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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coalition News Briefing

Aired May 30, 2004 - 08:30   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we understand, there is a briefing taking place in Baghdad -- a Coalition briefing. Let's listen in to what they have to say. This is Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and Coalition Spokesperson Dan Senor.
DAN SENOR, COALITION SPOKESPERSON: Good afternoon, General Kimmitt has a opening briefing and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: Good afternoon. The Coalition continues offensive operations to establish a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy, and transfer sovereignty to the people of Iraq. To that end, in the past 24 hours, the Coalition has conducted 2,093 patrols, 18 offensive operation, 46 Air Force and Navy flight sorties and captured 67 anti-Coalition suspects.

The next detainee released at Abu Ghraib is scheduled between 4 and 6 June, 360 detainees are scheduled for release.

In the last three days, the Coalition Military Training Team graduated 19 pilots from flight school at the Royal Jordanian Air Force Flight School in Amman, Jordan qualifying on the UH-1H Iroquois helicopter. All 19 pilots were former Iraq air force aviators and received training in democratic leadership as part of their new responsibilities. These pilots will form the core of the new Iraqi Air Force and a squadron of six helicopters will be stationed at Taji Air Base and that will increase to 16 helicopters by April 2005.

In the northern area of operations, the government facility in central Mosul was attacked within direct fire. One Iraqi citizen was killed and three were wound, including a 10-year-old boy.

Last night, Coalition Forces conducted a cordon and search northwest Mosul targeting Muhammad Saber Salid (ph), suspected of being responsible for the 28 march murder of two security personnel. The target was detained along with his brother Marwan Saber Salid (ph). In the north-central zone of operations, the Coalition patrol was attacked with two RPG rounds and small arms fire southeast of the Bakuba. The patrol returned fire with AK -- AP-4s and small arms. The patrol conducted a search of the area after the attack with no further contact with enemy forces.

Yesterday, anti-Iraqi forces attacked a Kirkuk fire chief, Colonel Mohammed Saber Mohammed (ph) and his family in a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk. The fire chief, his wife and sister-in-law were killed, his son was wound and taken to the Azadi hospital.

In Baghdad, Coalition Forces conducted a cordon and search in Sadr City against an anti-Iraqi cell leader Sitar Sawad al-Ami (ph), suspected of numerous attacks against Iraqi police, Iraqi infrastructure, and Coalition Forces. The target was detained with weapons, four remote house alarms, a large multi meter 38 CPA travel documents, and over 7 million DNRs.

Yesterday, a Coalition Forces patrols stopped a kidnapping attempt in northeast Baghdad, when a car failed to stop and then so hitting a military vehicle. Four individuals ran from the car, soldiers engaged and wounded one who was carrying a pistol and the others escaped. Soldiers found an Iraqi man tied up in the back of the car. Iraqi police took custody of the wounded criminal and Coalition Forces took the kidnapped Iraqi, a taxi driver to a Coalition base camp prior to his lease.

Today, Coalition Forces conducted a raid in Al-Tarmia against Admom Magribi (ph), a suspected anti-Iraqi cell member. Forced detained the target and confiscated 15 blasting caps, anti-Coalition propaganda, two large rolls of wire, and various remote controls used in IEDs.

In the western zone of operations, there have been no cease fire violations in Fallujah. One thousand workers have been hired for 22 local projects. Fourteen claims were paid today, at the Fallujah Civil Military Operations Center for $182,000. And this brings the total claims paid in Fallujah to $927,000.

The main effort of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the west is to prepare the all onboard government for sovereignty. Coalition Forces continue to train, mentor, and conduct joint operations with the Iraqi Security Forces and the success of these efforts in the coming months will be realized when the Iraqi Security Forces are tested and respond to the anti-Iraqi attacks in a decisive, confident, and professional manner.

In the central south zone of operations, Muqtada militia continue to attack Coalition Forces in Kufa. There were five incidences on the 30th, there has only been one incident. Yesterday the concentration of engagements were in the vicinity of the Kufa Bridge. Three incidents of Coalition patrol were attacked by small arms fire, rocket propelled grenade, and/or mortar rounds, east of the Kufa Bridge. Three mortar rounds impacted northwest of the Coalition base and there were four incidents of Coalition patrols attacked by rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire, west of the Kufa Bridge.

Today, a Coalition patrol was attacked at 10:00 with rocket propelled grenades and mortars in the vicinity of the Najaf Cemetery, and in the overall, the engagements of the past two days, two Coalition soldiers have been wound.

On 28 May, a three vehicle convoy carrying an IGC member, Dr. Salama al-Khafaji was ambushed in the vicinity of Mahmoudiyah while traveling northeast to Baghdad. Two vehicles drove through the ambush site and one vehicle crashed into a canal. Sadly Dr. Khafaji's son and bodyguard was were killed in the incident and another bodyguard was wound and has been taken to the 31st Combat Support Hospital for treatment.

