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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Prime Minister Tony Blair Holds Press Conference

Aired March 25, 2003 - 07:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen in on what the prime minister, Tony Blair, of Great Britain has to say.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: ... some of the news.

In the five days since military action began, a huge amount has already been achieved. It's worth pointing out that the circumstances were completely different. In 1991, there were five weeks of bombing before ground troops went in. By yesterday, we had covered twice as much ground in five days as was covered in the whole of the last conflict.

Our aim remains, as has been stated, to remove Saddam as the root to disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, so the progress towards Baghdad is of vital strategic importance.

Coalition forces are, therefore, continuing what is effectively a two-pronged advance. The U.S. V Corps are advancing along the road to Karbala. The lead elements have reached Karbala. They're opposed by the Republican Guard Medina Division. The Medina Division is now under heavy air attack, although poor weather will hamper this.

One Marine expeditionary force have been advancing on Al Kut along two converting routes. Al Kut is defended by the Republican Guard, Baghdad Division.

In the south, the port of Umm Qasr has been secured by British forces. U.K. 7th Armored Division is deployed around Basra. Regime support has continued to hold key points in the urban areas. British forces are also moving into Az Zubayr 10 miles southwest of Basra in search of pockets of pro-Saddam resistance.

Iraq and its security apparatus exists to support the regime of Saddam Hussein. Nobody should be surprised, therefore, there are parts of the armed forces determined to fight, for they know that when the regime falls, which it will, they will have nowhere to go.

Nor should anyone be surprised that until the Iraqi people know for sure that the regime that they despise is on the way out, they will hold back, a point now being made by Iraqi exiles. They have been let down before when they thought coalition forces were going to remove Saddam.

And my message to them today is that this time we will not let you down. Saddam and his regime will be removed. Iraq will have a better future ahead of it.

But then there will be resistance all the way to the end of this campaign. It will take time and perseverance and the continuing skill and dedication and professionalism of our armed forces to break it down. But nobody, least of all the forces loyal to Saddam, should be in any doubt that the resistance will be broken down and that the goals of the coalition forces will be met.

I would also like to update you, if I may, about the humanitarian situation.

When people ask about the humanitarian rescue operation, something that will be required, of course, once our forces have secured Iraq, we should be clear that it is not military action that will create humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq. The humanitarian disaster is here and now. It's happening. It's actually been happening for years.

Iraq has left unspent up to $2.3 billion allocated by the U.N. for humanitarian goods under the oil-for-food program. Sixty percent of Iraqis are dependent on food aid. The mortality rate for under fives in Baghdad is higher than in Mozambique. More than half of Iraqis living in rural areas have no access to safe water. On the latest estimates, up to 400,000 children under the age of 5 in the center and south of Iraq have died over the last five years through malnutrition and disease.

So in addition to pursuing our military campaign with bigger and determination, we are also determined in the wake of military success to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Iraq.

The most important humanitarian priority is to restore the operations of the oil-for-food program. Its scale is massive, it spends some $10 billion a year and is funded by the sale of Iraqi oil.

As I was pointing out to you a moment or two ago, virtually all Iraqis receive assistance from it. Sixty million -- that is out of a population of around about 22 or 23 million, 60 million are totally dependent on it for their daily survival. It provides food, water, fuel, medicine and other basic requirements, and is organized through some 45,000 local distribution centers that has been controlled by the regime.

So we are committed to supporting Kofi Annan in every way possible to get the oil-for-food program up and running again as soon as possible. The coalition will secure conditions in which the U.N. agencies and others -- the NGOs, the medical agencies -- can operate efficiently and provide that humanitarian relief.

There are huge stockpiles of humanitarian aid in Kuwait ready to be deployed for the benefit of the Iraqi people. The Royal Fleet auxiliary vessel, Sir Galahad, is loaded with humanitarian aid. It will enter the port of Umm Qasr as soon as it is safe to do so.

All that is holding us back at the present is the threat of Iraqi mines, and it will take some time before we can make the water safe for our ship to come in. It is yet one more example of the actions of the Iraqi regime that is making it more difficult for the Iraqi people.

In addition, the Royal Engineers...

ZAHN: Some of you may find what you're seeing in the right part of your screen extremely disturbing. This is the live shot being fed to us from Walt Rodgers, who is riding along with the Army's 3-7th Calvary. I would like to provide context.

