Seasons' Greetings from Ambassador Baker

As 2003 comes to an end and we celebrate the coming of the New Year, I take this opportunity to send seasonal greetings to the readers of the U.S. Embassy web page. On behalf of the entire U.S. diplomatic mission in Japan, I want to extend our appreciation to the Government of Japan and to the Japanese people for their friendship and support during the past year. I hope 2004, the Year of the Monkey, will be a happy one for you all.

We Americans and Japanese have long enjoyed the prosperity and freedoms our two peoples have worked hard to achieve. My wish for the coming year is that the things we take for granted can begin to flower in places that have not been as fortunate. The capture of Saddam Hussein on December 14, offers hope that this might be the case in Iraq after years of tyranny and mismanagement. His arrest underscores the fact that transformation in Iraq to sovereignty and democracy are inevitable. The bringing to justice of Saddam, in a fair, transparent, and Iraqi-led process, will deal a fatal blow to the remaining elements still fighting the coalition. The Iraqis are taking increasing control of their own destiny and will have full sovereignty by June 30, 2004. While there remain many challenges, Saddam's arrest marks a significant turning point in the effort to shape a new political reality in Iraq.

Now is the time for the entire international community to reassess its potential contributions to help the Iraqi people as they begin their new journey and facilitate the smooth transition to taking control of their government and their lives. We can help by easing their debt burden built up by the Saddam regime. Iraqi creditors will also benefit from the stability created by resolving this issue so that rebuilding and reconciliation can proceed. The U.S., the coalition, and the United Nations - through Security Council resolution 1511 - have anticipated a substantial role for the U.N. in this effort, from infrastructure reconstruction to election training and monitoring. We also hope that Saddam's capture will mean an improvement in the security situation. While some insurgent attacks may continue, we hope that the U.N., and eventually NGOs, can play a robust role in humanitarian efforts and reconstruction. Americans and Japanese, as generous people, have both the responsibility and the wherewithal to make major contributions.