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Iraqi Governing Council Members Hold Press Conference

Aired December 14, 2003 - 09:33   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by in Baghdad. We expect a news conference momentarily from leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council. You are looking live at the pictures. Members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council representing Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, other Iraqis. They will be coming in, answering reporters' questions. Clearly, very, very exciting day. We actually see Ahmed Chalabi walking in right now. He's the man on the left with a green suit. And Ken Pollack is here in Washington with us as well.
Adnan Pachachi is right with him. He's the president, the rotating president of the Iraqi Governing Council right now. Let's listen in as this news conference begins. Clearly, opening statements from them. They are taking applause right now.

ADNAN PACHACHI, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL (through translator): Thank you for coming. And my colleagues here. Is this good? Yes.

Welcome you all to -- for you attending this press conference. On behalf of my colleagues, members of the Governing Council, we are ready, all of us are ready to answer any questions. And we would like to tell you that we are now -- we already saw Saddam. We saw him. And we confirm to you that he is in custody. There should be no doubt in this.

And of course -- of course this is today, a historical day. And it's a day of joy, of overwhelming joy and pleasure that is being felt by the Iraqi people, and Iraqi people have waited patiently for this day. They have waited patiently. They were waiting very patiently, and now thank God the arrest of the tyrant, and we hope -- has happened, and we hope that this will open the door to continue in our campaign to rebuild Iraq and to regain its sovereignty and freedom and to look forward to the future.

If the colleagues want to say anything, Mr. Ahmed -- would you like? Well, go ahead for the questions then. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (through translator): In this happy occasion you mentioned -- you mentioned that you saw Saddam. There was no -- all the qualities that -- doctor, there is no doubt that the Iraqi people, after this 30-year period, the brainwashing of Saddam Hussein has been exercised against these people. People because of that are in doubt. That's why people are now -- the Iraqis are -- the joy is not complete yet, because they start to ask questions. What's happened in the killing of the two criminals, Uday and Qusay? So far, still we say that this was not correct, although this -- and -- and if that was not the case, that was why people -- journalists were barred. Even in the future we may be removed from the event, from the happening. We ask as journalists from the Governing Council and the American troops that there should be a grouping of journalists, just like you went and looked at this ugly -- looked at that ugly criminal, we want to go and see so that you can confirm to the Iraqi people, because Iraqi people are in doubt, some of them are starting to ask questions, some -- not all of Iraqis, but some few that are affecting or influencing the others.

Thank you.

QUESTION (through translator): Now the issue has been settled, the members of the Governing Council -- members and other Iraqis and the coalition forces were hoping is settled, what is the status after Saddam Hussein? The security portfolio is still up in the air. There are many incidents on the street. The fuel shortage, the many issues that are relevant to the Iraqis, what about that? What is it after the arrest of Saddam Hussein? I met with many Iraqis on the street. They said Saddam Hussein is an era that already passed, whether he is arrested or not, it's enough that his rule is finished. What is it after this phase?

AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS (through translator): Iraq is exiting from the war, Iraq is actually exiting from a war, and war as military -- major military operations finished in May, the country is destroyed, the infrastructure was destroyed by Saddam that was arrested today. We accomplished a great deal of improvement vis a vis -- or when you look at -- to countries that are out of a war, what has happened in Iraq in a few months is more than what's happened in many years in Germany and other countries that exited from a war.

However, we are working to solve the problems, we are working to solve the security problem. We always say that security will not be restored unless and until the Iraqis themselves are responsible for securing their country.

Also the fuel issue, this will be resolved and the Governing Council is going to take a series of procedures and steps. We already discussed that in the Governing Council. We are going to take steps to solve the issue of the fuel shortage.

QUESTION (through translator): After Saddam the tyrant was arrested, and this is our question -- have you decided on the trial?

PACHACHI (through translator): Yes, there will be a public hearing, a trial that is open. And Mr. -- Dr. Mohaaf (ph) may be interested in adding something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In the name of God the Merciful. My brothers and sisters, let me tell you, in actuality, the Iraqi people are well deserving of this glad tiding and victory of today. On behalf of myself and my colleagues, I congratulate the Iraqi people of this great victory that was accomplished today.