It would appear that over the last 30-40 seconds, these are Iraqi soldiers that have been captured. It's not clear whether they surrendered and then were captured, but that is what the picture is we're looking at now.

Back to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

BLAIR: ... but also the diplomatic implications of recent events for the future. In particular, how we get America and Europe working again together as partners and not as rivals, to assess the best way of dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Iraq that I've just described to you, how we rebuild Iraq post-Saddam, and also force our approach to the Middle East peace process and to the Arab world more generally.

But I will also meet Kofi Annan in New York for whatever the difficulties and differences within the U.N. in the run-up to military action. I am clear that the United Nations must be centrally involved in dealing both with the humanitarian crisis and in helping Iraq rebuild itself once Saddam is gone.

So we will leave after the prime minister's questions tomorrow, spend tomorrow evening and most of Thursday at Camp David with President Bush, and then see Kofi Annan in New York on Thursday evening before flying home overnight.

That is an update on the situation in Iraq.

Questions, thank you.

Andrew.

QUESTION: Andrew Barr (ph), BBC News.

Prime Minister, the way things look at the moment, you are shortly going to have to take a decision about what to do when coalition forces reach Baghdad, a city of five million people. Clearly, the tactics are to draw British and American forces into that city and engage them in close combat there with all of the huge risks to the civilian population that involves.

Are you prepared to order British troops into Baghdad to fight in those circumstances?

BLAIR: I think one of the things you will to simply be patient about -- and forgive me a little on this if I don't go into details of how we intend to conduct the military campaign from now on in -- but be under no doubt at all that obviously the purpose is to remove the regime. To do that, it is important that we go to Baghdad. Coalition forces are now some 50-60 miles south of Baghdad.

Exactly how we will then progress the military campaign after that I'm afraid is a matter for us and the military, and I don't think it would be very wise for us to discuss this in public and in open now.

But I would simply say to you that all the way through the important thing has been to push on for Baghdad, having secured both the oil installations in the south and making sure that in the west of the country we do not allow Saddam to use that as a base for external aggression, and in the north we keep the situation as calm as possible.

And I would simply point out that so far over the five days the progress on the way to Baghdad has been exactly what we planned and anticipated.

Adam (ph).

QUESTION: Sky News.

Prime Minister, I wonder if I could ask you about the...

ZAHN: As Prime Minister Tony Blair continues to take questions from reporters in one of his monthly press briefings, we call your attention to the right-hand part of the screen. This scene being fed to us from Walt Rodgers along with the Army's 3-7th Calvary. This is the crew that just breached the Euphrates River, a very important what they're calling a success.

Now, Walt is not with us right now audio-wise. I can only tell you what we've been seeing for the last three minutes or so are scenes like that with what appear to be Iraqi soldiers on the ground. Whether they've been surrendered or have been captured it is not clear.

But we have seen, for folks counting this, up to a dozen of these men now.

Back to Tony Blair in Great Britain.

BLAIR: ... in Iraq over the past few years only as the result of the British and American pilots policing the no-fly zone is that the autonomy people have gained in northern Iraq has allowed them to live a far better life. For example, the child mortality rates I was explaining to you I specifically said were in the center and south of Iraq, because in the north of Iraq child mortality has been falling. It has been falling because they've got greater freedom from Saddam.

So without going into the details of what any post-Saddam Iraq might look like, at the present time we would obviously not want to give up the considerable gains that people in the north have made. Secondly in relation to the U.N., I mean, there are two issues here. The first is, in respect to humanitarian assistance, we need a resolution through on that, and I'm confident that we should be able to secure that.

There is going to be a debate about the U.N. resolution that then governs the post-Saddam civil administration in Iraq. We are quite clear that any such administration has to be endorsed by the United Nations. It's important, and that's exactly what we said at the summit in the Azores.

Now, the details of that we will discuss with allies within the U.N. and with others, and there may be certain diplomatic difficulties, but I think in the end people will come together and realize that it's important that any post-Saddam Iraqi government has the broadest possible representation, is respectful of human rights, is careful to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq, and that the important thing after all of the diplomatic divisions that there have been is that the international comes back together, and I hope that it will.

Nick (ph).

QUESTION: Prime Minister, up until now, you haven't taken the opportunity to warn the British people of a potentially long war with heavy losses, should they be ready for that. And can I ask about the Iraqi people, too. There has been much talk of liberation. Isn't there a real danger that we're seeing now that many Iraqis regard Western forces as invaders and occupier?

