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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld News Conference with Britain's Defense Minister

Aired May 2, 2003 - 09:04   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: There's breaking news in London. Donald Rumsfeld now speaking there. The defense secretary continues his trip overseas.
QUESTION: ... to fill in the reconstruction program for Iraq. And does this reflect some unhappiness on the part of the administration with General Garner's efforts?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: Two things I'd say. One is, there is not only no unhappiness with respect to General Jay Garner, there is a great deal of pleasure in the fact that this man has undertaken and performed superbly for our country and for the coalition.

And with respect to Mr. Bremer, there have been no announcements made by the White House on that subject to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about what he's going to be doing?

RUMSFELD: I could, but I won't.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, given the intimacy of your own involvement in the planning of this war, what role did you have in the decision to protect the oil ministry, but not the hospitals and not the National Museum of Baghdad? And could I also ask you, given that the...

RUMSFELD: Let's do one at a time.

With respect to the question, the question assumes that such a decision was made. And I think that premise is very likely inaccurate.

The reality is that the commanders on the ground, in this case the land component commander, has the responsibility for making those kinds of judgments. The air component commanders took great care to protect important sites, including museums and various other areas, hospitals, and innocent civilians. And I suspect there has never been a more precise campaign than the one that was just executed in Iraq.

The people on the ground have the responsibility for making judgments about force protection. Their first responsibility is to win in the conflict. And they went about their business, in my view, in an excellent manner.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it does seem curious then that the oil ministry was so successfully protected and the hospitals so unsuccessfully, but the main other question I wanted to ask you was about the president's declaration that combat is over. Given that, would it not be now the right time to go for some semblance of legality and involve the United Nations in the very necessary nation building that now has to take place?

RUMSFELD: Your questions has about eight or ten opinions wrapped in them, I notice. The president did not say what you said he said. The president said that we have moved from a period of major military conflict to a period of stabilization. It is never this way or that way completely. There will continue to be pockets of resistance. There will continue to be people killed, as there have been killed and wounded in recent days, unfortunately.

The activities of the coalition forces, despite your question, were in fact, legal. And your contention that it requires something else to have some semblance of legality is incorrect.

The coalition forces have been in contact through the foreign ministries with United Nations and secretary general, and I suspect that there will be over the coming period intensive discussions as to what role the United Nations may or may not wish to play. Personally, I'm hopeful that they do play a role.

GEOFFREY HOON, BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENSE: Can I just add to that. What we're doing in Iraq is entirely lawful.

HEMMER: We have seen quite a whirlwind tour for the defense secretary over the past week in Kuwait, and Baghdad and Kabul, and now London as he continues to wrap up that tour. What an amazing reception he got in Baghdad earlier in the week with the U.S. Army there. But the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday declaring combat operations over in Afghanistan. Barbara Starr broke that news here on CNN, and also with the word from the president last night. The same is true in the country of Iraq as well.

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