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Baghdad Update

Aired April 13, 2003 - 06:03   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's start with Baghdad now and get the latest from there. CNN's Martin Savidge is there to update us on recent developments. A short time ago, Marty, we saw some kind of protest going on. Do you know what that's about?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still going on, Carol, as a matter of fact. Baghdad is still very much a noisy place. All sorts of sounds you hear, from explosions to gunfire to now a demonstration. We'll tell you about that in just a second.

There was a large explosion heard in the city of Baghdad earlier this morning, and a very dark plume of smoke rising into the air. No official word on exactly what it was, but there are two elements that are being talked about amongst the Marines, number one, seemed to come from an area surrounding one of Saddam Hussein's many palaces. It is possible -- we were out at that palace a couple of days ago -- and one of the things that the military is looking for is they believe that all of the palaces had some sort of underground bunker facility. They couldn't find one at this particular palace. It's possible they may have used some sort of ordnance or demolition material, try to create a crater to see if they could find it.

The other thing it may have been is the purposeful demolition of a lot of unexploded ordnance. Baghdad is littered with all kinds of ammunition. It's a great danger to the civilian population, and a potential danger to the U.S. military forces here in the city, because that ammunition could be used against them.

Now, to the demonstrations taking place in front of the Palestine Hotel. Well, it is said to be -- and this is a live picture, by the way -- said to be a protest in favor of the installation of an Islamic government here. That would obviously be the new government to replace the Iraqi regime that has now faded away. It is also protesting against heavy handed American politics getting involved in the re-establishment of governing the people of Iraq. There are only about 50 to 70 people that are there, but they are making their voices be heard. It has been a peaceful demonstration.

Then, this morning, a meeting, a very important meeting. Perhaps it did not look so significant, but it was. The first potential baby steps of bringing Baghdad back from the brink of anarchy. Essentially, it was a gathering of civic leaders, civil engineers, civil servants, the people who turn on the lights, the people who turn on the water, the people who provide security, such as the police department. All coming together to talk, as the military is going to ask them to do about coming back to work, about getting the city back on its feet, because it's believed if you can do something so simple as turning on the lights, especially at night, it would go a long way to quell a lot of the disturbances that have been taking place and the looting on the street.

It wasn't always peaceful inside that meeting, but then, let's face it, when have you been to a local government meeting in your own neighborhood that has always been peaceful? It was political, public discord, and it was also public debate, something that might be rather new here in Baghdad, these days. Carol, back to you.

COSTELLO: So, the people at that meeting, do they want the Marines to come down harder on the looters, or do they sort of want to wait and take care of things themselves?

SAVIDGE: Well, it's a combination, really. There are a number of those people who would like to see the Marines step in and stop the looting, but of course, the Marines aren't police officers. Their training and background is more in fighting wars, not in peacekeeping.

And the other thing is that it's a road the U.S. military doesn't necessarily want to wander down. They don't want to make this a military occupation. They are here, they say, to liberate the people of Iraq, and it is up to the people of Iraq themselves now, that they have this freedom, to provide their own security, to provide their own food and water, to provide the fabric of life that's necessary for the people of Iraq. So the U.S. military would prefer not to get into being the policeman on the beat. They'd rather the policemen on the beat do that, Carol.

COSTELLO: Understand. We'll see what comes out of this meeting today. Thank you, Martin Savidge, reporting live from Baghdad this morning.


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