WASHINGTON – President Bush named L. Paul Bremer, a former ambassador and head of the State Department’s counterterrorism office, to become civilian administrator in Iraq and oversee the country’s transition to democratic rule.
Bremer will head the transition team that includes retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, currently the top-ranking U.S. civilian in Iraq. He will oversee all political and reconstruction efforts.
Bush announced the appointment Tuesday during a White House meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Bremer, 61, was a former assistant to former Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. He was ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism from 1986 to 1989. He also served as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.
He later worked for a consulting firm headed by Kissinger and currently serves as chairman and chief executive of Marsh Crisis Consulting company.
In his new assignment, he will be senior to Garner, a retired Army general. The move represents a military-to-civilian handoff.
Bremer will oversee the transition from rule by Saddam Hussein to a yet-to-be-determined interim Iraqi government. The Bush administration has said it expects this government to include a wide diversity of Iraqi groups to choose a new government.
The opposition groups have held two meetings and after a third one are expected to begin the process of transition at a conference of all contending forces. Secretary of State Colin Powell assured Congress this week that while the United States was playing a major role in Baghdad it seeks to turn over control of the country to Iraqis as soon as possible.
Rumsfeld, meanwhile, has warned that the Bush administration would not permit an Iran-style Muslim fundamentalist government take charge in Baghdad.
For his part, Powell has said there is no reason to rule out a government rooted in the Muslim religion, citing Turkey and Pakistan as examples of democracies coexisting with the religion.
On Wednesday, Powell told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that Iran had been warned against trying to infiltrate Iraq to influence the course of a post-Saddam government.
The overthrow of Saddam by a U.S. led military coalition casts the Bush administration in the spot of trying to maintain order in Iraq and helps sort out competing and sometimes conflicting goals of Iraqis who opposed the old government from exile and others who remained in the country.
During a 23-year State Department career, Bremer served as special assistant or executive assistant to six secretaries of state. In 1999, Bremer was appointed chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.