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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Dan Senor Holds Press Conference on Iraq

Aired April 17, 2004 - 09:04   ET

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


DAN SENOR, COALITION SPOKESMAN: I am not going to get into specifics in the press about these conditions that we are articulating in our discussions. But at a very broad level, I will say that our goal is to remove foreign fighters, international terrorists, Mukabharat, Fedayeen Saddam, that are operating out of Fallujah, and we believe that any one of those groups may have been responsible for the maiming of those four civilian contractors.
Sule (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Najaf, has the Iranian delegation left? Or are they still trying to mediate the conflict involving Sadr? Have they responded to the United States' expressed intent that they not try to insert themselves into these negotiations?

SENOR: We are not monitoring the Iranian delegations' affairs. They're not engaging any meetings on our behalf. We have made it clear to them that we do not want them playing a middleman role, you know, between Sadr and his interlocutors and us, that we believe this issue should be resolved by Iraqis, not Iranians.

And we also made it clear to them, and we were firm, that their role here should be in Iraq, whatever their work they're doing should be constructive, not destructive. Again, we were very firm with them on these points. I don't know what their travel plans are going forward. You should contact the Iranian foreign ministry for those details.

Anyone else here? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Or where they call them the Iraqi resistance, they have changed their policy and techniques in fighting. They have started taking, capturing prisoners of wars in order to be exchanged with the people or their prisoners in here. Do you think that this kind of policy might work in succeeding in achieving some of success in the negotiations that they are taking place right now?

SENOR: Again, I can't be clear enough. We are not going to negotiate with terrorists, period, end of issue.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE). My question is, can we know what are the outcomes of the negotiation between you and Muqtada al-Sadr?

SENOR: There are, as I've said before, there are individuals and organizations that have come to us trying to reach a peaceful resolution on the Sadr situation. And we too want to reach a peaceful resolution. And in so doing, we have communicated to any one of these parties what our principles are. Rule of law must prevail in Iraq. Illegal militias and violent mobs must be disbanded, shut down, and government properties and assets must be returned.

Those are our principles. We communicate them to anybody who wants to listen, and they can go on and communicate it to others. That is the state of play.

I got time for one more question. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dan, I wonder if you could address the 36th ICDC battalion. What exactly happened with them, and what is their situation now?

KIMMITT: Yes, the 36th ICDC battalion is still operating side by side with the U.S. Marine Corps out of Fallujah. We have two companies integrated into each of the battalions, and at last report, they were acquitting themselves admirably.

SENOR: Now, they had a couple -- Yes, go ahead, Tom.

Could you use the microphone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question for General Kimmitt. The road closings would appear, from where I sit, as a military proposition to look like an attempt to protect Baghdad from attack, to prevent fighters from coming into the city. That would pass the smell test more than claiming that simultaneous road operations were suddenly going on in three different directions.

KIMMITT: No, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I didn't for a minute say it was simply the matter of the fact that it was only road operations. But if you take a look at where the IEDs have been for the last couple of days, that's where the preponderance are. You can drive up and down those roads, and you can see the amount of damage that has been done to those roads.

There are many ways to get into Baghdad, there are many ways of getting out of Baghdad. We're probably going to have to work on many of these roads, and we're trying to take them probably two at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's not to prevent fighters from taking the fight to Baghdad, as they have vowed they will?

KIMMITT: If the fighters would like to take the fight to Baghdad, they'll have the 1st Cavalry Division waiting for them and looking forward to their arrival.

SENOR: People who had questions that were not able to get answered.

Go ahead, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Melinda Liu, "Newsweek." I had a question about an Iraqi army unit that a number of days ago had been reported to have initially thought to be deployed in Fallujah but then was not deployed because something happened to it in Shula. Can you just give me more details on what exactly happened there?

KIMMITT: Well, it was a couple of things. We -- and we said this throughout this entire time period. Overall, the Iraqi security forces, when this latest round of violence hit, we mustered additional forces. Some showed up. Some didn't show up. There was an Iraqi battalion that was mustered. It tried to get out to Fallujah, hit by IEDs a couple of times. Came back and then sort of made the decision that maybe this isn't what we want to be doing.

We are taking a hard look at that battalion and the other battalions. And that's why General Abizaid is looking at some of the initiatives for trying to enhance the command and control of those organizations.

We never said the units would be fully ready by this time. If we had a force inside of Iraq that was capable of completely conducting public security and external security requirements on its own, there would be no need for coalition forces here. Are we disappointed in the performance of some of those units? Yes. Are we going take actions in the future to try to remediate that? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I go back to my question on the convoy campaign, general? I was wondering if there's a start date when you perceive when the convoy campaign began, when they were particularly targeted more than usual, and whether you can confirm that 87 trucks were hit yesterday. And if there's an overall figure in the space of perhaps the past week or so, how many convoy trucks were lost?

KIMMITT: I don't know the latter questions. I think we started -- I mean, the answer to the latter questions about how many trucks, I can find that out. But that would be a combination of military and civilian. And I think that -- I am not sure we are keeping records on that.

Now, on the issue when did it start, probably started around the fourth, fifth, and sixth of this month as we started seeing the overall increase in violence. Not only did we see an increase in violence coming from the Sadr militia, but we also saw an increase in the number of engagements from IEDs. Now, those numbers are starting to tamp down, but nonetheless it's still something that is above our recent trend lines, and it's something that we're taking seriously, and we've got get out there and fix.

SENOR: Sule, last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Kimmitt, I hope you are feeling better. How many miles of roads are affected by these closures? And why was the closure announced only about four and a half or five hours before they took effect? Thank you. KIMMITT: It came as a surprise to a lot of us. I suspect it was in preparation. I don't think there's anything conspiratorial about that announcement. How many miles are affected? I was actually having somebody put it on a map for me so I could figure that out. I don't have the answer right now. We'll have it to you, though.

