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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Donald Rumsfeld Holds War Press Conference

Aired April 2, 2003 - 16:59   ET

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

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... the Nebuchadnezzar Division came down from the north and has been -- portions of it -- and had been trying to fill in. They're also bringing in some regular army folks and trying to fill in the gaps.

But the progress has been good. The forces have been pressuring them on the ground and from the air.

RUMSFELD: My guess is, however, that the Republican Guard that pretty much ringed Baghdad at the present time will probably represent some difficult days ahead and dangerous days ahead in terms of fighting.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Let's take one more here and then we'll let the secretary go.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, now that the troops are closer to Baghdad, are there any fresh indications that the Iraqis are preparing to use chemical and biological weapons? And if so, what would the U.S. response be?

RUMSFELD: We keep seeing chatter in the intelligence channels about the possibility. We've discovered caches of chemical protective gear that the Iraqis have stored. And of course they know we don't have chemical weapons and don't use chemical weapons, so it's hard to believe they've been stored for any other purpose but to protect their people in the event they decide to use those weapons.

General Franks has thoughts about a way to dissuade and deter further use of chemical weapons, but we'll leave that for the future.

Thank you very much.

HUNTER: Let me just make one statement about the secretary also. He's made an excellent case for the operation so far. The mood of the Congress is to support him very strongly.

One thing that we realize now is that by this rapid armor drive up through the throat of Iraq we were able to take bridges and take other key positions before the Iraqi defenders could blow them. That was partly a result of the rapidity of this march, and also the surprise element.

As you noticed, there aren't monster oil fires going on in Iraq this time as there were in 1991. Key places like dams and bridges have been secured before they could be blown.

And this, in our estimation, is evidence of a very effective operation.

So the mood of the Congress in this briefing and earlier has been to be very supportive of the secretary, General Franks and the plan.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

HUNTER: And thank you, Mr. Secretary.

RUMSFELD: Thank you. Appreciate it.

HUNTER: OK. See you soon.

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