This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," April 9, 2004, that was edited for clarity.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Iraq and a band of thugs still sadly in business Friday. And Secretary of State Colin Powell on the offensive today. The secretary telling me just minutes ago, a year to the day after the fall of Baghdad, coalition forces are succeeding.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it has been a tough week; let’s be clear about that. But I still believe that most Iraqis are with us, most Iraqis are delighted that Saddam Hussein and that evil regime are gone. Most Iraqis realize that the United States and its coalition partners are there to provide security, and after providing security we’re going provide reconstruction activity and we’re going to put this country on a democratic footing. And we are hard at work on that process.
We have these elements, the Shias in the south, some of them, anyway, under the leadership of Muqtada al-Sadr. And some of the Sunnis remaining in the triangle who are resisting us. And it has been a tough week for us, but they will be defeated.
CAVUTO: Do you have any indication, sir, that the Shias and the Sunnis are pairing up?
POWELL: There might be some tactical-level contact between the two. There has been some evidence of that. But over the last 24 hours, I have seen nothing to suggest that there is some great alliance that is forming between the Shias and the Sunnis.
They have different interests. In the Sunni heartland, we are still dealing with, I think, elements of the former regime and criminal elements who have joined them, some terrorists. And in the south, really, the Shia resistance is at the instigation of Mr. al-Sadr.
And it’s a relatively small number of Shia. They occupied some towns. We have taken Kut back under coalition control, under Iraqi control. And Najaf still remains under their control. But we are going to continue to pursue this situation until all of it is back under coalition control, back under Iraqi control, and get about the business of reconstruction, get about the business of finding a political arrangement for the mew Iraqi interim government.
CAVUTO: Secretary, let me ask you, Senator John Kerry was speaking this morning, and he seemed to indicate -- it was kind of hard to glean the exact intention of his remarks -- that some of the Arab nations surrounding Iraq would not mind an unstable Iraq. What do you think of that?
POWELL: I don’t think it is in their interest to have an unstable Iraq. I don’t know who Senator Kerry was referring to. But my conversations with nations in the region and conversations I have had with other friends in Europe and elsewhere who know the region quite well, think that all the neighbors want to see a stable Iraq. I don’t know why it would be in their interest for this country to be unstable with all the consequences that go with it.
We want one country, all of the major parties working together, Kurds, Shia, Sunnis and the other ethnicities that are within Iraq, to be in one country, resting on a solid democracy, with a representative form of government.
The United States and its coalition partners are there to make that happen, working with Iraqi leaders. And we hope to see the U.N. play a vital role. And Ambassador Brahimi is in Baghdad still today working with members of Iraqi leadership groups in order to strike a course forward to create an interim government for the people of Iraq. That will come into being by the 30th of June.
CAVUTO: Another Democrat, sir, Ted Kennedy, had compared what is going on in Iraq to Vietnam. What do you think of that?
POWELL: It’s not a comparison I would make. Vietnam was 30, 40 years ago, a different part of the world, a different environment totally. Let’s deal with what we have here today.
What we have here today is a regime that was despotic, that filled mass graves, that is gone and is not coming back. Its leader is in jail. We have the remnants of that regime, and we have some disaffected people down in the south. Not all Shias, just a small group of Shias who are resisting the efforts to move forward.
They will be dealt with by coalition security forces and by Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi security force performance has been mixed. It just shows that we have a lot of work to do in building up those forces so they can take over responsibility for their own people.
CAVUTO: Sir, Thursday you had given some indications that maybe this June 30 deadline might not come across quite as we planned. That Iraqis who wanted full and free control might have limited sovereignty. What did you mean by that?
POWELL: Well, the fact is that, after sovereignty has been returned to them, it is pretty well understood that the military forces of the new sovereign government would be operating under the direction of the coalition forces, because you have to have unity of command. You can’t have two military forces operating independently of one another.
So, to some extent, they would yield some of their sovereignty to our military commanders. And I think that is well understood from the conversations we have had with the current Iraqi Governing Council.
CAVUTO: So, secretary, does that mean that we are rethinking this whole 30th deadline?
POWELL: No, not at all. And I don’t think I said anything yesterday, nor has anyone in the administration said anything to suggest we are.
It was always understood that when the 30th of June came, and we transferred sovereignty at that time, our forces remain. We will have a large military presence there after 30 June.
The Iraqi interim government will not yet be capable of providing security throughout the whole country. So the coalition will keep a large force in being after the 30th of June, and it will have working with it and under its direction those Iraqi security forces that are up and running on the 30th of June. That is a sensible way to approach the security problem.
CAVUTO: Secretary, thank you very much.
POWELL: You’re welcome.
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