FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: (Via interpreter.) Thank you very much. I would like to welcome – the best and warmest welcome to U.S. Secretary of State Secretary Hillary Clinton during his visit – her visit here in Baghdad. This is the first visit that she conducts in her current capacity as Secretary of State, but this is also her fourth visit to Iraq. I also would like to seize the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, who presented his credentials yesterday, Ambassador Chris Hill who is with us today.
Today, we have conducted a series of talks and discussions with Secretary Clinton. I can summarize those talks as useful and fruitful. We covered a wide range of issues related to Iraq and regional issues, as well as Iraq’s relation with the region and the world. Secretary Clinton also conducted a series of very important meetings with the president of Iraq, as well as with the prime minister of Iraq. After – in a while she will be meeting also with the vice president of Iraq. In addition, to the officials meetings, the Secretary also had meetings with other ordinary Iraqi citizens this morning. The purpose and the objective behind this visit is for the Secretary to listen to various Iraqi leadership and to assess also the political, security, and economic situation, especially after the improvement in the security situation.
The Secretary’s message today to all of us was a very assuring message that the United States will continue to support the efforts of the Iraqi Government and the enhancement of Iraqi security and stability and will work with all of us to add additional gains in the area of democracy.
We are going through a very important transitional period, also in relationship to the U.S.-Iraqi relation and the transition of the Iraqi – for the relationship gradually between the United States and Iraq from a security and military relationship into a normal bilateral relationship that will focus on development and prosperity. But there is no doubt that there are serious security and economic challenges that are facing Iraq. Therefore, we will continue to rely on the continuation of U.S. commitment and support to both the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people to enable them to face those challenges.
We also reaffirmed to the Secretary the Iraqi Government’s commitment to the SOFA agreement and to the withdrawal according to the timetable, and also to activate the strategic framework agreement between the two countries and enhancing cooperation and working together.
Once again, (inaudible), good to have you here, Madame Secretary, in Baghdad. We are delighted to have you here. We are delighted to have you visit here with us and convening this press conference at the headquarters of the Iraqi foreign ministers.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister Zebari, for your hospitality and for a series of excellent meetings today. I’m happy to be back in Baghdad and proud to have introduced my friend and our new Ambassador Chris Hill.
It is encouraging to both see and hear about the progress that is being made in Iraq, and that came through to me not only in my official meetings with the foreign minister, the prime minister, and the president, but also with the special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations. The special representative briefed me about the work that the UN is doing, including the recently concluded report on disputed internal borders.
I especially appreciated the chance to meet with Iraqis, including a group of women who were both war widows and who were helping widows and their children. I also participated in an historic town hall meeting with Iraqi citizens representing a broad cross-section of Iraqi society. At every stop, I have emphasized President Obama’s message that our strategy working with you may be in a new phase, but we pledge our full and continuing commitment to Iraq and the Iraqi people.
We are committed to seeing an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant, and fully integrated into the region. We are working toward an orderly transition of responsibility from the American military to the Iraqi security forces, and we continue to help train and equip these forces so they will take the lead in safeguarding their country.
Like President Obama, I condemn these violent recent efforts to disrupt the progress that Iraq is making. My heart and America’s sympathy go out to the people who have died and the families who have suffered. This violence has only reinforced the Iraqi people’s determination to seek a better future for their country. Their response and the response of Iraqi’s leaders has been united and firm.
The end of the United States’ combat presence in Iraq by 2011 will mark the beginning of a new phase in our country’s relationship. As we draw down militarily, we will deepen our civilian cooperation in accordance with the strategic framework agreement. We will work on development and diplomatic initiatives and a regional agenda that includes border security and refugees.
The Iraqi people have withstood challenges of the most vicious and violent sort from those who would have torn their society apart, and Iraqis from everywhere have made tremendous sacrifices. The United States has also shared in those sacrifices. But we are proud of the progress that the Iraqi people have made. I said today that the Iraqi people are known for intelligence, hard work, and courage. And we will stand with you as you build a future worthy of all of the children in Iraq.
Thank you, minister.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) We will take a question from the Arab media.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) My question goes to the Iraqi foreign minister and the question is about the latest UN Security Council Resolution 1859 and regarding getting Iraq out of Chapter 7.
FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: (Via interpreter.) Yes, we have discussed this issue with Secretary Clinton and the accompanying delegation. Next June, UN Security Council resolution will review all UN Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq and Chapter 7.
