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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Aired May 18, 2004 - 11:02   ET

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


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by right now, waiting for the daily news briefing to come out of Baghdad. There's a live picture from Baghdad, looking for the Coalitional Provisional Authority spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor -- no, they're not making their way into the room quite yet. But we do understand they will be doing that, and we'll bring that to you live.
While we're waiting for that to happenm let's bring in our Ken Robinson standing by. He'll be watching along with us. And one of the things we're going to be looking for and listening for today, Ken, is the latest on this testing of what we first heard about in this briefing yesterday, that that was the discovery of this artillery shell that contained, it appeared, some type of sarin nerve gas agent.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN ANALYST: That's correct. We're waiting for results of a test by the Iraqi survey group, for them to tell us whether they have confirmed or denied the original test made in the field. Because it will then leave implications to two big questions, whether the Iraqi guerrilla insurgent group or foreign terrorist group that employed this knew that they had chemical rounds, and even if they did not know, they now know, and they may have more.

KAGAN: And yes, it also lead to the big question of, how much is out there, and exactly what are U.S. troops facing in the field, and also Iraqi civilians in the field?

ROBINSON: That's correct. The problems will be the issue of make decision on military operational preparedness posture, their chemical warfare suit. And in the heat they have out there now, that will be a great challenge. They'll asset the threat based on their assesment of that second analysis and the purity of agent, which will tell them whether it was manufactured a long time ago, maybe '89-'91 time period, or whether it's something that's very recent, and that will be told by the agent purity.

KAGAN: You mentioned something that I think a lot of people here don't appreciate, and that is those MOP suits, their chemical protection suits, exactly how those work, but just how hot it gets inside of those suits and what that means for being in the hot Iraqi summer, having to wear those.

ROBINSON: Well, the misery factor if you're in Iraq in a T-shirt and shorts is pretty high in the summertime. And if you add all the combat equipment a soldier carries and his weapon, and his load- bearing equipment, and then on top of that, you throw a helmet, and then you throw this insulation, you're really baking like an oven. This is why, during the war, when they were in what they called MOP 3, a posture that they had in anticipation of chemicals being delivered against them when they got close to Baghdad, there was a lot of hot weather injuries, a lot of people dehydrating, a lot of people succumbing to heat injuries, and so the issue of water and the issue of supply has to be refactored now, if soldiers are required to consume twice as much as they normally were because they've changed their uniform.

KAGAN: The other big issue, and the big story yesterday was the assassination of Izzedine Salim. He the head at the time of the Iraqi Governing Council, and then there was some criticism within the Iraqi world of the Americans not providing a proper security, security of course being a huge issue for whoever is going to lead Iraq.

ROBINSON: Well, one of the things about those security convoys is they all look alike. And so whether it be Ambassador Bremer or whether it be a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority or the Iraqi Governing Council, they all seem to tend to have the same profile. And so that's why they're targeted, because they know that a high-value target, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), is probably riding beside them.

But as Mr. Senor from the CPA said, their objective is to keep all of these people safe, because that's what leads towards their end state, which is the handover. It's remarkable the amount of courage that is demonstrated by these members of this Iraqi Governing Council, who serve for a very limited term with really not much coming to them for it, other than the prestige of being able to be founding some sort of new form of government, whatever that's going to look like, after June 30th.

KAGAN: Well, you mentioned Dan Senor. He's making his way to the podium right now, and he does look he has at his side Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

As they go to podium, we will listen in.

DAN SENOR, SENIOR ADVISOR, CPA: Good afternoon. Just a couple of details on Ambassador Bremer's schedule and General Kimmitt has his opening briefing, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

As you know, General -- Ambassador Bremer this morning attended the funeral for Izzedine Salim, the former -- the decreased president of the governing council.

Later in the afternoon, he had a meeting at our headquarters with Sheik Ghazi, the new president of the Iraqi Governing Council, talked about the agenda for the month forward.

And then later in the day, as part of Ambassador Bremer's broader process here in wide consultations with the Iraqi people and Iraqi political leaders as we move closer and closer to the formation of an interim government, he had a meeting with Dr. Adnan Pachachi.

As you know, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi is engaged in similar discussions across the country and in Baghdad as we all work on these wide consultations for the pursuit of the formation of the interim government well before June 30 -- General Kimmitt. BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: Thanks. Good evening.

The coalition continues offensive operations to maintain stability, in order to repair structure, stimulate the economy, and transfer sovereignty.

To that end, in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,778 patrols, 23 offensive operations and captured 21 anti-coalition suspects.

There will be a prisoner relief at Abu Ghraib on the 21st of May and 472 prisoners will be released.