As for whether there will be any doubt, any doubt as the head of the council just said, there should be no doubt because we saw him, we talked to him, and there was a discussion with four of the Governing Council members. Those who -- those who doubt us in many other issues believe -- continue to doubt us, but believe us in this, Saddam Hussein is in the -- under arrest. In the hands of -- in secure hands. And he will be presented to trial, and the court that was enacted by a law by the Governing Council recently is a criminal court that is specialized for -- specialized in the crimes against the Iraqi people.

This court, hopefully, God willing, will be public and open and will be open to the press. So that the people in Iraq will see the nature of the crimes that this regime was -- had committed with the -- with Saddam Hussein at the helm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A few days ago we announced the formation of the criminal courts that is specialized in the crimes against humanity, and we took extra care in the law that enacted that court, that this would be a civil court. The procedures will be the -- the procedures will be normal and will be open, public hearing court. This is guaranteed by the Iraqi law. The sessions will be open and public. And the defendants can appoint a lawyer. And if he cannot do that, the court will appoint a lawyer on his behalf.

Also, there will be an appeal committee to study the appeals. This is -- this court is not a final verdict court.

Also, we are determined to show the world, as a whole, the bright face of democracy and freedom that is newly forming in Iraq, and that also includes a civil trial that is just to those that caused hundreds of thousands of victims of the Iraqi people. This will not be vindictive or a revengive -- a trial for revenge. This is a just trial.

QUESTION (through translator): Congratulations. First, Mr. President, I have a question. There is a saying that the Peshmerga -- the Kurdish -- the Kurdish troops were very cooperative and they pointed to the hideout of Saddam Hussein. Is that true or not?

CHALABI (through translator): Mr. Costratrasul (ph) had a role in disclosing or finding out the hideout of Saddam yesterday. And he participated in a group of union troops participated in the gathering of this information. But the actual operation of the arrest was fully executed by the American special forces, and the 4th Infantry Division of the United States troops.

Please state your name and who you are presenting and then the question.

QUESTION (through translator): When you met the deposed leader, Saddam Hussein, did he express any apology or did -- have you touched, have you felt any of that apology or remorse? One question, please.

In relation to the trial of the criminal of war -- criminals of war is that going to be -- shouldn't there be an international also court that looks into these crimes, because there are some international dimensions to that? War crimes. Thank you. PACHACHI (through translator): The specialty -- the jurisdiction of that court is crimes of humanity and war crimes. The jurisdiction of the court as it was enacted, it was spelled out with the restriction (ph) "S," and according to that those will be tried according to that jurisdiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He was not apologetic. He was sarcastic and making mockery of the Iraqi people. We -- I -- we ask him why did you kill, why you kill (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he said, and we said, don't you see that the people now are happy, they're all mobs. When we asked about the people that he killed collectively in groups, he said they were thieves. We asked about certain names as if -- as if these were like my property, why are you asking about them. He was determined and insistent on his crimes. Same way that he used to do it before.

We actually -- we did not go there to be vindictive. We are people of politics. We just tell you the information as it is. We had a responsibility to go to see how the status is and to see his mental situation. That's the main reason we went there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you use the microphone, please?

PACHACHI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He seemed to be rather tired and haggard, but as my colleagues (UNINTELLIGIBLE) unrepentant. and sometimes almost defiant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please use your microphone so that they can translate.


PACHACHI: ... and even tired at times, and he (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He was a just -- a just but firm ruler (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he was an unjust ruler because (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But he was tired, haggard (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


BLITZER: All right, we are clearly having a little difficulty hearing what's going on. They are trying to work out the audio problems in Baghdad. What we are watching is a news conference. The Iraqi Governing Council. Ahmed Pachachi is the man you're seeing right now, he's the president this month of the Iraqi Governing Council, which is the organization appointed, supported by the U.S.- led coalition. They have been explaining what this means, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the fact that Saddam Hussein is now in U.S. hands.

I don't know if the audio problems have been resolved yet, but in the meantime, let's bring in our analyst, Ken Pollack. You have been listening together with all of us, Ken, to what these Iraqis are saying. We have Shiite, Sunni, I think there's a Kurdish representative up there as well. They are trying to make a statement to the Iraqi people that a new chapter in Iraq clearly has begun today.

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Right, Wolf. The first thing they are trying to do is they are trying to say very clearly to the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein is gone. That chapter is closed. We can put that behind us, and let's move forward.