We – the foreign minister – we have done an intensive inventory about all those UN Security Council resolutions that were imposed on Iraq, and they go back to 1990. And also the general secretary of the ministry reviewed – of the UN reviewed all the same UN resolutions that were imposed on Iraq under Chapter 7. Of course, there are resolutions that were compelling, and Iraq must carry out. Of course, there are also other UN resolutions that are no longer applicable. Some of those that were related to the various sanctions that were imposed on Iraq, some of them were related to the inspection regime that was imposed on Iraq, some of them related to oil for food. All of those were no longer applicable, but they will go through with the final review process. Of course, this process is going to be a tedious process. We will go through the reviewing process and we will work very hard. A lot of work is ahead of us, but we have to do that in order to free our country from the Chapter 7 obligations.
MODERATOR: Next, Arshad Mohammed.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei today has said – blamed the United States for recent suicide bombings in Iraq in which Iranian citizens died. What is your reaction to that accusation and does it bode well for the kind of engagement that President Obama hopes to bring about with Iran? And are you aware of the reports that North Korea has resumed reprocessing plutonium? And if so, what is your comment on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not aware of the Supreme Leader’s comments. But I must say that it is disappointing for anyone to make such a claim, since it is clearly traced to the al-Qaida remnants and other violent groups who wish to disrupt the progress of Iran – of Iraq. The United States and Iraq are partners in that progress, and we are going to continue to be partners and do all that we can to support the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people in this important work of standing up a stable, sovereign, and self-reliant Iraq. And we hope that all of Iraq’s neighbors will assist Iraq in achieving its goals.
And with respect to North Korea, we continue, along with our partners in the Six-Party Talks, to press North Korea to return to the obligations which it assumed. We were very pleased by the strong statement that came out of the United Nations last week, and we are working to implement that statement and we hope that we’ll be able to resume discussions with North Korea that will lead to their assuming responsibility for denuclearizing the Peninsula.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) The question is to the foreign minister. What is your comment about the question that was posed by (inaudible) about the statement came out of Ayatollah Khamenei about the U.S. responsibility behind the latest bombings in Iraq? And also what’s your comment about what General Petraeus said about one of the suiciders came -- who was Tunisian national came to Iraq through a neighboring country?
FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: (Via interpreter.) I’m not aware of that particular statement, but our experience with various terrorists, as well as suicide bombers, those who are basically – blow up themselves. We are not aware that any Americans participated in anything similar to that in the past. Regarding those terrorists who come to Iraq from the outside, either based on a jihadi ideology or based on certain religious ideology, they come from a variety of countries. Some of them come from Saudi Arabia, some other Gulf States, some of them come from North African countries. So I can see that some of them come from different nationalities, either Tunisians or Morocco. We have enough intelligence information at the hands of the Iraqi Government, that there are (inaudible) of those suiciders who come from North African countries.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have one more question. I have to take two from my (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is for both Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Zebari. And first, I’d like to know, based on what you learned from your briefing from General Odierno and Iraqi officials today, based on the recent deadly attacks, will it still be possible to withdraw U.S. troops as planned from cities by the end of June?
And secondly, with the planned release of dozens of photos showing prisoner abuse by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, what are your concerns about that fueling anti-American sentiment and violence here in Iraq? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll take those. General Odierno briefed me and members of my delegation this morning. And his view is my view, that these are tragic and terrible events, but they do not reflect any diversion from the security progress that has been made. They are certainly regrettable and horrible in terms of loss of life. But the reaction from the Iraqi people and the Iraqi leaders was firm and united in rejecting that violence, and refusing to allow it to set Iraqi against Iraqi, which is obviously one of its intended goals.
And with respect to any matters that are going on in the United States, I think we’ll wait and see what happens. I don’t want to be prejudging or commenting on anything until it does happen. But I think the strong relationship that the United States and Iraq have in our partnership on all levels is in a very positive framework and will become more so as we work together on specific issues and find solutions to the problems that confront Iraq as they make this very courageous transition into security and stability and sovereignty and self-reliance, and that’s what we’re going to be focused on. Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER ZEBARI: Just add to what Secretary Clinton has said actually on this issue, on this question. I personally don’t believe that these deadly attacks was (inaudible) government determination to pursue its plans to (inaudible) the country. Yes, we have, indeed, certain timeline for withdrawal from the population center and the city centers. But we are doing our utmost, and we are coordinating very closely with the multinational forces to ensure that there is no vacuum when that happens, and that security is viable to certain extent. But this ultimately would be an Iraqi responsibility.
As for the aim of this attacks, actually, if you look back most of them were Iranian (inaudible) innocent, soft targets that have been targeted by these terrorists in Diyala and (inaudible). And our condolences also to go to their families and to the government. And we are doing our utmost really to protect them and to ensure that they carry out their religious duty as it should be.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.