Transcript: Is Iraq Ready to Govern Itself?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 28, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Hi, everybody. This is THE BIG STORY. I'm John Gibson.

Independence Day comes early in Iraq; it is now a sovereign nation after today's surprise transfer of power. The handover wasn't supposed to happen till Wednesday; instead it happened this morning in a quiet ceremony hardly anyone new was taking place. This way, the terrorists didn't have a chance to react to try to stop it...

Rend al Rahim (search) has been getting the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. ready to reopen for business. She is the Iraqi ambassador designate to the United States. She joins me from Washington, D.C.

The big question, Madam Ambassador, is Iraq ready to govern itself?

REND AL RAHIM, IRAQI AMBASSADOR DESIGNATE TO THE UNITED STATES: Oh yes. I think we've been ready to govern ourselves for a long time.

This is really not just an historic day, but a very happy, a very exciting day for Iraqis. And I was listening to phone calls around Iraq; ordinary people expressing their excitement, their happiness and their hope for the future, actually. So, this is very important for us.

GIBSON: Is it much of an impediment for your interim government to not have complete control, let's say, of the American military, which still is there? Or for that matter, the foreign fighters who are among you causing all this trouble?

AL RAHIM: You know, in terms of the multinational forces, the coalition forces, what we look forward to is a partnership, a very close cooperation. And this was expressed in the U.N. resolution that was passed recently and in an exchange of letters between the Iraqi government and the Security Council (search) and so on.

So, we do look forward to a close cooperation and close partnership. The reason we need that is because, quite honestly, our own army and national guard are still not sufficiently trained and sufficiently equipped to take on the job themselves. We are now going to be doing that work. This is going to be accelerated, it's going to be hard work and gradually we are going to assume our own responsibility for our own security.

In the meantime, we absolutely need the help of the Coalition Forces.

GIBSON: Do you believe that your government will be forced to declare martial law (search) in the next few days?

AL RAHIM: Well, let's be specific. The prime minister talked about emergency laws. Those are quite different from martial law, by the way, so we need to keep that in mind. What they mean is that you can seize people, you can go into houses, capture people, you can detain them for longer periods, also you can impose curfews. The prime minister said that if that needs to be done, it will be done selectively and it will be done for short periods of time.

Now, if that happens, it will actually not be very different from what the Coalition Forces had done in certain parts of the country over the past few months. They did impose a curfew in [some cities]... they did go in and inspect houses and seize people. So, this time, it'll be Iraqis doing it and I think that is going to be much more acceptable. Iraqis actually want tough action against the terrorists now and they look forward to this government to be tough on terrorism.

GIBSON: Ms. Al Rahim, we're looking at pictures of Paul Bremer (search) leaving Iraq today. In the end, was he a good administrator for the period between Saddam Hussein (search) and a democratic Iraq?

AL RAHIM: You know, I can't — this is a difficult call. I think Paul Bremer did a wonderful job in many ways. And actually, as you could see from the farewell given to him by the Iraqi officials, there was sort of, a bond of admiration and trust that he built with these Iraqi officials. Of course, there were some mistakes committed during the last year and a half, 14 months, and I'm not suggesting these are Ambassador Bremer's mistakes. The situation itself was very difficult.

I think we will remember Ambassador Bremer as somebody who gave a great deal to Iraq. He was a hard worker, he was devoted to the cause and he really committed himself, gave himself over to the Iraqi cause completely and wholly for the period he was there. We are very grateful to him.

GIBSON: I have to ask you about the reaction to this in Western Europe and among the Arab nations, in which people are saying this isn't quite sovereignty, that it's really a puppet government with the Americans behind it. What is your reaction to that? Do you think your Arab friends and your friends in Western Europe ought to be taking this sovereignty a little more seriously?

AL RAHIM: Oh yes! I think what they're saying is completely clueless about the reality in Iraq. This government actually began exercising sovereignty before the CPA was disbanded, was closed down. It was very remarkable watching them over the last two weeks and seeing them make statements, take decisions and so on. This is going to be a sovereign government.

And by the way, the U.N. resolution I referred to earlier stresses this point. That U.N. resolution was in part crafted by many European countries who sit on the Security Council.

GIBSON: Rend al Rahim, who's the Iraqi ambassador designate to the United States, coming to us from Washington, D.C.

Ms. al Rahim, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

AL RAHIM: Thank you.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.