SENOR: All right, thanks, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

SENOR: And there's the backgrounder right after on the mayoral, Baghdad mayoral (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SAN MIGUEL: This is -- you've been listening to the CPA's Dan Senor and Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, gamely returning to the podium there at the briefing room in Baghdad following giving everybody in the room there a scare after he appeared to be very close to passing out into his microphone just about 10 minutes ago. We will talk more about that in a second.

But first, just a quick wrap-up. A lot of the questions focusing on Fallujah and the standoff there. Dan Senor was talking about being very hopeful that the situation in Fallujah can be resolved, but the foreign terrorists have to leave.

Now we want to go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon to talk more about what happened there with Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, very difficult to say, but a real heart-stopping moment for everybody watching the briefing, Renay. General Kimmitt apparently initially taken ill, and here, unfortunately, goodness, it looks like he is about to pass out. He does not loose consciousness, apparently. Dan Senor reaching to assist him.

General Kimmitt had already left the podium once, not feeling well, returned, and then clearly ill. But General Kimmitt, many of the journalists here in Washington, myself included, including those in Baghdad, know him well.

He is escorted off the podium. This is one of the toughest guys in the U.S. military. He is -- he works very, very long hours during the week. I can tell you that. His phone literally rings around the clock, if not reporters calling him as one of the chief spokesmen, phone calls all the time from the Pentagon.

Not sure what exactly happened to him here, but then he returned to the podium again. General Kimmitt, I suspect, is going to get a full medical checkup today, whether he wants one or not, Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: I imagine. And we did have some tape of -- there you see once again him just kind of leaning into the podium...

STARR: Indeed, this... SAN MIGUEL: ... and he looked -- I mean, he was looking very shaky and ashen and pale, and it looked like right before that happened, Barbara, you could hear him whispering to Dan Senor, you know, Make this the last question, or something along those lines. You could tell that he was feeling like...

STARR: In...

SAN MIGUEL: ... he was maybe about to pass out.

STARR: Indeed, and that is really quite surprising. General Kimmitt is well known, as I said, to many of us. This is a guy who is always full of energy, always working, always on the job. He really has a great deal of intellectual passion for what he is doing with the coalition. He is very, very devoted to his work. He is one of the generals who has a great deal of experience in this area. This is a guy who is always on the job, 24/7.

We just simply don't know what overcame him, whether he was having, you know, some sort of minor illness but decided to power through, as it were, and go on with the briefing, or, unfortunately, if it is something else. But what I can tell you is, I do believe, as I said, General Kimmitt is probably about handed over, escorted to the medic's office and about to get a full checkup.

SAN MIGUEL: No doubt about that. One can just imagine his workload, Barbara, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), as you have talked about. But he did come back and finish it up, took a few more questions, and acted to me as if, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I mean, he was coherent and clear and as if nothing had happened. But indeed, we will be getting more information from the CPA about that.

Barbara Starr, live at the Pentagon, thank you for the information. We do appreciate it.

CALLOWAY: We want to tell you about a breaking story that CNN is following this morning. A blast has occurred, apparently a suicide bombing, wounding four people at the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza. As you know, Gaza is the area where thousands of Palestinian workers pass through every day for their jobs inside of Israel.

This explosion, thought to be that from a suicide bomber, has left at least four people wounded. One person is apparently in critical condition. CNN is following the story. We will bring you all the details when we're able get them. But once again, a blast has occurred, apparently a suicide bombing at the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza, four people injured, one apparently critical.

We have much more ahead coming up this hour, as if this hour has not been busy enough.

SAN MIGUEL: Exactly.

CALLOWAY: We'll of course have more on what we can find out about the brigadier general. Been a stressful time for him...

SAN MIGUEL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CALLOWAY: ... the last 24 hours.

And also, we're going to find out more about the U.S. soldier who was apparently taken hostage in Iraq. We're going to go to his home town for a live report from a reporter there, telling us what the reaction there in Ohio is.

SAN MIGUEL: And we're going to hear from one man who knows all too well the terror of being held captive himself. We'll get some insight from former hostage Terry Anderson about the hostages in Iraq. That's coming up right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CALLOWAY: Yellow ribbons and flags dot neighborhoods in the home town of the American soldier who's been kidnapped in Iraq. Residents in Batavia, Ohio, say that they are praying and waiting for the safe return of Private First Class Matt Maupin.

And CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us now from that town with reaction. Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Catherine, it's been a very tough morning here in the area where Matt Maupin grew up and where hundreds of ribbons and flags are still posted in order to support him.

His friends and family have not heard or seen anything lately since that videotape aired Friday, and many say the hardest part is just the wondering if he's OK.

Now, last night, hundreds of people from around suburban Cincinnati gathered right here in order to rally in support of Matt Maupin and his family as well. Most of his friends there wore yellow ribbons or small pictures of Matt Maupin in order to show their support for the family.

Even though his immediate family did not attend, a close friend read a statement last night, basically telling everyone, have faith in Matt.

Now, just a few minutes ago, we spoke with another close friend of the family who says even though everyone is incredibly happy to hear that he's alive, they're horrified to see him held captive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIA SOUP, 4THETROOPS: It is devastating to know that this kid is stuck in that situation. But he's trained and he's strong and he's been -- he's the best. I mean, American soldiers are the best in world, and we have to believe that. We believe in him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: We've also learned that Matt Maupin's mother is holding up as well as can be expected. She got a big boost by having her youngest son come home. He is a U.S. Marine who was stationed in Florida, but he has been granted leave from his unit in order to come home to be with his mother at this time.