BLAIR: In respect to the first, we are five days into this conflict. Now, part of the issue that happens in the way that war is now covered is that we have constant reports coming back from the front line. We've got 24 hours a day media reporting. And sometimes people can lose sight of the essential strategic picture.

That is that we move in the land forces, at the same time as any air campaign. We push on towards Baghdad, and within five days we're 60 miles south of Baghdad. We secure the oil installations in the south, which we've done. We make sure that the north is calm, which it is. We make sure that the west is not able to be used as a basis for external aggression, and that is also secure.

Now, that is a strategy unfolding exactly according to plan. Of course, there will be tragedies and accidents and things that happen along the way. War is always like that. But the strategy is the strategy that I've described, and it is taking shape exactly as we thought it would.

Now, in respect to the Iraqi people, the best -- you can listen to me, you can listen to others -- but the best words on that will come from people who have got some experience of the Iraqi people themselves.

And if I could just reach you, some words that were spoken by Dr. Hamid al-Sachi (ph) from the -- who is the U.K. representative in the Supreme Council of Islamic Resistance, he said this, and I think the words are worth repeating. He said the population in southern Iraq had a very bad track record of betrayal from the allies in 1991 and the following years.

So they would not be willing to go against the regime unless they are sure they are going to have the support, and that is, again, what I think many others have said, that you cannot expect ordinary Iraqi people who have lived for years under the boot of Saddam, and who have twice before been let down, I'm afraid, by allied forces to be confident that they are able to come out and express their views until they are sure that Saddam's regime is gone. Now, that is what you would expect and anticipate.

But one of the other interesting things that's just again from a source that is not a government source -- and to be frank, I'm not sure even what the position of this particular individual is -- about the military action that we're undertaking. But let me just read you this as well. It's from Dr. Halia Al-Bana (ph).

ZAHN: We're going to quickly bring you up to date on what we think you're watching from the right hand part of the screen, these remarkable pictures being fed to us from Walt Rodgers and his crew, along with the U.S. Army's 3-7th cavalry. They are in the process of having just crossed the Euphrates River as they move north from the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Now, Walt Rodgers said there has been a massive sandstorm which has allowed Iraqi soldiers to move closer to the road than they thought they would be and it limited the use of any kind of air support.

We have seen over the last five minutes or so what appeared to be over a dozen soldiers like this, Iraqi soldiers on the ground with their legs crossed. It doesn't, it's not clear whether their hands are bound or what. But this is something we've seen repeatedly.

Our Walt Rodgers trying to give us context for what they've experienced. The convoy came under heavy fire from rocket propelled grenade launchers, rifle fire, mortars, machine guns. And Walt said that the Iraqi soldiers are so close to them, "I can hear them in the drainage ditch below us."

Back now to Tony Blair in Great Britain.

BLAIR: So this is not something alien to the wishes or spirit of the Iraqi people. I am quite sure given the chance in freedom to express their wishes, they will not want to live under a military dictatorship.

Martha?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Another quote from you that says a guards officer in Basra yesterday, he said we're expecting a lot of hands up from Iraqi soldiers. It hasn't quite worked out that way. There are significant elements in Basra who are hugely loyal to the regime. Now, doesn't that mean that your strategy needs a rethink and, in fact, that coalition forces are in danger of being over stretched?

BLAIR: No. It is precisely what you would expect, that the Iraqi forces that are most loyal to Saddam's regime, I mean these are the people that have policed the country, gained from the rule of Saddam, been the instruments of repression of the civilian population.

These people are going to fight and that is always what we expected. What we have not seen, however, is the same degree of fighting from the Iraqi regular army. That has melted away. There are prisoners that have been taken, but otherwise it simply has melted away.

But you would expect to find resistance from those forces that are very, very close to Saddam, because they know that if Saddam is removed that their power is removed. And that is precisely what we would expect and what we've had.

Over there. Sorry.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLAIR: No, I can just assure you of this. Before we went into this conflict, there was the most careful planning and consideration of the forces that we need and we have the forces that we need to do the job.

Ella?

QUESTION: How can you continue to maintain your strategy of minimizing civilian casualties if when it comes to Baghdad you have those very people, the people who have the most to lose by seeing Saddam go, fighting in the streets? I mean aren't you inevitably going to get involved into that, the very scenario that you were trying to avoid?

