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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. Ground Troops Commander Holds Press Conference in Baghdad

Aired August 14, 2003 - 06:33   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we want to take you live to Baghdad, because Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of the U.S. forces there, is speaking -- let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, U.S. GROUND TROOPS: ... forces, Saddam Fedayeen, former regime loyalists, Baathists, and any supporters that are creating instability in this country.

The first thing I'd like to discuss today is going to be smuggling operations, and this issue has been directly related to the security and stability or instability of Iraq. And this is a fairly well-defined operation that has been conducted in this country for some time. It's being done by professionals, and it has a very direct impact on the families, the communities and the country of Iraq.

We have some fairly well-organized groups, criminal groups, that are conducting these operations across the country, and lately we have been focusing on these groups down in the south in the Basra area. Our objective is to disrupt these operations and hopefully end them. And the southern region is attractive because of its oil refineries, its ports and its access to the sea and ability to rapidly move that out of Iraqi-controlled waters and move it to other countries.

The other aspect of this smuggling is not just oil, but also copper. And these two resources flow out of here at a pretty good rate. The cooper problem is a problem that impacts on our ability to provide power to the country, because the favorite technique of the copper smuggler is to drop the power lines, take the transmission lines, smelt that, and then go ahead and smuggle it out of the country.

To just give you an indication of how lucrative this is for the smugglers and the disparity in the costs between Iraq and some of its neighbors here, the cost of oil in Iraq is approximately $100 a ton, and that has been held artificially low for some period of time by the previous regime. So, a single truck's full of oil will yield about $500 for a smuggler. And some of these tankers are not registered, and therefore pose a significant problem for those trying to identify the legitimate transporter from the smuggler.

We believe that somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 tons of various sorts of fuel are smuggled out of Iraq through the south, and the volume of smuggled crude oil, diesel and gasoline is estimated to be worth somewhere around $200,000 a day. The other element that complicates our problem down there is some of the attacks on the oil pipelines. And to give you a perspective, since late May we have had 15 attacks on oil pipelines. And now, some of these are clearly sabotage, aimed at disrupting the production of oil, but some of them are to tap into the oil lines in order to smuggle this product out of the country.

So, what we have done is we have taken a multi-pronged approach to this problem. We've begun to train oil police guards, fixed-site security guards, in order to protect some of this key infrastructure. And at this point in time, we have in excess of 9,500 guards that we have hired nationwide.

COSTELLO: All right, we're going to jump away from Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, talking to reporters in Baghdad.

General Sanchez, by the way, is on CNN later tonight. He's the commander of the U.S. ground forces, of course. He'll be a guest of Wolf Blitzer. Wolf Blitzer is hosting "LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES." That airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern Time.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.



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