And we've also learned that U.S. Army counselors have been with the family ever since Matt Maupin disappeared a week ago, Catherine.

CALLOWAY: Chris, of course, home town and his family members know him better than anyone. What are they saying about his condition on the tape?

LAWRENCE: Well, they say -- they're very encouraged, actually. They said even though the men are armed behind him and standing behind him armed with guns, they did not directly threaten him. And what they looked at Matt Maupin on the tape, he looked frightened, he looked down a couple of times, but he did not appear to be roughed up or in bad physical condition. They are very encouraged by that.

CALLOWAY: I know, they just want him home. All right, Chris Lawrence, thank you very much.

Renay?

SAN MIGUEL: Former AP Middle East correspondent Terry Anderson knows what is like to be held captive. Anderson was taken hostage by Shi'ite militants in Lebanon nearly 20 years ago and held for nearly seven years. We talked with Terry about the Iraqi hostage situation.

When you first heard through the media that hostages were being taken in Iraq, civilian and now military personnel, what were your first thoughts?

TERRY ANDERSON, FORMER HOSTAGE (on phone): Well, I wasn't particularly surprised. I don't want to sound like I have the benefit of hindsight. But the conditions in Iraq are very similar to the conditions in Lebanon in the 1980s. There's no central government. It's total chaos. There's no army, there's no police force. And there are large numbers of armed radical men running around and women running around without any control.

Under those circumstances, it was almost inevitable that sooner or later some of them would try to take hostages.

SAN MIGUEL: And you mentioned the similarities there. I would like you to get to comment on what a French journalists and some Czechoslovakians who had been taken hostage and were released recently, what they are saying. And it appears that several groups, including former Saddam followers, Saddam loyalists, Islamic party members and followers of this Shi'ite cleric, all seem to be working together and passing the hostages from one group to another. Your thoughts on that tactic?

ANDERSON: Well, it seems to me apparent that there are a number of different groups doing the same thing, just reaching out and grabbing all the Westerners they can get. And whether or not there's any coordination among them is an open question. There doesn't seem to be any central direction, and there doesn't seem to be any coordination of demands.

Some of them are making ridiculous political demands, some of them are making military demands, so there isn't any one agenda going on here. There's a whole bunch of them.

Some seem to be very dangerous indeed. They murdered that Italian that killed some other people. Others are more reasonable. Hostages have been released over the last week or so, one by one, two by two.

So I don't think anybody's really in charge here. I think there is a whole bunch of small groups.

SAN MIGUEL: Which kind of leads to my next question. You were able to confront an official with Hezbollah, the Shi'a group in Lebanon responsible for your detention. And the official said that that time that the kidnappings were short-term actions to achieve short-term goals. Now this appears to be a new strategy with these groups in Iraq. Your thoughts on this strategic change?

ANDERSON: I don't think that they have any expectation of achieving the demands that they're putting forward, withdrawal of some countries' troops, the halt to the fighting. I think those are theater. Vicious theater, but theater.

I think probably the taking of hostages is more simply a way to strike at America and the coalition, to humiliate, to engender fear. And even, perhaps, a competition among the different groups there. Holding hostages somehow makes you look more powerful and more organized. I don't I think there is any rational plan behind it.

There can't be, because there isn't any way they can achieve their stated goals, their demands. We know that. There is no country involved there that's going to give in to any kidnapper and grant any of those demands, period.

SAN MIGUEL: You know, it's hard for us to imagine, for anyone to imagine, you know, except for those like you who have actually been in that situation, what those first hours and days following an abduction are like about when it's a kidnapping of this sort. What were those first hours and days like for you?

ANDERSON: Well, you can almost say, thank God for shock, because you are in shock, scared, of course, and you're totally frustrated and helpless. There is nothing you can do. You're just a piece of meat that somebody is going to use to bargain with. You're angry, of course at the humiliations and the bad treatment and the capture itself. You're sorry, sorry for your family, sorry you were dumb enough to get captured. There's always a certain amount of guilt, even though it's irrational, it's there anyway.

So you just -- you know, you just have to get through hour to hour.

SAN MIGUEL: And the importance of knowing, of believing that family, friends, and your government is working for your release. ANDERSON: Sure. If the hostages have any access to news, and I don't know if it's true or not, we did sometimes, other times, for long periods, they wouldn't tell us anything. And they hear about efforts on their behalf, about support, it's helpful. Yes, of course it is.

SAN MIGUEL: You'll be watching, along with the rest of us, how this situation plays out. Terry Anderson used to work for the Associated Press and was held by Lebanese terrorists for seven years, nearly seven years. Thank you for your insight today. We do appreciate it.

And again, Terry Anderson was held from 1985 to 1991 by members of the Hezbollah group.

SAN MIGUEL: And what we can all use right now is some good homecomings. And CNN's Adaora Udoji is standing by with -- for us in New Jersey with a homecoming for some troops who served in Iraq.

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We're at Fort Dix in New Jersey, and they're planning a big homecoming celebration today for 160 National Guard troops who have just returned from Iraq. We'll have that story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: In New Jersey, friends and family of troops serving in Iraq are surprised by a very special homecoming. CNN's Adaora Udoji joins us now live from New Jersey's Fort Dix with the details. Adaora?

UDOJI: Renay, indeed, this is one happy day for the folks here at Fort Dix. The 253rd Transportation Company has arrived. They are back. A tremendous amount of joy and relief, of course, this coming on the day when many newspapers in the area are showing the picture and the story, telling the story of Private First Class Maupin, who has been taken hostage in Iraq. Lots of thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

But the folks here at Fort Dix, 160 troops returning from Iraq after being there for a year. Incredibly, they were fortunate. Not one member of their unit seriously injured. And in two hours, they will see their family again for the first time in a year. They are planning a big celebration here. The governor, James McGreevey, will be here. As a matter of fact, he was also here to see them off when they went a year ago.