In the southeastern zone of operations, the Sadr building in al- Samawal was engaged by rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire. The Iraqi police occupying the building returned fire and attackers led fled into the city. Coalition Forces deployed to assist the police in a search of the area and there were no casualties or damage to the equipment or buildings, sustained in this attack.

SENOR: And, with that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Yes, Charlie.

CHARLIE MAYER, NPR REPORTER: Thanks Dan, Charlie Mayer from "NPR." General, would you say the clashes that are happening in Najaf are because these militia members haven't got the message about the deal or have they gotten the message and decided not to follow it. Also, is there anything you can do to try and put the word out that there is, in fact, a deal?

KIMMITT: Yeah well, first of all, the clashes were not in the town of Najaf, they were in the town of Kufa, about five kilometers to the northwest. We did have one incident today in the northwest portion of the cemetery, that has been the first incident in Najaf over the past two days. It maybe a combination of not getting the word, misunderstanding the cease-fire only to include Najaf, it is our clear understanding that the -- when Muqtada al-Sadr says there will be no armed men at the stations, it includes Najaf, it includes Kufa it includes the entire government of Najaf. It may be a matter that some of the militia are not getting the word. Whether they're getting the word or not, they're -- they have a clear understanding, before this, that if they raised their arms against the Iraqi people or against Coalition Forces, we will respond.

SENOR: Najam (ph), Go ahead.

QUESTION (through translator): From a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the nomination of Mr. Iyad Allawi for prime minister was received with caution by the Iraqi people because of his CII links. They have links with Iraqi intelligence. The nomination of Mr. Iyad Allawi for they presidency, he said I must -- members of the Governing Council support me, the Shiites, the Sunni, but Lakhdar Brahimi interfered and nominated Dr. Adnan al-Pachachi as president. Are these information true?

SENOR: I don't think so, Najam (ph). I know that Mr. Brahimi has been consulting widely throughout Iraq, reaching out to all communities and all corners of this country as he begins to finalize his recommendation to the secretary-general for the interim government that is to take over on June 30. To my knowledge, he has not finalized the entire government and will be making a formal announcement when he does. He said he will make a formal announcement. He's comfortable with the way the process is moving along and he will be making a formal announcement and so I'm reluctant to comment on a specific consultation. You're characterizing a specific consultation that he may have had with one of the bodies, one of the many bodies that he's consulting in this country, one of the many organizations that he's been consulting, this body. I'd rather let him characterize those discussions.

As far as Mr. Allawi, again, I'm reluctant to speak on his behalf, but I will say that Iraq has many political leaders who, for many years, fought for the liberation of Iraq and fought to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and received support from governments and individuals from around the world to assist with overthrowing Saddam Hussein and fighting for the liberation of the Iraqi people. So, I don't think that that is something that most Iraqis would view as a negative. He, like many, has been committed to Iraq's liberation.

QUESTION (through translator): Me and the Iraqi people would like to understand the techniques by which you form this government -- The prime minister and the president. The Iraqi people and the -- don't know about the techniques used in forming this government. Can you inform us about these techniques?

SENOR: Again, I would let Mr. Brahimi and the U.N. speak to that because they're the ones who have taken the lead on it, Najam (ph). But I can tell that you, based on what I know, that Mr. Brahimi has been committed to a very robust consulting process where he's literally traveled the entire country and met with numerous -- dozens and dozens of organization, literally, probably over a thousand people, religious leaders, political leaders, regional leaders from throughout the country, and getting a sense from them as to what kind of profile, what kind of skill set, what kind of experience would be appropriate for the leadership positions in this country. Then based on those conversations which are two-way -- which are back and forth, he is -- he's beginning to make recommendation.

Yes, sir, in the back.

QUESTION: Hi, Claude from "LeMonde" Paris. Dan, you keep saying that it's for Mr. Brahimi to choose and pick, but the story we get is that, in fact, Mr. Allawi was chosen by the Governing Council in consultation with Mr. Bremer only and that Mr. Brahimi was told afterwards of this choice.

SENOR: Where were you getting that story?

QUESTION: From a number of people of the Governing Council.

SENOR: I will let Mr. Brahimi speak for himself on it. I -- again, I understand he said, the other day, that he's very comfortable with the way the process has been moving and he intends to make a formal announcement, I guess, later this week. So, I would defer to him. My understanding is he's been very supportive of how this process has moved forward and how various individuals have percolated into leadership positions -- Ed.

