U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad says it is very important that Iraqis agree on a new constitution, and he has expressed his willingness to help facilitate consensus among the constitutional drafters.
"What is lacking in Iraq now is the buy-in of all Iraqis into this new political system," Khalilzad said in an interview with CNN August 1 in Baghdad. "I'm prepared to help in any way I can to facilitate. I have told them that I'm available at any time if they need my help."
Khalilzad said that the constitutional drafters have indicated they will not seek an extension beyond the August 15 deadline.
Speaking at the opening of a new electrical power plant in south Baghdad August 1, Khalilzad said that Iraq can and will succeed and that the United States must remain determined and flexible in its support of Iraq.
Following an excerpt from Khalilzad's interview with CNN:
For Immediate Release, August 2, 2005
TRANSCRIPT OF CNN INTERVIEW WITH AMBASSADOR
OPENING OF THE BAGHDAD SOUTH POWER STATION
AUGUST 1, 2005
Ambassador Khalilzad (interview joined) ... the production of power, electricity for the citizens of Baghdad, power is one of the great concerns for the people out here, and I'm reviewing overall reconstruction efforts. I've been here only for 10 days, and I would like to see what it is we can do to deliver services, together with the Iraqi government and the people of Iraq, to increase the capacity of the Iraqis to do more for themselves. And this is a very significant achievement, a 200-megawatts-plus power plant with up-to-date technology. You can see the contrast between the new plant that's producing power, and the old plant. And there is also the issue of transmitting, distributing the power. We're going to focus on that. There are some issues with regard to that, so with the Iraqis hopefully we will get that resolved relatively soon. And then there is the security of first the plant and then the transmission line, and we have formed a joint task force with the Iraqi government to focus on that problem and to find ways to deal with it.
Iraq is being built, it's going through a difficult transition period, but as you can see progress is being made. This plant alone will add more than fifteen percent more power to what's available to the Iraqi citizens in Baghdad, and overall the power program has derived more than 4,000 megawatts of power, which will also program with regard to transmissions to distribute the power to other parts of Iraq, and to get them to the citizens of Iraq. And there's a lot of demand, but what the government charges for power is very low. So when demand is exploding, we need to rationalize together with them and set the decision for a pricing mechanism for electricity. But it's a good day to come and watch and see the new Iraq being built and put together.
Q: You mentioned this is your first time being here, and we've seen a lot of you ... you've done a lot of high profile things. Some people would say we've seen more of you than we saw of Negroponte. Is this a change of policy to be out more?
Ambassador Khalilzad: Well, I want to engage Iraqis to tell them about what we're about, because there are some misperceptions and misconceptions about what we seek here, why we're here, and what our plans are for the future. I also want to hear from them. This is their country, and we're here to help. Our goal is not to [inaudible] here as an end to itself, but to have Iraq stand on its own feet, Iraq has the potential to be a great country, a successful country. And that's important obviously for the Iraqis, but it's also important for the world. And we have a particular responsibility and role here. Yes, I'm going to be proactive in both hearing from them but also telling them about our goals, our role, our programs.
Q: My last question: What's the status right now on the constitution, and how much pressure are you under to make sure they make the deadline? And how much pressure are they under, as well?
Ambassador Khalilzad: Well, of course it's very important that you get a national compact enshrined in this new constitution. What is lacking in Iraq now is the buy-in of all Iraqis into this new political system. The Sunni Arabs did not want to participate particularly in the last elections, so this constitution is very important. The sooner it happens the better, because we want to get all Iraqis to see themselves as part of the future, and the Iraqis that I've talked to - and I think they've made an announcement already that they will not ask for an extension - that they will do everything they can to meet the August 15th deadline. I'm prepared to help in any way I can to facilitate. I have told them that I'm available at any time if they need my help.
Q: Is there anything further you want to say?
Ambassador Khalilzad: Well, what's happening in Iraq is both important and very difficult: important because Iraq is such an important country in a critical region of the world; difficult because of its importance thus far, because there are a lot of people who are hoping we will fail here, they're hoping that the Iraqis will fail, and they're putting a lot of effort into causing difficulties or adding to the difficulties of this difficult time. And it's important that we do not lose our nerve but would remain focused and integrate with Iraqis the various instruments of our power and influence. This country can succeed, and it will succeed, but we need to remain determined and adjust as appropriate in our policies and posture. Thank you.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)