This group, their motto of the unit is, You Haul, You Call, and We Haul. They have been in Iraq carrying everything from beans to bullets as we've been talking about all week, or the Pentagon has been talking about all week. This is part is a rotation of 130,000 troops.

But again, the Pentagon saying this week that some of those troops scheduled to come home will not be coming home, their stay being extended. And one of those is a unit out of Wisconsin National Guard. The families there, very upset to find out that that unit will be -- their time in Iraq will be extended another four months. They are very upset, have been lobbying both President Bush and Congress to bring them back sooner.

Those family members being quoted as saying they support the war, but they feel that their family members are just mentally exhausted.

But here in Fort Dix, a very happy day, 160 troops, men and women, coming home to their families, where they will now begin a demobilization process for the next six or 10 days. They'll be on the base going through a transition, going through lots of transition-type reacquainting them with being back into the United States. And they will be here on the base but back to their families at home six to 10 days, although they will be seeing their families today, Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: All right, Adaora Udoji, live from Fort Dix, New Jersey, with a happy homecoming there. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

CALLOWAY: And there is still much more ahead on "CNN SATURDAY." Up next is "ON THE STORY," followed by "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" at 11. This week we'll look at two heroes facing down daunting odds, Christopher Reeve and Lance Armstrong. We'll have their stories. And at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time is "CNN LIVE SATURDAY," more from Iraq as well as the latest on the homecoming for troops at Fort Dix, New Jersey, as we just heard.

And we have run out of time.

SAN MIGUEL: Exactly. It's been a very...

CALLOWAY: That's it for me, I am Catherine Calloway.

SAN MIGUEL: I am Renay San Miguel. Thanks for staying with us for a very busy last hour from CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

CALLOWAY: Headlines are coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAN MIGUEL: Right now, we want to go to Baghdad, where a coalition briefing is under way. Here is the CPA's Dan Senor.

DAN SENOR, SENIOR COALITION ADVISER: ... on the administrative front, following this briefing, there will be a backgrounder on the Baghdad mayoral selection process.

Immediately following this briefing in this room, I think that's right, is it in this room? Or is it in the press center? (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Yes, oh, it's -- Sorry? In the international press center immediately following this briefing will be a backgrounder on the Baghdad mayoral selection process.

I just thought I'd open today by giving you a quick state-of-play with regard to discussions that are going on right now in Fallujah. As many of you know, there's a delegation in Fallujah that represents the Governing Council and the coalition. The Governing Council side of the delegation is led by Governing Council member, Governing Council representative Dr. Hajam (ph) and representatives of Sheikh Gazi (ph) and Dr. Pachichi (ph).

That delegation has been traveling to and from Fallujah over the past six or seven days for meetings there.

Just yesterday, we added coalition leadership to the delegation. Ambassador Richard Jones, who's Ambassador Bremer's deputy, has been personally engaged in Fallujah beginning yesterday as a demonstration of our seriousness in trying to bring the situation in Fallujah to a peaceful resolution.

The Fallujah delegation includes professionals, local professionals, doctors, lawyers. It also includes local political leaders. Our delegation is also planning within the next 24 hours to meet with the -- with members of provincial council.

Based on what Fallujan leaders are saying, we are hopeful. We are hopeful about their intentions. But our overriding question is, can they deliver? And if so, can they do so expeditiously? Time is running out.

There are two groups of people in Fallujah that we are focused on. The first, obviously, are the foreign terrorists, the Mukabharat (ph) and the Fedayeen Saddam that have been operating out of Fallujah. We will not negotiate with this group.

The second group we are hoping to appeal to are the Fallujan people. We believe the overwhelming majority of Fallujans want to remove the burden of foreign terrorists, Mukabharat, and Fedayeen Saddam. We can either remove this burden with military force, or with the cooperation of the Fallujan people. The latter would minimize bloodshed and is obviously our priority.

The Fallujan people can play an important role in pressuring the bad actors, the terrorists, the Mukabharat, the Fedayeen Saddam. And the Fallujan people can provide us with the intelligence we need.

In reaching out to Fallujans, we'll also continue to show good faith on the humanitarian side with a number of efforts we are making. We are also in discussions through other tracks, including tribal leaders.

So that is a quick state-of-play on Fallujah.

General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: Thanks, Dan.

In the past 24 hours, all commands in CGATF 7 are conducting offensive operations in support of ongoing operations. Attacks against Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, and coalition forces remain at about two times recent norms.

It remains relatively calm in the northern zone of operations. Iraqi security forces are visible throughout Mosul and are manning critical sites. In Mosul last night, eight coalition soldiers and two civilians were wounded in a mortar attack on coalition facilities. Nine of the 10 wounded have returned to duty, and one remains in the hospital in stable condition.

Coalition forces, in coordination with USAID's Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civic Aid Program won approval for a $402,000 water project that will benefit almost 300,000 people.

Near Talafer (ph), coalition forces conducted an offensive operation last night, targeting and obtaining a suspected weapons dealer and two of his associates.

In Haman al-Ali (ph), Qayara (ph), Irbil, and Dahut (ph), the situation remains stable.

In the north central zone, there has been a decrease in enemy activity over the past 24 hours, with only nine attacks throughout the zone. This (UNINTELLIGIBLE) activity may be correlated to the number of enemy casualties during last week's engagements.

Near Tikrit and Samarra, there were two attacks against coalition forces, one an antitank mine, the other small-arms fire combined with an IED.

Near Bakuba, there were three attacks against coalition forces. A convoy was attacked twice, and a patrol was attacked with an IED.