QUESTION: Hi. General Kimmitt, you mentioned earlier that if the insurgents in Najaf or Kufa raised their arms they would be dealt with appropriately. But they're also parading around the streets with arms and that, in itself, seems to be a violation of the agreement you had reached, so even if they don't shoot at the -- at your forces, then what will you do if you just see them parading around the streets with RPGs and AK-47s.

KIMMITT: Muqtada's militia is a declared hostile force. Our soldiers have the obligation to take action and our soldiers certainly have the inherent right of self-defense.

SENOR: Yes?

QUESTION: James Heart (ph) from the "London Times." The members of the Governing Council are complaining that the United States is leaning quite heavily on them to vote for -- or to back Mr. Pachachi in the presidential selection process. Could make some comment on that, how much truth will is in this and why you'd be backing Mr. Pachachi so heavily against their own chosen candidate, who's apparently Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar?

SENOR: There is no -- there is no truth to that. We have not been quote, unquote "leaning" on anybody to support one candidate for the presidency over another. And there isn't just one organization that is involved in that selection process. Or I should say there is -- there's one organization that has the lead on this selection process, which is the United Nations, and they have been engaged in consultations throughout the country with multiple organizations. One of the organizations they've been talking to is obviously the Governing Council which has a voice, there are many voices throughout the country. And we -- we do not -- we have said from the beginning, we don't have a list of candidates, we don't have a preferred candidate for this position over a particular -- another particular candidate or another particular position. This is part of a consulting processes that the U.N. is leading, and we are not pressuring or engaging anyone, urging them to go one direction versus another.

Yes? Yes?

QUESTION (through translator): From al-Asada. My question is for General Kimmitt. Why don't you enter into direction discussions with al-Sadr to solve this problem and bring stability back to the Iraqi streets?

SENOR: The positive sign of the past five or six days, as you have seen Iraqis taking the lead in trying to peace -- reach a peaceful resolution, Iraqis reaching out to Iraqis. A group of prominent Shia members of the Iraqi Governing Council reached reached out to Muqtada al-Sadr to try to calm the situation down. Albeit, the solution they proposed is not a complete solution, because it does not address our two conditions, which is that Muqtada al-Sadr must face justice, he must meet the requirements within the arrest warrant issued against him, and he must disband and dissolve his militia. But, it does get us one step closer; it is a positive first sign.

With regard to withdrawing Muqtada's militia from the streets and still allowing ours to have maneuverability inside Najaf and allow us to secure government buildings, Iraqi police stations, Coalition facilities, and allow for Iraqi security police -- Iraqi national police to come in and address the security situation on the ground there -- all very positive sign. And it's important to remember that where we are today is a result of Iraqis speaking to Iraqis -- Iraqis reaching out to Iraqis. And any day that is happening, any day that Iraqis communicating with Iraq to try to reach a peaceful resolution is occurring is something that is, not only good for the moment, but it bodes well for Iraq post-June 30, because you see Iraqis taking up the leadership positions and taking the initiative that is necessary to reach some sort of peaceful resolution among themselves.

Yes.

JIM GLANDS, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: Hi, Jim Glands, the "New York Times." Satellite photos taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency show that whole sites, sometimes as many as 20 buildings, military and industrial sites, are disappearing possibly in big salvage operations. What's happening with those sites and what is the Coalition doing to make sure the sensitive equipment that may have been on those sites doesn't fall into the wrong lands?

SENOR: I spoke just the other day, when we are aware that there is sensitive materials or contaminated materials at a site, we seek to secure the situation and guard against materials being taken away and looted and being taken, obviously, into civilian areas or outside of the country. So, when we are aware of the situation, we seek to address it. We are -- we are aware thought that we are not always aware of these incidents and so we are working with the Iraqi authorities, in their respective ministries, that obviously have a serious interest in this issue, to look for even more robust ways and more thorough ways to protect against the problem that you're referring to.

Yes, in the back.

MATTHEW GREEN, "REUTERS" REPORTER: I'm Matthew Green from Reuters. The acting Palestinian charge de fair Adil al-Kasus (ph) has told us that two Palestinian diplomats were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, last year, by U.S. forces and they spent the last year in Abu Ghraib Prison. He says that that -- those arrests were a flagrant violation of their diplomatic immunity as diplomats, here in Baghdad. What do you have to say in response to this case?

KIMMITT: Can you give me their names, please?

GREEN: Yeah, one of them is called Naja Abdel Rahman (ph), he was acting charge de fair, and the other is Maniere Subahe (ph). I apologize; my pronunciation might not be...

KIMMITT: Yeah, if we could just get together with you after this we can try to trace that and find out.

GREEN: Sure, thanks.

SENOR: Yes, sir?

QUESTION (through translator): Thank you, Mr. Senor, from (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The citizens in Baghdad and in all the Iraqi governments, after the situation in Fallujah and Najaf calmed down, how are you going to plan for the future? Now, what are -- do you have any information about that? After the reconstruction of the Iraqi government and we are in the process of electing a president. Do you have anything that could assure the Iraqi people of the future?

