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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld, Franks Address Reporters

Aired April 27, 2003 - 12:40   ET

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

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We gave you so much time to file...
(LAUGHTER)

... in Ireland that we're not going to give you any more for the rest of the trip.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Where is General Franks?

Get up here and answer (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

We had an excellent meeting with the crown prince, with the minister of defense and with the chief of staff of the armed forces.

The United Arab Emirates have been a steadfast friend, an ally for the United States for, I guess, at least several decades. And I thank them for that support against the global war on terror. We thank them for their wonderful assistance with respect to the campaign to liberate Iraq.

They have been a leader in delivering humanitarian assistance in a variety of places around the world, but they were the first nation to send a relief ship into Iraq filled with, I'm told, 700 tons of needed food, water and medical supplies.

They are providing water to the people of Basra. They've announced plans to donate some 12 ambulances. They're going to fully equip six Iraqi hospitals. They will build a desalinization plant that's supposed to provide 250,000 gallons of water a day.

These humanitarian contributions, of course, are important. They're important to the people of Iraq. They're also important to the future of Iraq and the future of the region, because it is enormously important that the people there see the progress that can be made in a liberated Iraq.

We talked about the way ahead in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We assured the ministers and the crown prince that the United States intends to do what is necessary with our coalition partners to see that there is a secure environment in Iraq, a permissive environment that allows the Iraqi people to begin that important process of developing an Iraqi interim authority, and then ultimately a free Iraqi government.

We still have a lot of work to do there, but there's no question but that the people of this region are a lot safer today than they were with the regime of Saddam Hussein there.

You might also have noticed that the gentleman standing next to me is General Tommy Franks. He has done an absolutely superb job for our country, for the people of Iraq and for the region.

He put together a team of -- a leadership team that is about as good as anyone will ever find. They had wonderful, well-equipped, well-trained and courageous troops, men and women, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guardsmen.

They, under General Franks' leadership, they fashioned a plan that was, I suppose the test is in the outcome, but I would say it was even better than the outcome. It was better in that it had built into it the flexibility and a variety of innovative excursions that enabled him to execute -- his team to execute the plan in a way that a host of adverse consequences that could have occurred did not occur.

And people were -- lives were saved, Iraqi people's lives were saved, American lives, coalition lives were saved because of the skill and the execution of that plan.

My hat is off to General Franks and to his land component commander General McKiernan, his Naval commander Admiral Keating, and the air component commander General Moseley, and his special operator Dell Daley (ph), and his close team, including Mike Delong (ph) and General John Abizaid, and Gene Renuart, and so many others.

They've done a truly superb job, and I personally am deeply grateful.

General Franks.

And now I want all the tough questions to go to him.

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND: Mr. Secretary, thanks a lot for the kind remarks.

All of us, of course, celebrate the magnificent work done by all those we call the young people who were up there doing the great work on the carrier decks and up in Iraq on the ground and undertaking the Special Operations missions, which have been many and varied and certainly quite successful. And certainly the most powerful air arm that I've seen in the course of my service.

I'm honored today to be with the secretary here to visit with the crown prince of the Emirates, a friend, a nation here which has been supportive from beginning to end.

And so, Mr. Secretary, it just looks like a very good day to us. RUMSFELD: Indeed, thank you.

Questions?

QUESTION: Secretary and General Franks, I know you were discussing with leaders in the region the way ahead and perhaps possible redistribution or change of force structure in the region.

Did you ask leaders here whether they might be willing -- first of all, whether they're willing to keep current forces and current cooperation, or whether they might be willing to expand facilities and accept extra forces if you need it?

FRANKS: Actually, we didn't ask the question. There is, in each place the secretary visits and the dialogues that he has, as well as the ones that I have with leaders in the region, there is an understanding that since the regime in Iraq is gone and since there will no longer be a need for Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch and so forth, that in the days and months ahead, there will likely be a rearrangement of the footprint in the region.

But, no, that was not a subject.

QUESTION: So, if I may briefly follow up, you suggest by that that the footprint might become smaller. Is that a possibility or, indeed, a probability?

FRANKS: Actually, I don't -- I think the secretary will speak for himself, but I don't know that I could speculate on whether it'll become smaller or not.

You know, we're going to be working in Iraq, and we're going to be continuing our work in Afghanistan for some time. And so I think the way I would characterize it is that we need to stay. We need to see exactly what footprint will have the highest payoff for us in the future.

QUESTION: General Franks, is Iraq secure enough today to be able to officially declare combat over and move into the stabilization phase officially? I know a lot of that is going on already.

FRANKS: A call to be made -- a call to be made by the president, receiving advice from my boss, the secretary.

What we know is that the decisive combat -- you know, the part where you go after armies and navies and air forces and that -- is the part the secretary alluded to, very successful, done quickly, and we're all very pleased about that.

But with respect to a declaration that says, "The war is over," and so forth, certainly not -- not at all, that I'm...

RUMSFELD: Why don't we take one more question.