In the northern area of operations, coalition forces conducted five offensive operations in western Mosul, targeting anti-coalition cell leaders. Four individuals were detained for interrogation, along with several weapons.

In the north central zone of operations, coalition forces conduct a raid to kill or capture suspected members of an anti-coalition cell in Kadizia (ph). One of the two primary targets were captured without incident.

In Baghdad, coalition forces met with the head sheiks of Sadr City on Sunday to arrange the cessation of hostilities. The sheiks conducted an arrangement by which no hostile acts would be committed against police, civilians, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps or coalition forces by local residents in exchange for a reduced coalition presence in the area.

Since that time, the situation in Sadr City has calmed, although there have been two violations, mortar attacks by unknown personnel.

In the west, the situation in al-Anbar province remains stable. As employment opportunities increase for Iraqis, 1st Mech will shift the focus shifts to supporting and accelerating the process of preparing the al-Anbar province for sovereignty.

There were no violations of the Fallujah ceasefire today. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and coalition forces continue to maintain joint checkpoints to the north and east of Fallujah.

In the central south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi police forces conducted a cordon and search operation in al-Hashmir (ph). Seven men suspected of anti-coalition activities were maintained.

In Najaf, the situation was relatively quite today. Six mortar rounds impact near the main Iraqi police station very early this morning, followed by seven additional rounds 30 minutes later.

There were no injuries or damage from either attack. And as I said, the situation throughout Najaf has been relatively calm today.

In Karbala, there was a minor engagement this morning, resulting in one enemy killed near the Mukhayam Mosque complex. The afternoon was relatively quiet until a number of attacks against coalition forces began in the vicinity of the former mosque at about 1700 this evening.

Since that time there have been a number of mortars and RPGs fired from forces nearby the holy sites.

In the southeastern zone of operations, there was a temporary withdrawal of all the noncombatants from the CPA building in an- Nasiriyah. Coalition forces are security the property while Sadr militia are using hit and run tactics in various parts of the city.

Coalition forces continue to patrol, maintain security in the city, and the Simik House (ph) in al-Amarah was attacked on three separate occasions last night with seven mortar rounds. These attacks resulted in no injury to coalition personnel or equipment.

With that we'll be happy to take your questions -- Sewell.

SEWELL CHAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Sewell Chan with the "Washington Post." A question for Dan. Dan, did Ambassador Bremer meet specifically with Dr. Brahimi today during his meeting, or after his meeting, with Dr. Pachachi?

SENOR: Ambassador Bremer meets regularly with Mr. Brahimi. And today he had one of those regular meetings.

CHAN: Could you tell us whether or not security came up at this meeting and what specific assurances Ambassador Bremer give to Envoy Brahimi?

SENOR: Sewell, obviously, we are always evaluating the operational security situation force protection details around coalition members, around governing council members, around ministers, and around any other international officials that are here, like Mr. Brahimi.

These are discussions that we have all the time with officials. And it may have come up today in passing. But I will assure you that a constant review of the security situation and the force protection provided to these officials is something we give the highest priority to.

CHAN: If I can ask just a very quick follow-up. Did -- I know that today's meeting with Mr. Brahimi was previously scheduled, but was the agenda -- I guess what I'm trying to ask is was the agenda changed specifically to address the assassination of Mr. Salim?

SENOR: No, the agenda of the meeting is what the agenda of all their meetings are, which is the formation of the interim government.

Yes.

STEPHANIE HALASZ: Stephanie Halasz, CNN. One question regarding Nicholas Berg. We are hearing that there are reports that four arrests made regarding the killing of Berg. Can you tell us anything about that? KIMMITT: We have no information on the coalition that any arrests were made today.

SENOR: Yes. No, you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Lately, the explosives and the explosive caused and assassinations of some officials that were happening -- do you anticipate that the transfer of sovereignty will be done even if the security has not been assured?

My second question, General Kimmitt, during the operations, two days ago, the director of the police of Sadr City was changed. What is the reason for firing the director of the police in Sadr City? Thank you.

SENOR: On your first question, we have said for some time that we expected more violence, unfortunately, between now and June 30, as Iraq continues to make progress on the handover of sovereignty and the handover of governmental authority from the coalition to the Iraqi people.

Now over half of the ministries, for instance, are in the hands of Iraqi minister.

We expected that there will be international terrorist organizations, former Ba'athists, Saddamists, Mukabarat (ph), Fedayeen, Saddam, to try to throw the process off track by engaging in violence. That will not deter us.

The second thing we have said for some time is that after June 30 there will likely be a significant terror threat inside Iraq and that the Iraqi security forces, unfortunately, will not be in a situation to defend against the threat by themselves.