BLAIR: Well, again, let me say that this scenario is exactly what we would have expected. At some point, the regime was going to come back in and retrench in Baghdad. And all I can assure of, without going into the details of it, because it wouldn't be sensible to do it, is that this is entirely what was anticipated and what we have provided for in the strategy that we have.

QUESTION: So when you get to Baghdad, you still think you can do it in such a way that you don't alienate the civilian population by destroying infrastructures?

BLAIR: I think that is what we have done throughout and it is why, for example, that, you know, we have done everything we can to protect the infrastructure of services. We've done everything we can to spare the civilian population. Of course, there will be civilian casualties. I think they have been far fewer than people anticipated. And the very reason why we wanted to make sure that the land campaign started at the same time, if not slightly predating the air campaign, was in order to demonstrate this is not a situation where we're trying to bomb Iraq into submission and then send in land forces afterwards. This is a situation in which we're combining land and air in such a way that we try and minimize the suffering to Iraqi people.

And I can assure you that the strategy that we have when we get to Baghdad takes account, as I say, of exactly what you would suspect, because I think as some people have sometimes described it, in the Iraqi regime, I mean there are concentric circles that as they go closer and closer to the regime, you get tougher and tougher pockets of resistance. And those people that have literally based their lives on support for Saddam, I mean they are going to fight until they know it's hopeless.

But they will know it's hopeless.

Yes?

QUESTION: Suleyan Suleyman (ph) from Egypt.

Prime Minister, I wonder if you are considering negotiations with the Arabs because the Arab ministers were meeting yesterday and they asked for something more.

Are you going to disregard their opinions?

BLAIR: No, of course we take seriously the comments that are made. And I think part of the reason why it is so important that we demonstrate to the Arab world, one, that we will do everything we can to protect and help people in Iraq, because even if a fraction of those figures I have just given you, not from government sources, about the thousands of people dying needlessly in Iraq is true, then Iraq will benefit from a better, more representative government that takes care of the rights and prosperity of people in Iraq.

And secondly, we also have to make sure that we show the even- handedness that I think the Arab world rightly demands by giving priority also to the Middle East peace process.

And I simply repeat to you what I've said many times before, that I believe that more than any love of Saddam is what concerns and worries people in the Arab world. And I understand that concern. I understand that worry. It's one of the things I will discuss with President Bush when we meet together. And I simply tell you, I know people have been skeptical and cynical about this, I am absolutely determined that we take forward this Middle East peace process because I believe it to be in the interests, incidentally, not just of the Palestinians, but also of Israel, too.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Australian broadcasting. In Basra, as you pointed out, there is a humanitarian problem and there was one before the war in the sense of people being malnourished and needing drugs, etc.

Isn't that problem going to be much worse now given the lack of water, food and other resources that you say will still be several days? And what do you plan to do about it, given that you're in effective control militarily? And secondly, you failed to get one U.N. resolution already. If France and Russia persist with their insistence that this is an illegal war, how dangerous would it be if you failed to get a second one on the post-war Iraq?

BLAIR: Well, the reason I believe it will be different is because it's manifestly in the interests of the U.N. and the people of Iraq. Whatever you think about the military action, that it, the post-Saddam era in Iraq is governed by a U.N. resolution. And I happen to believe people will appreciate that.

In respect to the first point, the International Red Cross and other bodies...

ZAHN: We're going to leave the prime minister's news conference a moment to quickly check in with Walt Rodgers, who is embedded with the 3-7th Calvary -- Walt, we've been looking at these pictures. We can't really tell what we're looking at.

What has happened in the last five minutes or so that we've been broadcasting these live pictures?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry has just taken three Iraqi prisoners of war. Actually, they're very close, that is to say, no more than 40 yards away. But the dust and sand are blowing so badly, you're getting these vague images. They were captured by the U.S. Army up the road not very far ahead of us. They were driving a truck load of weapons and that's when the Army apprehended them.

They've had their arms tied. They're lying in the sand now. No evidence of any hostility on their part now. But I should point out that as the 7th Cavalry has moved forward for the past, oh, four or five hours, the Calvary has taken plenty of small arms fire and mortar fire. They've, the Iraqi soldiers, colleagues of the ones you're seeing there, have been shooting at us.

I suppose the headline from here this morning is that the

Basra.