Near Kirkuk, coalition forces were attacked once by small-arms fire, and additionally, Iraqi police reported that an Iraqi police service officer's house was bombed, and a bomb was found at a second officer's house. There were no casualties at either home.

Near Tuz (ph), coalition forces received information leading to the capture of one individual at a water tower, that water tower being used as a rocket-firing position.

Within the Baghdad zone, there have been a significant drop in attacks, both in numbers and intensity. Recent activity appears to be more harassing in nature than the coordinated attacks mounted by Sadr's militia against the Iraqi governmental institutions last week.

In Baghdad, it is assessed that Sadr's militia has begun to fracture, that Sadr did not receive the popular support he sought. It's also assessed that the majority of the population remains neutral with respect to the increased violence, and most are eager for a cessation of hostilities.

In the west, the overall situation in and around Fallujah remains unchanged. Provocative attacks against the Meth (ph) in Fallujah are expected to continue, despite the observance of a unilateral suspension of offensive operations.

Anticoalition forces in Fallujah continue to use local mosques for weapons storage or building roadblocks in the city and continue preparations for renewed fighting. Current reporting indicates that the fighters have taken over many homes, forcing out residents, while other residents remain barricaded in their homes.

A number of cities outside Fallujah still harbor some remnants of anticoalition forces and will remain a focus of Meth operations.

In the northern Babil (ph) Province, there has been a decrease in attacks against convoys over the past 24 hours, although there's reason to believe that they still intend to damage or destroy more road infrastructure.

In al-Ramadi, the situation is under control, with only one reported attack in the last 24 hours.

Central south remains stable, and attacks in Karbala have decreased. The Iraqi police station in al-Tunis (ph), north of al- Hillah (ph), was attacked with small-arms fire by anticoalition fires -- fighters yesterday. There were no reported injuries, and one individual was captured.

(13-second audio interrupt) ... station in al-Kut is considered secure.

Outside of Najaf, coalition forces continue to operate in the local (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anticoalition forces and conduct engagements with legitimate Iraqi security and civil forces from an-Najaf and al- Kuta (ph).

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Euphrates River last night, anticoalition forces attacked a coalition patrol with small-arms fire.

(8-second audio interrupt)

SAN MIGUEL: OK, we are having some trouble with the audio out of the coalition briefing in -- out of Baghdad there, but just to do a -- give you a quick recap, that is Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt briefing reporters on some of the military activity that is going on.

Earlier, the Coalition Provisional Authority's Dan Senor had said that the situation in Fallujah was hopeful. But they are -- the coalition is still wondering if the people who are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who are negotiating for the dissidents and the insurgents there, if they can deliver as expected. They say that -- Senor saying that time is running out.

We understand that we do have audio now. Let's go back the briefing in Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ... because there are members who are taking refuge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I complete my questions?

SENOR: I can hear you, go ahead. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that are there members who are taking refuge with innocent people. So if this situation continues, what will be your answer to this situation?

SENOR: Well, General Kimmitt got signaled. He just stepped out. He will try to return here momentarily.

The plan is to hand sovereignty over on June 30. That has been our plan since November.

And we have said that as we get closer and closer to June 30, we expect there to be violence, more violence, unfortunately, because the bad actors, whether they are foreign fighters, international terrorists, people like Zarqawi, and other al Qaeda affiliates, whether they are the remnants of Mukabharat and Fedayeen Saddam, they all have a vested interest, for one reason or another, in derailing this process, and they would use violence as a tool to prevent us from handing over sovereignty, because without sovereignty, they continue, at least they believe, in their own words, at least in Zarqawi's words, to have a pretext to foment anger, to incite violence, to engage in organized attacks against the coalition.

That will be that much more difficult for them after June 30. And so it would hand over a major victory to these individuals and to these organizations if we did not hand over sovereignty when we said we would.

As far as the Sadr situation is concerned, and any others, we will still be able to address situations of that nature after June 30, much like we were able to address it now, because the fact is, after June 30, while political sovereignty will be handed over to the Iraqis, there will still be some 200,000 -- sorry, some 130,000, 140,000 coalition security forces here, security forces from various coalition countries, primarily from the United States, that will be here to play a supportive role to the Iraqi security services.

So we will not allow this country to head down a path towards destabilization. We think it's important now to address this problem. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we think it's important now before June 30 to use this opportunity to clean out the poison that may still exist in Iraq's body of politic after 35 years of totalitarian rule. If we can address it now, we should.

But Iraqis should be reassured that after June 30, we will still be in a position to stabilize this country.

Sule (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sule Chan (ph) with "The Washington Post." Dan, my question, I was going to direct it towards General Kimmitt, so are you taking questions for both of you, or...

SENOR: I am not taking questions for both of us. Hopefully he'll return. If I can answer it, I'll try, otherwise I'll wait till he gets back. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will try anyway. The military announced this morning that sections of two major highways, highways one and eight, going north and south from Baghdad, would be indefinitely closed.

Could you explain to us what the impact will be in how you're going to respond to the restrictions on our freedom of movement in the country in terms of commercial traffic? With the Jordanian highway already being closed, what will be the impact, and how is your body, the CPA, going to get this message across about the need -- about why these highways were closed and what will be -- and when they'll be reopened? Thanks.

SENOR: I will let General Kimmitt address the -- the sort of the next steps and how -- and what measures will be taken to address any inconveniences or consequences created by the closure.

I will say, broadly speaking, we do intend to communicate to the Iraqi people that these roads are being closed because of attacks on Iraq. They are attacks by whether they are foreign fighters, whether they are illegal militias and mobs, whether they are Mukabharat and Fedayeen Saddam and other remnants o the former regime, groups and organizations and individuals that do not want to see this country move forward.

That is effectively what they are doing. These are attacks against the Iraqi people, these are attacks against the new and free Iraq.

