Bremer Pledges Ongoing U.S. Help

Times Staff Writer

As Democratic leaders called for a "plan for success, not an exit strategy" in Iraq, the chief overseer of civilian operations there said Sunday that the United States would soon help draft an interim constitution that incorporates American ideals and leads to the start of a new government in Baghdad.

L. Paul Bremer III, who is supervising America's postwar administration in Iraq, also said that U.S. officials would negotiate an eventual end to the occupation, but he added that coalition forces would remain in the country to continue providing security.

His statements were supported by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld who, traveling in Asia, said a new contingent of U.S. troops would be rotated into Iraq next year, even if there is political progress toward self-rule in that country.

President Bush, speaking to reporters Sunday as he returned from Camp David, the presidential retreat, said that any change in the number of U.S. forces in Iraq during the transition to a new Iraqi government "depends on what's taking place on the ground."

During the transition, he said, "the political process will move on. And we'll adjust our troop level according to the security situation in Iraq."

Bremer, who from Baghdad appeared on three Sunday talk shows, told ABC's "This Week" that the United States would work with the Iraqi Governing Council -- whose 24 members were chosen by U.S. officials -- to draft the interim constitution, replacing the one promulgated by Saddam Hussein's regime.

"We will write into the interim constitution exactly the kinds of guarantees that were not in Saddam's constitution," he said. "We'll have a Bill of Rights. We'll recognize equality for all citizens. We'll recognize an independent judiciary. We'll talk about a federal government."

That interim constitution, Bremer said on CNN's "Late Edition," "will then be the platform on which a new Iraqi provisional government will be elected in the summer."

In about two years, he told ABC, a permanent constitution that "embodies those American values" will be written.

When the new provisional government is chosen in June, Bremer said, "our presence here [in Iraq] will change from an occupation to an invited presence. I'm sure the Iraqi government is going to want to have coalition forces here for its own security for some time to come."

But in Washington, Democratic leaders expressed concern about the transition and called yet again for greater international participation.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said on "Fox News Sunday" that he worried the situation in Iraq was going badly, especially with stepped-up assaults on American troops.

"I'm not sure we're winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people today, and that's of a real concern," the South Dakota Democrat said.

"I think the president needs, first and foremost, a plan for success -- not an exit strategy. I think we're putting too much emphasis on exit and not enough emphasis on success."

Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic presidential contender from North Carolina, said he did not think things would ever go really well for U.S. troops in Iraq until more countries joined in the peacekeeping and government-building efforts.

"This thing will never be successful so long as it has an American face on it," Edwards said on CNN.

"We have to make that transition from an American operation to an international operation, and that should be done immediately."

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