But of course, the other thing that's out there is that this is a group of people who are struggling desperately to convince the Iraqi people that they do represent them, that they should be leading Iraq as a nation. And so the other thing that they are out there doing is trying to say we -- we are your legitimate representatives. We are telling you this, and we are here to take you forward into the next chapter of Iraq's history.

BLITZER: Victoria Clarke is also here in our Washington studio, the former Pentagon spokeswoman. Tori, as you listen to this and you get the sense of the drama, the history that is unfolding today around the world, Saddam Hussein captured, and supposedly, according to General Ricardo Sanchez, cooperating, in his word, "talkative" with his interrogators, with U.S. military personnel. That also sends a powerful message to others under U.S. control right now.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: It absolutely does. But there's also a very important message that I have not heard people talking about today, and that's caution. This is a good day, no two ways about it. This is a good day. We have now got about two- thirds of the top list of 55.

But there are still bad people out there who will want to do things. There will be attacks. And so I know one of the things Secretary Rumsfeld and others are thinking about right now is let's not get overexuberant here. We still have a lot of hard work in front of us.

The second thing that is really significant here is the intel aspect of it. Now, this was intel they were gathering from the Iraqi people, and you have heard people say over the last two weeks, we have been getting better and better intel. They got intel from the Iraqi people. They got good intel and information from the people they have captured over the last few months. Put it together with a very quick and effective operation by military forces. And that led to the success. So I don't think you can underestimate both the fact that there's a long way to go here, and that it was a big intel success.

BLITZER: All right. I want both of you to stand by. Tori Clarke, Ken Pollack. Let's go back to Baghdad, listen in on this news conference. Representative of the Iraqi Governing Council addressing reporters' questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ... massacres in the Halabja area. This is a sick mind, sick, incomprehensible. I don't know how that is the case. Maybe the psychiatrists or psychologists, those scientists who work on that area, maybe those -- maybe they need to examine him and see what that obsession that he has.

QUESTION (through translator): Let's go back to the $750,000. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give him a chance, this is a free country, you know.

QUESTION (through translator): Please, through the microphone so that we can get the translation.

QUESTION (through translator): We congratulate you for this great day. The issue of the $750,000 that was found on Saddam, this is a large sum of money. This is nothing compared to what he plundered from the Iraqi money. But he left -- he left -- what do you say about the fact that he left Iraq in debt?

PACHACHI (through translator): This is -- this is -- we are still going after the money. We are talking to many countries to see where the moneys are. And to try to redeem those amounts of money. We are still working on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Please, state your question without poetry, he says jokingly.

QUESTION (through translator): After the arrest of the ex- president, is there any change in the timetable for restoring sovereignty to the Iraqi people?

PACHACHI (through translator): There will be no delay in the restoring the sovereignty. On the contrary, it could actually be nearer. We may be closer now to regaining sovereignty. The steps that we have to take are going fast, and there will be no delay after June of next year, the end of June of next year.

QUESTION (through translator): When Saddam Hussein was arrested, was there any other officials or military personnel with him? Was there any resistance? Were there any weapons in the area?

CHALABI (through translator): He had two security guards. He had rifles in his -- on him in his chest, on his body. But he did not use them. He never fired a single shot. There was no fire on -- shots at all in the execution -- during the execution of this operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If I may, it may be appropriate for me to say, he was -- appropriate to say where he was. He was in a pit. He was in a hole about eight feet, and after that it is -- there is kind of a tunnel or another hole, enough for one person to lie down. And from there, from that, there's another hole. He was with mice and rats.

QUESTION (through translator): Today, one of the pages, the dark pages in the life of the Iraqis was turned. And the dynasty, the kingdom of evil fell down. Do you know what will happen to the files of the Baathists of the previous era? And also, as we hear about the description of the state of the -- that king of evil, anything about those Baathists? Will there be any chance for them to apologize or repent, so that -- as well as his -- one has no blood on his hands?

PACHACHI (through translator): De-Baathification is still going on, but also we are looking forward, and we hope that after this Saddam era is over that we look towards reconciliation on a national level, because we have to build a free Iraq, a secure Iraq, a democratic Iraq that respects the human rights. Our outlook to the future is as such.