And we obviously have to take measures to protect against those attacks, which is, which are some of the road closures that you're seeing. We are launching an effort immediately to communicate this through all the major newspapers in Iraq to get the word out. We'll be taking a number of other steps through television to communicate, so Iraqis are aware of the -- any new restrictions that may exist with regard to those specific roads.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sam Daggar (ph), AFP. Two questions. First, on the situation in Najaf. Sheikh Kaysam al-Hazali (ph), Sadr's spokesman, just said that the mediators have told him that the U.S.- led coalition is putting obstacles in the face of reaching some sort of a compromise there, and that all mediation has stopped, and that the U.S. troops are poised to attack Najaf. Is that true?

SENOR: My response to that is, the discussions that I'm familiar with are discussions initiated by individuals and organizations that have approached us saying they want to see a peaceful resolution in Najaf. We too want to see a peaceful resolution in Najaf. We too want to minimize bloodshed in Najaf.

And in so doing, we will communicate to anybody who wants to listen, or to anyone who wants to pass on a message, what our basic principles are, which I have articulated from this podium before. We want the rule of law to prevail in Iraq. There is no room for illegal militias and mob violence, and there is no room for individuals or organizations to just singlehandedly and unilaterally decide that they're going to take over government buildings and government properties.

Those are our principles. We've communicated them. If individuals or groups that we meet with want to pass that on to others, that is their prerogative. But there is no direct track here that may have broken down because of actions we've taken. I don't know if you -- No, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a second question, sir, on Fallujah. We had also someone who's involved in the talks there saying that any security force that would go back into Fallujah has to be from inside Fallujah or people of Fallujah. And there has been talk that Iraqi police has already or will be on the streets of Fallujah soon. Could you shed some light on that?

KIMMITT: Well, we have certainly hoped that we get legitimate Iraqi security forces back into Fallujah. I'm not sure that anybody's dictating terms in conducting their own vetting process. When somebody joins the Iraqi army, they serve the entire nation. When they join the entire -- when they join Iraqi police service, they serve the entire nation.

I think what you're suggesting is some, perhaps, are trying to set up a separate militia-type police force that doesn't answer to the central government but answers to the people of Fallujah. And that's just inconsistent with the values of what we're promoting for this country.

We're not in a position at this point to suggest either accept or not accept. Remember, these are discussions. These are not negotiations. Now, I suspect the people that are making these demands may want to talk to the people that they're discussing this with to see what they feel about it.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Ricks from "The Washington Post." Question for General Kimmitt. Is the U.S. moving additional forces to the Fallujah area? And have the Marines there requested reinforcement?

KIMMITT: I am not aware of the any additional forces being moved to the Fallujah area at this time. If the commander on the ground needs additional forces, there are plenty of forces in the area of operations to support them with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But has the commander asked for additional forces?

KIMMITT: I'm not aware of any requests on the part of General Conway for additional forces.

SENOR: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Newspaper. We hear there has been an army from Iraq, an Iraqi force (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has been besieged by your people because they have refused to fight against the Iraqi people. Is this democracy? Is that the democracy that you are talking about?

KIMMITT: First all, I wouldn't use the word democracy. The first question we had to use is, is it the truth? And the answer is no, that's not the truth. So there's no need for further discussion. Any allegations that we somehow are arresting members of the Iraqi armed forces is just not correct.

SENOR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's about a delegation from the ITC (ph) that they are negotiating and -- with Ambassador Jones, also with the people of Fallujah or the leaders of Fallujah. Do the Coalition Authority have got any conditions or so that they can impose on the people of Fallujah?

SENOR: We aren't getting into specifics about conditions in public. There are discussions going on. We hope they can lead to a peaceful resolution, one that minimizes bloodshed. Obviously a priority for us in these discussions is removing from the area any international and foreign fighters that are using it as a staging ground for operations, and any former Mukabharat and Fedayeen Saddam who are operating out of Fallujah.

If we are going to stabilize Fallujah, those individuals must depart. And in most cases, they must be turned over to us.

Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Thank you. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Mr. Dan, you have mentioned a while ago that we want to see a peaceful solution in Najaf.

What is the form of this peaceful solution in Najaf? Do you have the capability of having a dialogue with the leadership in Najaf? How are you going to deal with the announcement that has been made by Ayatollah al-Sistani and the red line that he mentioned? And if the militias of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have been disarmed, so does that solve the problem of the crisis?

KIMMITT: Very simply, we continue to get wrapped around a point that is not moot. Najaf is not the target. Muqtada al-Sadr remains the target. He can turn himself in on the basis of a legitimate Iraqi warrant for his arrest to an Iraqi policemen, where he can seek Iraqi justice. There's no conditionality to that. There is no aspect of that that either requires or necessitates violence. He has it within his hands to prevent the violence.

SENOR: Yes, back there, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patrick McDonald with "The L.A. Times." How are you doing?

SENOR: Good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forgive me, I came in a little bit late, so I may have missed something. But was Ambassador Bremer meeting with the mayor of Fallujah today, in the Fallujah area? Is that true?

SENOR: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not true.

SENOR: That is not true. There is a delegation, governing, joint governing council coalition delegation that is in Fallujah, engaged in discussions with the Fallujan delegation. And one of the leaders of the -- of our delegation is Ambassador Richard Jones, who's Ambassador Bremer's deputy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just one follow-up question to Fallujah and the kind of vehemence of the reaction we've seen there lately. Do you feel that this was something that had been bottled up in Fallujah for some time, this kind of proinsurgency sentiment that we see? And just kind of came out spontaneously now? Or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's just -- it was a new influx of foreign fighters and others that kind of stirred it up?

