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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Security in Iraq
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.
Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

On Politics Show, Sunday 27 June, 2004, Jeremy Vine interviewed David Richmond, Britain's special representative in Iraq.

David Richmond
Britain's special representative in Iraq, David Richmond

Jeremy Vine: I'm joined on the phone now by the UK's special representative to Baghdad, David Richmond. I hope you can hear me okay Mr Richmond.

David Richmond: Yes, I can hear you.

Jeremy Vine: Well tell us what you think the Iraqis can do when the hand over happens and security remains as bad as it is.

David Richmond: Well I think it's true that security will be very difficult for the next few weeks and possibly for two or three months but I think in the medium term we will see a real change in the security situation, as Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped and are able to take their place in the front line and take responsibility for security.

Jeremy Vine: Well I'm pleased to say we can now see you, so the camera in front of you is working; during your answer it began working. Just going back to the issue of security which you're discussing, security is power, and at the moment security is in the hands of the coalition troops and in a sense they therefore retain power, despite the hand over don't they?

David Richmond: I don't think that's right. Up until now, the power has been in the hands of the Coalition. Ambassador Bremer, as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has been responsible for all of the decisions that are made about rules and regulations, about financial matters, about appointments.

From 30th June, all that authority moves to the Iraqi Government and they will be taking those decisions. It's true in the field of security that there will have to be a partnership, that the multi national forces will have to support the Iraqi forces, and that will continue for some time but as we move through in to the autumn and the winter, we will increasingly see Iraqi forces taking charge of their own security.

Jeremy Vine: Can an Iraqi administration operate with security as bad as it is now?

David Richmond: I, I'm sure that it, I'm sure that it can. Despite the very difficult security situation, the business of government has continued to be conducted over the last, the last few months and I'm confident that the Interim Government will be able to continue that when they assume responsibility on the 30th June.

Jeremy Vine: Is there a gamble going on here Mr Richmond, which is that the Coalition have to hope that Iraqis will be less keen to attack other Iraqis if the Coalition clear off?

David Richmond: I think that that's a, I think that is the case. I think it makes an enormous psychological difference to end the occupation and for Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. I think the effects may not be apparent immediately, but over time it will become more and more apparent that it is Iraqis and not the Coalition who are taking the decisions.

And I think there is one other important point that we should bear in mind, which is that the elections are due by the end of January 2005 and as we move in to the autumn and those elections begin to loom large, I think the Iraqis will begin to realise that they have a vote and that they have a say in their own future, and I think again that will make a powerful difference to the insurgency and to the security situation.

Jeremy Vine: What do make of the comment from in-coming Prime Minister Allawi who suggested actually they may be put back, that January may be too soon.

David Richmond: Well I haven't actually seen exactly what he said about that, but he's made it very clear that he is determined that his government will prepare the way for the elections and that he himself is determined to see those elections held.

Jeremy Vine: Again on the theme of what the in-coming Iraqi authority are saying. The new Iraqi defence minister, Hazim al-Shalaan talking about how you punish terrorists, said, "we will cut off the hands of those people, we will slit their throats if it is necessary to do so." They're free, aren't they, to decide that that's the form of punishment they would like.

David Richmond: I don't think you'll see that as a form of punishment. I think there was a little bit of rhetoric involved in that.

I think the Iraqi people are looking for their new government to take firm line on security, and that perhaps has come out in that little bit of rhetoric that you heard from the Iraqi defence minister, but the Prime Minister Allawi has made it very clear that the measures that he takes, and he may well feel that extra or additional emergency measures are necessary. Those measures will be within the rule of law.

Jeremy Vine: Also at the start of the programme we were talking about the election and the difficulties of holding an election with this security situation as it is now. How can politicians and candidates go out campaigning?

David Richmond: Well it won't be the first time that elections have been held in difficult security conditions; it's happened elsewhere in the world, and it may have to happen in Iraq but the United Nations who've been heavily involved in preparing the elections; I think they've designed a system which will reduce the scope for intimidation and violence. Of course, there comes a certain point in which it becomes impossible to hold elections but I don't think we've reached that point yet.

Jeremy Vine: It becomes difficult to hold them if you don't know who the voters are, doesn't it, and at the moment there's a question about how you prepare an electoral register, seems to be almost insoluble.

David Richmond: No, I mean again the UN have been thinking about how you prepare an electoral register.

There is something called the Oil For Food Programme, and the register that was prepared of Iraqis to allow the ration system to work in Iraq; it's not a perfect list, there are gaps and there are holes, but they will use that as the basis and then there will be an open challenge system, people will be able to come and add their names to the list.

Other people will be able to challenge that if it's necessary. It's a complicated process, it will take several months. But again, this has been elsewhere and proved successful.

Jeremy Vine: Just looking around you, do you sense improvement, any improvement at all since you arrived in the country.

David Richmond: I mean the security situation has become more difficult in many ways, there's no denying that. But in many, many other respects there are huge improvements in this country. We now have a very clear political process leading to the election by the end of January next year.

These will be followed by the drafting of a constitution, a referendum, further elections on the basis of that constitution. We have the Transitional Administrative Law which contains some very important safe guards on human rights, respect for the rights of minorities.

We have an independent electoral commission, we have agreement on how the elections are going to be held, so there's a clear political path for the Iraqis to follow and there are important developments on the economic side as well. There's a new a stable currency and so on.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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