And therefore, American security forces will continue to play a role here, helping to secure and stabilize the country. Iraqi security forces are increasingly going to play the enforcement role, and American security forces will play the reinforcement role. We've said that all along.

General Kimmitt often speaks to the things we are doing on the military side to pursue the terrorists and pursue the extremists associated with the former regime. That is our military strategy.

It is dual-tracked, however, with a political strategy. And that is we believe, as we hand over more and more authority to the Iraqi people, political authority, and as we continue to economically empower the Iraqi people, we make it that much more difficult for the terrorists and the former Saddamists to capitalize on a sense of despair, a sense of frustration with the occupation.

It is critical to isolating the terrorists, that we continue to hand over political authority to the Iraqis, continue to let them see the economic benefits of the liberation. And so we have made a promise to the Iraqi people that that -- a culmination of that process will be on June 30. We think it would be an enormous mistake to push off that date, because it would be an enormous victory for that people are trying to throw things off, like the terrorists and those associated with the former regime. We must stay on course here.

American credibility certainly would be injured in the region if we made this promise that we've been quite vocal about and then we broke it or postponed it.

And secondly, it would make it that much easier for the terrorists, who are trying to capitalize, as I said, on the frustrations here, to score a win if we postpone it. So we're going to -- we're going to stay on track.

KIMMITT: And on the second question, regarding the police chief in Sadr City, those personnel decisions made by the Iraqi police service and ministry of the interior. I defer to them to give you the explanation for that personnel decision.

SENOR: Yes, sir.

ANTHONY LLOYD, "THE TIMES" OF LONDON: Anthony Lloyd, "The Times." A British national called Brian Tilly (ph) was shot and killed with five or six other people on Friday night in Baghdad in al- Dara (ph). I wonder if you've got any details about that killing at all.

KIMMITT: We -- We reported on Saturday that there was what appeared to be a case of Iraqi on Iraqi violence in the al-Rashid district. I believe six people were killed. Six people were shot. Five were killed, one was injured.

There was an indication that one of the persons was of western origin. Until you mentioned his name, did not realize he was who he was, nor that he was a British citizen. I think that we probably appreciate getting that information. That might help to go in and solve this case.

LLOYD: General, do you know what sex the other five dead were?

KIMMITT: No, I don't. I can get that information for you. We can check that right after the press conference if you'd like to talk about it.

LLOYD: Thanks.

KIMMITT: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ARD German television, Lam Bustai (ph). Are you planning to improve the protection of the members of the government council? First question.

Second question, was it -- the attack yesterday, was it aimed at Mr. Salim, or was it just by chance that he passed by with his convoy?

SENOR: On the first question, whenever we receive information about a threat to a particular governing council member, we obviously ramp up the close force protection.

The existing president of the governing council, the acting president of the governing council at any given time has a more elaborate and comprehensive security detail than when they're not serving the rotating presidency.

And as I said to Sewell earlier, we are always evaluating the security situation. Given this environment that we're operating in, which as you know is quite dynamic from a security standpoint, we are always evaluating the force protection needs of our own people, the CPA. The CJT of 7 is doing the same. Our multinational force is doing the same, as is -- we are doing for the Iraqi officials.

It is something we always do. It doesn't depend on one particular incident.

KIMMITT: And with regards to the specific incident of the death of the president yesterday, we had no specified, specific threat intelligence, ahead of time to suggest that he was going to be a target at that place, at that time.

At this point, I don't think we can rule out that it was either serendipitous or it was a targeted attack. And we're pursuing the investigation with both those in mind.

SENOR: Rachel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a quick question for General Kimmitt. Talking to Iraqis, a lot of them are not very confident that tomorrow's the beginning of these court-martials, is actually going to have justice. They complain that there won't be Iraqis involved. They're suspect about whether or not it will be a fair trial.

What is at stake here and what do you hope these trials will gain in terms of confidence of the Iraqis in relation to the prison scandal?

KIMMITT: Well, the first thing that we're going to do tomorrow is hold a trial by court-martial against Jeremy Sivits. That's the primary focus of what we're going to be doing tomorrow.

He's been charged with a number of criminal activities, and he will be judged in front of a courts martial.

We would hope that, by making it open to the public, by making it open to the press, that the press would take advantage of this situation, not only to see American justice in action, but to record it and tell their readers about their observations.

Our aspiration is not to turn this into a show trial. Our aspiration is to mete out justice to Mr. Sivits. He might be found innocent; he might be found guilty. This is not meant to be an expository on the American justice system. It is meant to be a trial, U.S. v. Jeremy Sivits.

If there's some collateral benefits by opening it up to the members of the media and to the Iraqi people to watch this, there should be benefits from that.