KIMMITT: It's actually probably the latter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, so you feel it was more the latter than something that had been stewing and had been contained for some time by the 82nd Airborne?

KIMMITT: Well, you're suggesting that, again, that this is a popular uprising in the town of Fallujah. Empirically it is not. The vast majority of people in Fallujah, we still believe, are -- feel they are being held hostage by a small number of terrorists, foreign fighters, former Mukabharat, former Fedayeen Saddam.

We don't believe that they represent the overall mood in the town of Fallujah.

SENOR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Ann Bernard (ph) from "The Boston Globe." I wanted to ask another question about the highway closures. and maybe General Kimmitt can elaborate a bit. I am still a bit confused about the announcement that went out.

In saying that major routes north, south, and, I think, east of Baghdad were going to be closed indefinitely, is that really for repairs, as the announcement suggested, or is it because of increased attacks on those areas? And if the announcement has not already been made to Iraqis, isn't there a danger, this notice says that civilians will be fired on if they drive on these roads? Did the closure of the roads actually happen this morning? Did the fire-on-sight policy actually take effect this morning? Thanks. KIMMITT: First of all, the closure did take effect this morning. The civilians will be directed to alternate routes of travel, so it's not as if they can haphazardly come onto those routes. We got to fix those roads, and we've also got to protect those roads.

SENOR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SENOR: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) TV. Question to Kimmitt. What after the battle of Fallujah? What after the battle of Fallujah? What will the situation be? And a question to Senor, there are talks in the streets that you are violating or not agreeing upon some of the discussions taking place among some of the tribal leaders in Fallujah. What do you say about that?

KIMMITT: After Fallujah, we hope to get -- after the Fallujah operation is complete, we hope to get on with the process of turning Fallujah into a model for what Iraq will look like. And I think we have been very clear what that looks like.

I've got to go.

KIMMITT: OK.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) last question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to ask about the convoy campaign and to find out if you can confirm that yesterday...

Are you OK?

(CROSSTALK)

SENOR: Go ahead, go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... he got a little faint.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), let him go, get him out of the room. It's really embarrassing.

SAN MIGUEL: You have been watching the Coalition Provisional Authority briefing in Baghdad, where it appeared that Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt appeared to fall faint for just a second, was falling into the microphone, and they have now removed him from the room.

As you can see, they were about to take their last question from the reporters. He had just -- he had been whispering something to Dan Senor, the CPA authority representative there, and then started leaning into the microphone. He was asked if he was OK, he quickly regained, but then they got him -- he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quickly regained his composure, but then they removed him, under his own power, by the way, we should say, from the room, and we will try to get a condition report on that.

We want to go back to the authority's briefing right with Dan Senor.

SENOR: ... up to this point, there has not been any instituting of MREs. I miss them, it will have been a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And have you been to the PX lately?

SENOR: I have not.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vince Shidulsky (ph) from "The Chicago Tribune." Pardon me if this was asked earlier, but I was held up in traffic. Do you have anything to add on the American soldier who's being held?

SENOR: Again, I will leave that to the CPIC (ph) to answer right after.

Anything else? Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Portuguese Radio. The Portuguese government announced yesterday that if the situation continues worsening, it will consider seriously withdrawing its police force in -- from (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Could you comment, please?

SENOR: I am sorry, the last part?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They would consider withdrawing the Portuguese police force staying in Nasiriyah.

SENOR: Yes, I will leave it to the White House and to the U.S. State Department to comment on any discussions with our coalition partners or other countries making contributions.

At a broad level, I would say, this is a very international effort. We've got over 30 countries whose governments have made contributions on the military side, we've got some 17 countries that have made contributions on the civilian side. When I go to work every day, I work with colleagues from a number of different countries from around the world.

It is a very international effort. While obviously we appreciate the contributions of every single country, we recognize that it is very broad. It is very international. We have a lot of participants. And we think we can shoulder the burden appropriately.

SENOR: Yes. Use a microphone. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, from the "Sunday Telegraph." I know you just said you would refer questions about the soldier hostage to CPIC. Does that also apply to the issue that they'd be -- their offer to trade him in return for prisoners held by coalition forces, or can you comment on that?

SENOR: Well, I can tell you that we've made it clear that we will not negotiate with terrorists, we will not negotiate with hostage takers. We are obviously concerned anytime there is a hostage taken, especially United States, a member of the United States military. And as we have said before, we will put everything behind pursuing release of these hostages, whether they are the resources of our intelligence, the resources of our military. This is clearly a high priority.

Yes? Just take a couple more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just quickly, could you clarify, is the American who's been -- who's held captive, is he a hostage or a prisoner of war?

SENOR: Again, I will leave it to CPIC to give you his classification.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Melinda Liu (ph), "Newsweek" magazine. A few days ago, there were reports about an Iraqi army unit that was supposed to be deployed in Fallujah, but the deployment was canceled because they had been shot at in Shula (ph) or perhaps had not followed orders there. Can you help walk me through what exactly what happened with that unit?

SENOR: Are you talking about the 36th Battalion of ICDC?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This -- what I understood was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) actual Iraqi army battalion.

SENOR: OK, that was...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I am interested in that one too, the ICDC one.

SENOR: OK. Well, the army unit was much earlier in the week. And again, I'll -- that's one for the military to handle, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Stick around for a minute, I will get someone to talk to you.

Anything on the civilian side, any questions on the civilian side?

Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phil Reese (ph) from NPR. On the question of Fallujah, which you were talking about earlier, can I just clarify one issue? Where do you stand at this stage with those who killed the four Americans in Fallujah? Is it part of your requirements from the people of Fallujah that they are handed over?

