Indian government after the turnover in a month's time.
"Well, the interesting point is that I no longer will be able to answer that question because, if there is a formal request, it will not be coming from the United States," Powell said. "It will be coming from the new sovereign government of Iraq."
As late as a month ago, U.S. officials were saying the Americans would still be in charge of military operations in Iraq (search) and of Iraqi security forces after June 30 and that the interim government would not be able to write new laws. "We want them to exercise as much sovereignty as they are capable of exercising," Powell said then.
Last Monday night, however, President Bush said the U.S.-led coalition would yield "complete and full sovereignty" to the interim government, to rule until elections are held, probably early next year.
India is not a member of the coalition. Like the leaders of governments of a number of other major countries asked to join, former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (search) deferred making commitments unless the Iraq operation was under U.N. auspices.
In the interview, Powell was asked about the state of talks on Iraq between the United States and the new Indian government, a coalition headed by the Congress Party under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (search). The Congress defeated Vajpayee's conservative coalition in elections this month.
"I wouldn't say there are formal negotiations. We would welcome contributions from any nation that wishes to make a contribution," Powell said, according to a transcript provided by the State Department.
"Most of our friends in the world have said, `We'll take another look at it when there is a new U.N. resolution and when the occupation has ended and the Iraqis are back in control of their country with full sovereignty," he said. "That's going to happen by the first of July."
He expressed hope that all members of the United Nations will join in support of the Iraqis and their new government.
"We will have conversations with the new government to see what it needs in the way of additional support," Powell said. "And I am sure that that new government will be in touch with nations around the world who might be interested in providing such support."