But the U.S. Army has been able to, the U.S. Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry has broken the Euphrates defense line, which Saddam Hussein and his generals had established along the Euphrates River in south central Iraq. That defense line starts probably around Al- Anajaf (ph) and then follows the flow of the river to Al-Samawah (ph) and Nasiriya, where the Marines are having difficulty, and over to Basra.

But the U.S. Army has been able, the Calvary has found an open bridge, has had to fight its way through that bridge despite the fact that the bridge was heavily laced with explosives. They got their first and the Calvary was able to push on through and now they have been pushing northward despite this sandstorm into Iraq in the general direction of Baghdad -- Paula.

ZAHN: I guess this sends a pretty powerful message to Saddam Hussein about the elite troops that were sent down to block this area. RODGERS: Good point, Paula, because recall the Army originally -- the U.S. Army originally thought Saddam was going to make a stand with his crack divisions in a ring around Baghdad. There was a bit of a surprise when he sent down his Fedayeen commanders, some of his elite Republican Guard troops and ensconced them in the cities which I just mentioned along the Euphrates River and told them these lines must be held.

Those are extraordinarily ruthless characters, according to one Army officer with whom I spoke. They were told to stand and fight along that line. And they have put up fairly stiff resistance. They just do not have the firepower and the problem over the past day and a half or so has been for the Army to figure out how to flank them. The Army colonel in charge of the 7th Cavalry came up with a flanking movement. He moved his soldiers first bone crusher troop of the 7th Cav and then Apache troop through the hole, over the bridges and the Army has been moving north ever since, albeit under very, very heavy small arms fire. There have been mortars falling around us for the past hour and a half, although I think the sandstorm has even shut down some of the snipers -- Paula.

ZAHN: At one point you described that the Iraqi soldiers had moved out so much closer to the road than expected because of the sandstorm that you could actually hear them in the drainage ditch below you.

RODGERS: That's true. We had two extraordinarily close calls last night when the 7th Cavalry was moving towards the canal which just precedes the Euphrates River crossing. The 7th Cavalry and this CNN camera crew and I ran a gauntlet of fire. There was very heavy light machine gun, heavy machine gun fire. They were firing rocket propelled grenades at us. A rocket propelled grenade flew right over the roof of our car. The -- and I was standing outside with my cameraman, Charlie Miller. We were taking pictures of the Air Force being called in, the A-10 Warthogs chewing up the ground at night, nice visual pictures of bombs falling on the Iraqis who had set up this ambush.

And in the process we came under very heavy fire and suddenly there was a burst of machine gun fire from the tank just ahead of us probably no more than 30 yards, 20 yards ahead of us. We didn't even see it but Charlie and I were standing there and there was this Iraqi soldier creeping forward on his belly in total darkness with a Kalashnikov in his hand.

Fortunately, the machine gunner on the tank could see through its night vision goggles this guy crawling along on his belly and he swung his 7.62 millimeter around very quickly and shot that guy up.

But it was quite an engagement. They're figuring they killed 400, at least, Iraqi dismounts, that is, Iraqi infantrymen just on the approach to the bridge last night. There's been a lot of firing today, but nothing like the conflict last nigh on the approach to the Euphrates River bridges when they had to call in the Air Force, they had to call in the big artillery, the 155 millimeter, and we literally ran a gauntlet. The sky was ablaze with tracer fire and bombs and everything -- Paula.

ZAHN: While we continue to look at these amazing pictures, the three Iraqi prisoners, that scene somewhat obscured by all this blowing sand, give us a sense right now as you stand there what you can see and how vicious this sandstorm is.

RODGERS: I can see half a football field at most, no more than half a football field from the goal line to midfield. After that, you can't see anything. It's like being in a blizzard except unfortunately the sand doesn't melt as the snow does.

Now, this gives some temporary military advantage to both sides, although the greater military advantage falls to the Iraqis. The American advantage in crossing the Euphrates River Bridge this morning was it was like a smokescreen. The sandstorm was like a smokescreen and so they couldn't begin shooting at us very accurately until we were mostly across the bridge and consequently, under those circumstances, they didn't have a chance to reload, refire, reposition, re-aim, and we were able to roll through.

But those mortars were falling very close. As I said, one blast hit so close to me that as I was in the vehicle that I could hear the shrapnel shards going upward into the date palm fronds above.

