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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

U.S. Captures Six of Clubs From Most Wanted Iraqis Deck

Aired April 27, 2003 - 09:00   ET

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

KELLI ARENA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to the Pentagon for details of that capture of another player in the Pentagon's deck of cards. CNN's Patty Davis is on the story -- Patty.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kelli. Another big fish now in U.S. custody. The U.S. Central Command says it is retiring the six of clubs from that deck of most wanted Iraqis. Now he is Lieutenant General Husam Muhammad Amin Al-Yasin. Central Command is not saying anything about the circumstances of his arrest, whether he surrendered or whether he was captured.

Now, Lieutenant General Amin was the liaison for the U.S. weapons inspectors before the war, a key figure in Saddam Hussein's weapons program. He held briefings, giving Iraq's point of view about those inspections and could very well have valuable information about, for the U.S. about any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Now clearly a very big get for the U.S. On the deck of cards now, 13 of the 55 now in custody.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in the Middle East. Most details of his trip there are being kept under wraps. The U.S. military sighting security concerns for that. We do know however that Rumsfeld plans to visit U.S. troops and military commanders in Iraq and thank them. The defense secretary says the U.S. is not claiming victory yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: One ought not to think of this as a victory tour. It isn't. We've got a lot of hard work left; people are still being shot at. In some cases, killed and wounded, and the task before us in Iraq is clearly one that is going take a lot of attention, a lot of focus and a lot of effort over a period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: Evidence of the dangers that still do exist in Iraq; one soldier killed, another injured yesterday. Central Command is saying at a checkpoint in Tikrit. Now, that is Saddam Hussein's hometown. That checkpoint had recently come under fire. They were rolling in, in their Bradley fighting vehicles. Those Bradley vehicles overturned, killing one soldier, injuring another. Those were two vehicles would over turned. They were as I said, being brought in for security reasons. So still a very dangerous place, Kelli. ARENA: Patty, going back to the capture of Amin. What is the sense there at the Pentagon? Is this the most important person that the U.S. now has in custody in terms of possibly finding weapons of mass destruction? Possibly learning the location of Saddam Hussein or his fate?

DAVIS: Well, he certainly is very key in that search for weapons of mass destruction, and the U.S. remains confident that it will turn them up. He was the one who was taking these weapons inspectors around; perhaps would know more if Iraq hid or moved any of those weapons of mass destruction. Now there's a scientific adviser -- you'll recall that the U.S. certainly hoping that they took into custody a while back may also provide some information on weapons of mass destruction. But it's believed that this lieutenant general was also close to one of Saddam Hussein's sons, perhaps may know where he is perhaps may know where other top Iraqi officials are. So definitely a key get, Kelli.

ARENA: All right, thanks very much, Patty.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And Kelli, we want to follow this story in Baghdad now, and for that we go live to CNN's Rym Brahimi -- Rym.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, indeed it's quite an interesting catch. Husam Amin, as Patty was mentioning, was in charge of the National Monitoring Directorate. Now, that body was set up in the early 1990s when the first regime of U.S. weapons inspections was in place here in Iraq, and he was the interlocutor to the U.N. weapons inspectors at that round of inspections that lasted the seven years. And then again when the inspectors returned back in November, he was again the interlocutor for the U.N. weapons inspectors.

He was the -- actually minded along with the inspectors to, as he said, help them out, but also to monitor what they had found and also make Iraq's own assessment of what had been or had not been found. He was the very familiar figure that we saw on press conferences very regularly, saying again and again, hammering this message through; Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

So it will be interesting to see now if he's going to send that same message or not. Was he privy to a lot of details regarding the weapons programs? Well, one has to assume he may have been since we know from sources in Baghdad, that he was also offered asylum by what we were told were U.S. agents when he was on a trip to Vienna, during the talks with Kofi Annan last summer.

Now as you know, Anderson, that may be very significant for the United States; not clear how significant that catch is for the Iraqis who have other very daily concerns. Now the Office of Reconstruction here set up by the U.S. forces is trying to cater those needs, is saying the meeting with municipality officials from the mayoralty of Baghdad, including the former deputy mayor of Baghdad; meeting with technocrats, essentially Jay Garner, the retired general who's in charge of running the interim administration here, sending the message to Iraqis that they do want to take care of the lack of electricity, the lack of water, and all the services that they're lacking now in Baghdad since the fall of the Iraqi capital.

Also in town, a Treasury Department official, George Mullinax. Now, he's been saying that there's a lot to do in terms of re- establishing the economy here. He gave interesting figures in terms of what's been looted. He says that $400 million or the equivalent in hard currency was looted from banks, as well as 20 billion Iraq dinars; that's $10 million in local currency. And he says one of the first priorities will be to re-establish a new Iraqi currency. Let's listen to how he put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE MULLINAX, U.S. TREASURY DEPT.: We would hope that an interim government would be appointed quickly, and that would be one of the first items on their agenda, is to come up with a new currency. I think we are not to print Saddam dinars, and the biggest problem I think you have with those is the ease of counterfeiting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRAHIMI: Now of course the biggest problem aside from that for Iraqis is security. Lack of security here is still a huge concern for Iraqis and that's something that the U.S. led forces will have to deal with very soon, in order to maybe appease the tensions in the Iraqi capital -- Anderson.

COOPER: Rym, just very briefly. Any fallout still from yesterday's explosion?

BRAHIMI: No. There's not fallout for the moment, but there has been some, a lot of ordinance has been found in the Iraqi capital. One of our teams went to film that. It included even things like surface to air missiles and you can see children just playing around those places where a lot of ordinance has been accumulated.

Now, the U.S. officers in charge of trying to deal with that and dispose of that ordinance say that locals have been very cooperative in showing them where it is, and trying to help them gather that ordinance in order to put it in a safe place and away from Iraqi civilians. But of course until it's been disposed of properly, we will, there will be this huge risk of the kind of explosions that took place yesterday, and that created lots of casualties within the Iraqi capital -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Rym Brahimi, live in Baghdad. Thank you.

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