KIMMITT: Well, Iraq is moving to become a free democratic sovereign state. It is certainly the case that we are working with the people of Iraq to try to stimulate the economy, repair the infrastructure, provide for the security. We can set the foundation for Iraq to move forward, but it will be the people of Iraq that really take this country forward as a free and sovereign country. Your country will make those decisions. You will make the decisions with your government, you'll make the decisions with your economy, you'll make the decisions on how to use that infrastructure that's been rebuilt, and you'll be making the decisions on the security destination in the long run. That is one of the aspects of democracy that sometimes is not very well understood by some countries that for 35 years have depended on a central dictator to make the decisions for them. The future will be what the future is. We don't -- have no crystal balls, but what we can tell you is that the future of any country that has converted to democracy, certainly is well beyond that and certainly shows more promise for the people, for the economy, for the children, than those that have been living under the thumb of a dictator tour 35 years.

SENOR: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION (through translator): Two questions to Mr. Kimmitt and Dan Senor. To Mr. Kimmitt, the emblem behind you is for the Multinational Forces, in it is the lion of Babylon and two Arab swords. Will the Multinational Forces contain Arab forces and will their uniform be changed?

Mr. Dan Senor, one of the offices of Mr. Ahmed Chalabi (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was raided. Did the American forces took part -- take part in that raid with the Iraqi police, especially that some sources said Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi is going to announce that president of Iraq. Now what is the role played by the Coalition Forces in this respect?

SENOR: On your second question, I am not aware of a second raid or second set of raids on properties associated with Mr. -- Dr. Chalabi, but I'm happy to look into it.

With regard to the Coalition's role, the U.N. special representative is here at the invitation of the Governing Council and the Coalition. Last January, we went to New York with the governing down and asked the secretary-general if he could deploy a team of experts here, the U.N. have a lot of experience in this, to make a determination as to whether or not elections could be held, direct elections could be held in Iraq by June 30 and if they could not be held, given that we still wanted to hand sovereignty over to the Iraqi people on June 30, what alternative was there -- how long would it take to have direct elections and what alternative government could be put in place in that interim period from when we hand over sovereignty until Iraq is ready for direct elections -- which they agreed to do. And they came here -- the U.N. team came here, made a -- did some research and made the determination that Iraq would not be ready for direct elections until we -- eight, nine months after the electoral process got started, which we ultimately determined January 2005. And so the U.N. then began to look at ways to formulate an interim government to take over here for that interim period, between sovereignty and direct elections. Something that is viewed as legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people, recognizing that it's short of direct elections, it's trying to provide a legitimate, credible, honest government that can take over for that very short period of seven months, until there are direct elections, so Iraq can still have its sovereignty, even though the country isn't ready for direct elections.

And the U.N. Took the lead on that. Mr. Brahimi, as you know, took the lead in formulating the government and making recommendation to the U.N. secretary-general.

But we have a consultative role, we -- you know, have a back and forth discussion with Mr. Brahimi as he does with Iraqis all over the country. And it is -- it is a very interactive and fluid process, but the -- but the U.N. and Mr. Brahimi do have the lead on it.

KIMMITT: The -- there was an operation, as we all know, about ten days ago against some of the properties of Ahmed Chalabi. Coalition Forces did not participate in that, except in a support role. I don't know of any other...

SENOR: Yeah.

KIMMITT: ...operations that Coalition Forces knowingly participated in operations conducted against any of Mr. Chalabi's properties.

Now, on your point about the patch, it's a point well taken. The Coalition, the make -- to any country that would like to make a force offer. We to do that habitually at Central Command in Tampa, we have a number of nations represented at Central Command. That is the way they express their desires to be a part of the Coalition now, and in the future, part of the Multinational Forces.

I would suspect that General Abizaid would welcome force contributions from this region, countries such as Jordan, Kuwait -- I don't know if any have made any offers in that regard, but there is nothing we have said aprioris to exclude any Arab nations from participating in this great mission.

SENOR: Kevin.

NGUYEN: You have been looking at a live picture of the Coalition briefing in Baghdad with Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and Coalition Spokesperson Dan Senor. They've talked about a number of topics including the release of more prisoners from Abu Ghraib. We understand 360 prisoners will be released sometime in early June.

They also discussed the fighting with cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and how there is an agreement to cease-fire there, but of course, there are some complications with that. And they have also discussed the progress of naming Iraq's interim government as we inch closer to the June 30 handover.

Of course, here at CNN will continue to cover all the events at Iraq. So you'll want to keep it here. Up next, CNN's "SUNDAY MORNING."

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