The real advantage, however, in this sandstorm, of course, falls to the Iraqis. One, it's their indigenous climate. But, two, and just as importantly, is it denies visibility to the gunners abroad the Bradley fighting vehicles, denies the machine gunners on the tanks visibility and it means that these soldiers can literally creep to within 50 or 100 yards of the road, stand off and the soldiers, the U.S. Army soldiers cannot see them coming.

So the sandstorm, at least short-term, works to the advantage of the Iraqis and they have slowed the American advance again because of these inclement weather conditions -- Paula.

ZAHN: Walt, one final question for you. As we were dipping in and out of the British prime minister's news conference, in addition to these men sitting cross-legged on the ground with their arms folded behind their back, we also appeared to see several other what appeared to be Iraqi soldiers on their side.

Are there a lot more soldiers than we're talking about here or was shot a little bit deceiving?

RODGERS: Neither, Paula. These are the same three soldiers. The Iraqis have just simply been moved from a position before, where it was determined that where they were, they might, in the sandstorm, get run over by a civilian vehicle. So the U.S. Army, after having bound their hands the plastic ties, has put them together again. They have two guards, two cavalrymen. They are standing guard over them. We don't know if the POWs speak Arabic or not -- excuse me, speak English or not. And, but there appears to be some sort of intercourse going on between one of the U.S. Army guards and the Iraqis.

Again, they're waiting to be taken to the rear. The only mistreatment is that which we all suffer, which is to say an abuse of Mother Nature by a sandstorm -- Paula.

ZAHN: Walt Rodgers, thanks so much.

We'll be getting back to you throughout the morning.

Walt probably giving us our best idea yet of how the sandstorm is pounding the region. When he said it's much like being in a blizzard, but unlike a blizzard where the snow melts, the sand simply doesn't go away.

Christiane Amanpour is with British forces in northern Kuwait. She joins us now with the very latest from there -- Christiane?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, here, because of stiff Iraqi opposition around towns such as Basra, particularly, in southern Iraq, the British are having to reconfigure and change their tactics. They are now declaring Basra a legitimate military target, having told us all along since the beginning of this war that it would not be a military target and that they would attempt to bypass it and only go in if they were welcomed.

They want to bring in humanitarian aid.

The latest from the 7th Armored Brigade, the British Brigade around Basra, is that they have been taking fire, they say, from irregular Iraqi forces, those in civilian clothes, perhaps Saddam's Fedayeen or the Baath Party militia. But these people have been coming out of the town with apparently human shields in front of them, according to the British 7th Armored Brigade, taking shots at the British and then retreating back into the city.

That's the latest from what we've heard. But it builds a picture because the Iraqi Army that was defending around Basra has moved back into the city. The British at first thought that they had surrendered and melted away, but they've actually gone back into the city, many of them, with tanks, heavy artillery and with infantry, and they are fighting the British from inside the city, which means the British are going to have to take them on in the city, although they don't want to do that because of the collateral civilian damage that they don't want to cause. So they're hoping to be able to contain that to the outskirts of the city.

In the meantime, one of the prime objectives is the humanitarian aid and they say now that the port of Umm Qasr, which has been insecure for quite a long time in terms of pockets of resistance, is now finally secured, this according to U.S. and British military officials. And they hope to be able to bring in aid as soon as possible via that port, the only commercial port in Iraq. In the meantime, a lot of humanitarian aid has been stacked up inside Kuwait, ready to be rolled in, if necessary, by vehicle, by road.

But what they're finding is a lot more Iraqi resistance than they had expected, particularly around Basra -- Paula.

ZAHN: I want to talk a little bit more about that quickly, because the British prime minister said although he was pleased with the huge amount that has already been achieved, he made it very clear in his briefing that he just said that there will be resistance like you're talking about until the very end of the campaign and he said the campaign will take time, it will take perseverance.

Are you being given any context as to what kind of time period we're talking about here?

AMANPOUR: No, they won't give us a time line. But I think one has to really accept that neither the British officials nor the military expected this kind of resistance, although they're saying yes, it's going to be difficult, it's because they're reacting now to facts on the ground and they're changing tactics and maneuvers accordingly.

They did not expect to have this amount of resistance, A, from the so-called irregulars, the Saddam Fedayeen that we've been talking about, those special militias that were created by the regime to control internal, to enforce internal repression and to control internal dissent. Those people have been put into these cities and are fighting from inside those cities. Plus, these huge numbers of troops that originally were thought to have surrendered have moved back into the cities.

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