SENOR: I am not going to get into specifics in the press about these conditions that we are articulating in our discussions. But at a very broad level, I will say that our goal is to remove foreign fighters, international terrorists, Mukabharat, Fedayeen Saddam, that are operating out of Fallujah, and we believe that any one of those groups may have been responsible for the maiming of those four civilian contractors.

Sule (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Najaf, has the Iranian delegation left? Or are they still trying to mediate the conflict involving Sadr? Have they responded to the United States' expressed intent that they not try to insert themselves into these negotiations?

SENOR: We are not monitoring the Iranian delegations' affairs. They're not engaging any meetings on our behalf. We have made it clear to them that we do not want them playing a middleman role, you know, between Sadr and his interlocutors and us, that we believe this issue should be resolved by Iraqis, not Iranians.

And we also made it clear to them, and we were firm, that their role here should be in Iraq, whatever their work they're doing should be constructive, not destructive. Again, we were very firm with them on these points. I don't know what their travel plans are going forward. You should contact the Iranian foreign ministry for those details.

Anyone else here? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Or where they call them the Iraqi resistance, they have changed their policy and techniques in fighting. They have started taking, capturing prisoners of wars in order to be exchanged with the people or their prisoners in here. Do you think that this kind of policy might work in succeeding in achieving some of success in the negotiations that they are taking place right now?

SENOR: Again, I can't be clear enough. We are not going to negotiate with terrorists, period, end of issue.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE). My question is, can we know what are the outcomes of the negotiation between you and Muqtada al-Sadr?

SENOR: There are, as I've said before, there are individuals and organizations that have come to us trying to reach a peaceful resolution on the Sadr situation. And we too want to reach a peaceful resolution. And in so doing, we have communicated to any one of these parties what our principles are. Rule of law must prevail in Iraq. Illegal militias and violent mobs must be disbanded, shut down, and government properties and assets must be returned. Those are our principles. We communicate them to anybody who wants to listen, and they can go on and communicate it to others. That is the state of play.

I got time for one more question. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dan, I wonder if you could address the 36th ICDC battalion. What exactly happened with them, and what is their situation now?

KIMMITT: Yes, the 36th ICDC battalion is still operating side by side with the U.S. Marine Corps out of Fallujah. We have two companies integrated into each of the battalions, and at last report, they were acquitting themselves admirably.

SENOR: Now, they had a couple -- Yes, go ahead, Tom.

Could you use the microphone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question for General Kimmitt. The road closings would appear, from where I sit, as a military proposition to look like an attempt to protect Baghdad from attack, to prevent fighters from coming into the city. That would pass the smell test more than claiming that simultaneous road operations were suddenly going on in three different directions.

KIMMITT: No, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I didn't for a minute say it was simply the matter of the fact that it was only road operations. But if you take a look at where the IEDs have been for the last couple of days, that's where the preponderance are. You can drive up and down those roads, and you can see the amount of damage that has been done to those roads.

There are many ways to get into Baghdad, there are many ways of getting out of Baghdad. We're probably going to have to work on many of these roads, and we're trying to take them probably two at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's not to prevent fighters from taking the fight to Baghdad, as they have vowed they will?

KIMMITT: If the fighters would like to take the fight to Baghdad, they'll have the 1st Cavalry Division waiting for them and looking forward to their arrival.

SENOR: People who had questions that were not able to get answered.

Go ahead, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Melinda Liu, "Newsweek." I had a question about an Iraqi army unit that a number of days ago had been reported to have initially thought to be deployed in Fallujah but then was not deployed because something happened to it in Shula. Can you just give me more details on what exactly happened there?

KIMMITT: Well, it was a couple of things. We -- and we said this throughout this entire time period. Overall, the Iraqi security forces, when this latest round of violence hit, we mustered additional forces. Some showed up. Some didn't show up. There was an Iraqi battalion that was mustered. It tried to get out to Fallujah, hit by IEDs a couple of times. Came back and then sort of made the decision that maybe this isn't what we want to be doing.

We are taking a hard look at that battalion and the other battalions. And that's why General Abizaid is looking at some of the initiatives for trying to enhance the command and control of those organizations.

We never said the units would be fully ready by this time. If we had a force inside of Iraq that was capable of completely conducting public security and external security requirements on its own, there would be no need for coalition forces here. Are we disappointed in the performance of some of those units? Yes. Are we going take actions in the future to try to remediate that? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I go back to my question on the convoy campaign, general? I was wondering if there's a start date when you perceive when the convoy campaign began, when they were particularly targeted more than usual, and whether you can confirm that 87 trucks were hit yesterday. And if there's an overall figure in the space of perhaps the past week or so, how many convoy trucks were lost?

KIMMITT: I don't know the latter questions. I think we started -- I mean, the answer to the latter questions about how many trucks, I can find that out. But that would be a combination of military and civilian. And I think that -- I am not sure we are keeping records on that.

Now, on the issue when did it start, probably started around the fourth, fifth, and sixth of this month as we started seeing the overall increase in violence. Not only did we see an increase in violence coming from the Sadr militia, but we also saw an increase in the number of engagements from IEDs. Now, those numbers are starting to tamp down, but nonetheless it's still something that is above our recent trend lines, and it's something that we're taking seriously, and we've got get out there and fix.

SENOR: Sule, last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Kimmitt, I hope you are feeling better. How many miles of roads are affected by these closures? And why was the closure announced only about four and a half or five hours before they took effect? Thank you.

KIMMITT: It came as a surprise to a lot of us. I suspect it was in preparation. I don't think there's anything conspiratorial about that announcement. How many miles are affected? I was actually having somebody put it on a map for me so I could figure that out. I don't have the answer right now. We'll have it to you, though.

SENOR: All right, thanks, everybody.

(CROSSTALK) SENOR: And there's the backgrounder right after on the mayoral, Baghdad mayoral (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

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