April 29th, 2006 13:40 EST
Rumsfeld Encouraged by Progress in Iraq By Melody Merin
Washington – In the wake of his recent visit to Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed his optimism about that country’s future, and noted the importance of the new unified government in Iraq.
"It is an historic event for the Iraqi people to vote and then for a new government to be formed," said Rumsfeld during an April 28 radio interview with host Laura Ingraham.
Rumsfeld, along with Secretary Condoleezza Rice, were in Iraq to witness the announcement of the Iraqi leadership’s top officials.
Encouraged by the comments made by the new Iraqi leaders, Rumsfeld praised them for "governing from the center [and] of having non-sectarian ministers administer the government on behalf of the Iraqi people." He particularly praised Ayatollah Sistani’s recent remarks about the leadership’s intention to deal with the militias in Iraq.
When asked about the media coverage by Iraqi reporters, Rumsfeld acknowledged the "thoughtful and substantive" nature of their questions during a press roundtable that involved him, Secretary Rice and the Iraqi media.
Rumsfeld also talked about the individual work on which he and Rice focused during their visit. As Rice tended to embassy issues, the defense secretary concentrated on the Iraqi security situation and U.S. military forces. (See related article.)
Of his meeting with the advisers to the Ministry of Interior and the Iraqi Minister of Defense, Rumsfeld noted, "The progress they’re making there is notably faster and better than I had appreciated from Washington."
The defense secretary, when questioned by Ingraham about his impression of Iraq’s newly elected Prime Minister Jawad al-Maliki, responded, "He clearly is a person of conviction and determination. … [H]e appears to me at this early state to have the kind of strength and fiber that it’s going to take to lead a country during a tough time in the history of that nation."
The transcript of Rumsfeld’s interview s available on the Defense Department Web site.
For additional information, see Iraq Update.