(CROSSTALK) RUMSFELD: Wait a minute. I want to be courteous to everybody. Hold on. (OFF-MIKE) We'll take these two questions, since they both were up simultaneously.

And ladies first.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

General Franks, what are your thoughts about the situation vis-a- vis the movement of Iranian-backed persons in and out of Iraq? What's your assessment? Are these people posing a challenge to the security situation, and do you believe there's an Iranian effort to try and establish some type of Shiite or Shia government in Iraq? What's your assessment of that situation?

FRANKS: Let me do it in a non-cute way by dividing the question into two pieces. Let me take the first piece, which would be the operational/military piece, and then pass to the secretary for comments on the second piece.

Certainly, we have said from the very beginning of this operation that we would not tolerate military interference in our operations ongoing in Iraq. Well, of course, we mean that.

And we believe that within our capability, we have an obligation to provide for the security of the territorial integrity of the country. Now, operationally, we're certainly going to do that.

There is an entirely different issue, which has to do with seeking influence or wanting to place political influence into the country, and that's much more along the lines that my boss works with than along the lines I work with.

Mr. Secretary?

RUMSFELD: Well, I agree completely that the United States and the coalition forces are not going to allow neighboring forces to attempt to influence the outcomes in Iraq. The Iraqi people are going to make those judgments. And while we're there, we intend to see that that's the case.

How it all evolves, I guess, remains to be seen. But my impression is that the Iraqi people will not want to have excessive influence from neighboring countries, that they will want to find an Iraqi solution, not Iranian solution. And certainly we would not want to see a government like Iran has imposed on the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: General Franks, on the broad side of things, today, how do you see the security in Iraq, the situation on the ground?

FRANKS: Pardon the little bit of a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and cute answer to your question, I see it better than it was yesterday. And I see it as much better than it was a week ago.

I think, if you look around at the behavior in that country over the last several decades, you find that there is a great deal of uncertainty. There is a great deal of fear. There are tribal animosities. There are religious animosities between factions. And I actually believe that we'll, for the foreseeable future, we'll see that.

In terms of the security situation and whether it's in Baghdad or in the south or in the north, I think it's better than it was yesterday, and I think it will be better a week from now than we see it today.

QUESTION: And the hunt for top leaders (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

FRANKS: Well, it will continue. It's going very well.

RUMSFELD: It's going very well.

Good. Thank you.

FRANKS: Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take a quick break. There's about 30 seconds or so of this videotape that the audio, apparently, was not good.

This was done a little while ago in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, just before the defense secretary and the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, General Tommy Franks, arrived in Qatar, in Doha.

They're going to be on this trip, the secretary of defense showing the flag, if you will, to U.S. troops, thanking regional partners, as well as going forward and making it clear that the U.S. is moving forward with this follow-up to the war.

Here's General Franks answering some more questions.

FRANKS: We still have to decide how much we believe, how much not. And, you know, the process of interrogation is going to go on for a considerable period of time. But we don't want to get in front of ourselves.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Is it encouraging, though, the exchange?

FRANKS: It's encouraging to have the man Tariq Aziz in our custody.

QUESTION: You've had several hits (ph) on weapons of mass destruction in the last several days.

FRANKS: Right.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKS: Right.

QUESTION: Can you give us a read on...

FRANKS: No, I really can't, because all we would need to do would be give a little body English that says, "A ha," and that would be entirely wrong.

What we know is that we have about a thousand sites that we knew about before we got to this point. We're going to go through all thousand of those.

And the experience that I've had up to this point is, for each one of the ones we knew about that we go into, the local Iraqis will say, "By the way, here -- I know of another place," and then someone else will say, "I know of another."

So the whole thrust of all of this is probably going to carry us through several thousand sites up in that country. And so, what I try to do is get everyone to sort of adjust expectation for just a minute.

What we want to do is, we do not want to come across like Baghdad Bob and say we have it before we have it. But we do believe that it is there, and we're going to continue to go through all the sites until we've done what the president of the United States said he was going to do, and that's get it all out of the country.

QUESTION: Do you test it? Do you get (OFF-MIKE) not just in the field, but...

FRANKS: If we test it -- and if we test it and if we get a positive, then the gentleman that we all talked to in there and the president of the United States will make the decision about how best to handle the public release of that information. And so, the rest of us are gonna just stand back from this and just do our jobs for a while.

QUESTION: Sir, you said the (OFF-MIKE) top leaders is going extremely well inside.

FRANKS: I think so.

QUESTION: Any other specifics developing today, or...

FRANKS: I mentioned a minute ago to Eric that I've been out of the net for about six hours. But just before I came, I think we picked up one additional in the top 55 in the last 24 hours, and I'm not sure about the last six hours.

But it is going very well. And what's really instructive about it is the reason that it's going very well. It's going very well because we have very good people doing the work, but it's also going very well because the people in Iraq are very, very cooperative, and they want these what we call "high-value targets" out of their country.

QUESTION: I have to ask you, sir, do you believe Saddam Hussein is dead?

FRANKS: Don't know. Don't know. I've seen nothing recently that convinced me he was alive.

OK. All right, guys, thanks very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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