One thing I would say, though, is I would hope that everybody understands that tomorrow is just the first of six trials that we expect to have inside of Iraq in the case of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

So I would hope that people take a look at this trial tomorrow and understand that it is just the first of a number of trials, and any judgments to be derived from either the observations or from what one reads in the newspaper, that the total judgments will be reserved until the end of all the trials.

SENOR: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Abu Mossa (ph) from Zebuduman (ph). Mr. Mark Kimmitt, good evening. I have two questions. First -- one for you and one for Mr. Dan Senor.

We know that an American embassy will be established in Iraq. What is the fate of the American forces after handing authority and sovereignty to the Iraqis? Are there any military bases for the American forces that will be established in Iraq? And where is it going to be, these bases, in the case of its establishment? What is your response to this?

My second question, to Mr. Dan Senor, what is the fate of the journalists who are not registered with the ministry of information, the previous one? We are very few. I beg you to hire us, just like the Iraqi network. Until now, we have not received any salary, and we have families.

Can you establish a small media committee -- not from the journalists at the -- this convention center? We ask you to -- we do not accept any journalist who represent a newspaper -- who represents the newspaper, thank you.

SENOR: Are you -- Are you a former employee of the ministry of information?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

SENOR: OK. Well, for former employees of the ministry of information, a number of them have been hired by the Iraqi Media Network. But for those who are left without a job following the closure of the ministry of information, we've established a stipend program that I know you are aware of and I think are taking advantage of.

So if you stick around afterwards and come back, I'll connect you with someone who has information on it to make sure that you're compensated for the work that you have done.

Obviously, in the new and free Iraq there is no longer a ministry of information. The ministry of information was used primarily by the former regime as a tool of propaganda. We don't have such an operation. The Iraqi Governing Council has indicated it does not need such an operation, and we don't anticipate that the Iraqi interim government is going to need one either.

What there will be -- what there'll continue to be, as I said, the national network that will be independent? There will be an Iraqi media regulatory commissioning, which has already been established. We've recently announced some of the members of it. And those will be the bodies through which, if you have done work with the ministry of information in the past, you may want to consider working with in the future.

But as far as a broad ministry that is engaged in monitoring and managing the affairs of journalists, that no longer exists.

KIMMITT: With regards to American forces and coalition forces after 30 June, I think you will see very little change on July 1 then you did see on June 30.

Where the handover of political sovereignty is very much CPA ongoing until the 30th of June, and then it departs that day, the troop differentials, the troop changes, will be very, very gradual and over time.

You will not see any change -- any measurable change in the disposition, activities, nor conduct of the coalition forces on 1 July. There won't be any transforming event.

Coalition forces will continue to provide security in this country, alongside their Iraqi security partners. Coalition forces will continue to work side by side with the Iraqi security forces, training them, manning them, equipping them, and we will continue to work side by side with our Iraqi security partners to grow them over time, so as they become more effective, there will be less and less need for coalition forces in the future.

But that is a gradual process that has started months ago and will continue on for months and months to come. It will not be a very large change that you will see on 1 July, as you would see on the political side, as such notables as Ambassador Bremer and possibly Dan Senor walk out the door and head back to the United States.

SENOR: I would just add to that, that while Ambassador Bremer will leave the country and the coalitional provisional authorities as a body will wind down and disappear on June 30, there still will be a substantial presence here of American and likely other members of other coalition countries, civilian reconstruction workers.

In the case of the United States, we are deploying $18.6 billion here on the reconstruction of Iraq. And while we've started to deploy some of those funds in some areas like electrical infrastructure, for instance, oil reconstruction, oil infrastructure reconstruction, that will take several years to get it up to where we want it to be.

And therefore, we will be deploying some of those funds over several years, and there will be civilian staff here that continue to work.

The largest U.S. embassy in the world will be here in Baghdad. The largest USAID mission in the world will be here in Iraq.

So Ambassador Bremer goes home, an Iraqi government take over. But America's civil reconstruction commitment to Iraq will continue.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to today's daily briefing from the Coalitional Provisional Authority out of Baghdad. Dan Senor, the spokesman there, and Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, giving us a military update. Also a lot of questions today on exactly how this turnover is going to take place and what the presence of U.S. forces and U.S. efforts will be. As you heard Dan Senor describe there, it will still be a significant presence, including the largest U.S. embassy in the world in Baghdad. That turnover will go on on as planned, despite the recent challenges, including the assasination yesterday of Izzadine Saleem, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Also, this, on the eve of the court-martials, a number of court- martials beginning tomorrow in Baghdad. The first up, Jeremy Sivits, surrounding the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison. And we heard Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt also talk about that over 400 prisoners will soon be released from that facility just outside of Bagdhad.

Much more about what we heard in today's briefing and a lot of other news ahead. Right now an quick break right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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