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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld Speaks to Reporters

Aired April 13, 2003 - 09:41   ET

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

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to turn now to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld preparing to make a statement. We will go straight to that.
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Until families have been notified the proper way to characterize it is that seven Americans have been taken into the possession of American forces, and we have their names, and they're all American servicemen. They're in good shape. Two have gunshot wounds. And rather than try to characterize them as having been POWs or MIAs or what units they've come from, that'll be known soon enough, and you've got to appreciate the feelings of all the families who have prisoners of war or MIAs that this is the best way to handle it.

QUESTION: Did they escape? Were they rescued? Can you tell us about the process?

RUMSFELD: It's interesting. It's happening quite frequently now in Iraq. In this case, Iraqis came up to American military, and said that there are seven Americans at this location, and it was about six or eight kilometers south of Tikrit and that you should go get them, and they did.

And we're having that happen a lot. People are coming up and telling us where Baath party members are that are killing people, where Fedayeen Saddam death squad people are that are trying to intimidate the local population. Where some of these foreigners who have come into the country thinking they were going to help fight for Saddam Hussein are located.

There's quite a few of them still in Baghdad. Some of them killed some of our folks at a checkpoint yesterday. And they're telling us where they are and we're able to go find them. In fact, there was quite a firefight yesterday, and I think 40 or 50 of them were killed, which is a good thing.

QUESTION: Do we know, sir, whether Iraqi leaders have gone into Syria? What do we know about...

RUMSFELD: Sure, they have. Iraqi, senior Iraqi people have been moving into Syria and some staying and some transiting.

QUESTION: Has Syria begun (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RUMSFELD: Relatively calm. Not per missive yet. But no organized resistance. And services are in the process of being restored. There is not any organized fight taking place. A lot of people have disappeared from the country and the Baathist party senior people seem not to be there.

QUESTION: At the end of the show you made a comment about you don't believe that there's a full deck there, that there are some cards that have been removed. Can you elaborate?

RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. I get told periodically that number X or number Y is gone, and I say good. But I don't keep count.

QUESTION: You don't know how many of the 52 are still on the table?

RUMSFELD: I could guess, but why.

QUESTION: Is Syria (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cooperate with us, with the United States, since your warning?

RUMSFELD: Not noticeably.

QUESTION: Are we going to pursue people in Syria?

RUMSFELD: Oh, you know, we certainly are hopeful that Syria will not become a haven for war criminals, or terrorists.

QUESTION: Franks says that we have Saddam's DNA. This is a good thing, I would imagine, from your perspective?

RUMSFELD: I heard that he said that. I just happen not to know about it. I'm sure it's true if he said it.

QUESTION: In the next round, sir, what role would you like to see the U.N. play in the aftermath?

RUMSFELD: Oh, well, certainly the president has indicated he would like the U.N. to play a role, and there's lots of things they do that can be very helpful. I don't -- that's up to the president to decide exactly how that works out. The French, of course, have announced, I think, that they've opposed certain kinds of roles for the United Nations. I don't know what will ultimately be decided, but certainly I'm hopeful that they will be cooperative and supportive and helpful.

QUESTION: What's your reaction to the North Korea's latest statement (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RUMSFELD: I didn't see them. I didn't even read the papers this morning. Thanks to see -- nice to see you all.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as he's been exiting one of the Sunday morning talk show interviews this morning, there, talking to the press impromptu. And we did get a chance to listen to what he was saying there, coming from him, that senior Iraqi leadership has made its way, apparently, into Syria. And he has issued a statement of concern as Syria should not become a haven for war criminals, his words there, and we we'll get more on that from him. I'm sure later on he'll be talking again, throughout the morning, on different stations around Washington. We'll be going there, and getting a statement from him, I'm sure, every time he steps outside.

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