However, this doesn't -- shouldn't mean that those criminals who committed these atrocious crimes would run away from punishment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Even before Saddam's arrest, we were saying that our policy is two aspect -- has two aspects. One is being stern and strict with those criminals who victimized the Iraqi people and plundered the money of Iraq. And also, on the other hand, there has to be a policy of forgiveness and of the -- that looks at the past and the future at the same time with the same eye. The past that Saddam Hussein had misused and victimized a lot of Iraqis, and the future that is prosperous and bright, free, democratic, that we have to all live in as Iraqi people, with love and brotherhood.

CHALABI (through translator): Saddam was arrested, and he was the head of the Baath Party. And it's clear from his answer that he does not want to apologize and he doesn't even contemplate apologizing to the Iraqi people.

He was head of the Baath Party, and the Baath Party is a criminal party that killed the Iraqi people, used the chemical weapons against the people, and buried about a million or more people in mass graves. I, along with the colleagues on the Governing Council, are concerned about the victims of Saddam more than we are concerned with Saddam himself.

The procedures that are being taken right now against the Baathists are procedures that are not necessarily very harsh. They're not aimed at individuals to humiliate them or to attack them or their families. We are -- in the committee for de-Baathification, we follow procedures that are very strict and clear, and we have also a procedure or a process of resumption that is easy and precise.

We don't want to cause any injustice to people. We don't want to remove any anybody who has no blood on his hands and who did not violate the freedom and the money of the people. But we want that Baath Party to be completely destroyed, along with its affiliations and organizations. And also, we need its influence on the culture and economy of Iraq to be taken away. And any influence on the life of Iraq that it has been so penetrated, we need that to stop and we need to make sure that there is no return for the Baath. And today, this is crowned with the capture of Saddam.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you raise your voice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forget about the microphone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your voice. Raise your voice, please. QUESTION: The capture of Saddam Hussein means great victory as well (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq. Does it mean that the people suffered another (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Saddam Hussein victims of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) victory (UNINTELLIGIBLE) political?


PACHACHI: Well, there is a process of compensation for all of the victims of Saddam Hussein, to Kurds and others. And this process is -- has been established by the Governing Council, and we shall continue.

QUESTION (through translator): We congratulate you and the Iraqi people as a whole, and we congratulate all of humanity for the removal of the most dangerous criminal, as in our opinion. We want to ask, will the investigation with this criminal -- an Iraqi investigation by Iraqis, and maybe it should be -- the investigative process should be to get important and critical information like secret bank accounts and only dealings that only Saddam would have known?

PACHACHI (through translator): It shouldn't be an easy process and flip the page. There's no question about that the process will be an Iraqi process. Investigators and investigative judges will be doing...

QUESTION (through translator): Will this be public?

PACHACHI (through translator): The hearing will be public.

QUESTION (through translator): How about the investigation?

PACHACHI (through translator): No. The investigation cannot be open. After the investigation, after the investigative judge is finished, this will be turned to trial -- turned over for trial, and the results of the investigation will be manifested during the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And this will actually be in compliance with all of the standards, international standards of law, and with the preservation of human rights during the investigation and the trial. Iraq is truly victorious now because of the arrest of that tyrant, but we don't lose sight of the democracy and human rights and international standards.

BLITZER: Representatives of the Iraqi Governing Council holding a news conference in Baghdad. Representatives clearly thrilled by the news today, the huge news, this former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, has been captured alive. He was taken without a shot.

He was found in a six-foot hole pit, a hole at a farmhouse just outside of his hometown of Tikrit, with mice and rats, according to these representatives of the Iraqi Governing Council. With mice and rats.

Someone who was always obsessed with cleanliness, with his own hygiene, we saw that picture of Saddam Hussein with a beard, with his hair wild. Clearly, a mess. This is someone who would force visitors who came to meet with him to be completely scrubbed and bathed. Their hands washed, because he was so obsessed with hygiene.

He was found in a pit earlier today by representatives, soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division just outside of Tikrit. He is now a prisoner in the custody of the United States military.

Our coverage is going to continue. CNN's Paula Zahn and Aaron Brown are standing by in New York to pick up all of our coverage.

I'll be back at noon Eastern, two hours of "LATE EDITION," among other things. We'll also have live coverage of President Bush's address to the nation beginning at noon Eastern, a little bit less than two hours from now from the White House.


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