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General Kimmitt Gives a Briefing of Situation in Iraq

Aired April 24, 2004 - 11:00   ET


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Again, we are awaiting a briefing from Baghdad. There you see the podium right there. It has been a particularly bloody day in Iraq so far. We have five U.S. soldiers killed and six wounded in a rocket attack north of Baghdad. We have 12 dead, 25 wounded in Sadr City, the explosion that we just told you about, the 12 dead being Iraqi civilians. Four Iraqis are dead, two police, two civilians in a Tikrit roadside bombing. That attack happening also today. And five suspected insurgents were shot dead by coalition troops in Karbala.
In terms of the situation around Fallujah, where a tense quiet has been maintained so far, the coalition forces there are said to be losing their patience with the insurgents holed up in that city. And so far they have not received any kind of cooperation regarding a weapons give-back. They've been asking for heavy weapons like rocket propelled grenades and mortar launches to be turned over to the coalition as part of a cease-fire, a very shaky cease-fire that's been in place in Fallujah. But as of last count, I believe it was a coalition spokesman that said that most of the weapons that had been turned in had been old ones and it would not -- quote "fill a pickup truck".

And then, in terms of the situation in Najaf, in the south of Iraq, a radical Shiite cleric there says that the coalition forces would face a jihad if they were to try to take that city.

Now we go to Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and coalition spokesman, Dan Senor in Baghdad.

DAN SENOR, COALITION SPOKESMAN: Good evening. I just have a couple of details on Ambassador Bremer's schedule, and then General Kimmitt has an opening statement. And then we will be happy to take your questions.

Ambassador Bremer spent the morning today at our headquarters holding a number of internal meetings. This afternoon, he traveled to Fallujah, where he spent the afternoon. He just returned recently. His visit to Fallujah was part of our overall effort to reach a peaceful resolution to the situation in Fallujah.

Ambassador Bremer's chief deputy, Ambassador Richard Jones, has also been there, continues to be there. Ambassador Jones, as you know, has made a number of trips to Fallujah over the past few days, working with the governing council representatives as part of a governing council -- joint governing council/coalition negotiating team to work in discussions with Fallujahn leaders. Those discussions continue and Ambassador Bremer, as I said, was in Fallujah today as well -- General Kimmitt.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: Thank you. We've been talking about the Fallujah discussions for quite some time, ever since the signing of agreed statements. I thought it would be helpful based on the discussions out of Fallujah today to give you somewhat of a report card of how the coalition sees the discussions going in terms of what had been agreed to by the representatives from Fallujah and what had been agreed to by the coalition representatives.

This is what was expected, based on the agreed statement. That all of these activities would be delivered by the Fallujah representatives and the coalition, in turn, would deliver those items as well. Now, in our mind, we gave ourselves a score card. Green meaning yes, we have delivered on those points. No, we haven't. And amber means partially. And it ought to be seen as we walk our way through this that there is still some measure to go in the way that the Fallujah representatives have been able to deliver. Obviously, we talked about a cease-fire in amongst the Fallujah representatives. And the people inside Fallujah have not delivered a cease-fire.

As recently as yesterday, the cease-fire report we had indicated yesterday nine small arms attacks, six indirect fire attacks inside Fallujah alone. So right now, our grade is, in the minds of the belligerence inside of Fallujah, they don't see it as a cease-fire. They certainly are not honoring the cease-fire.

Collect and deliver weapons started on 18 April, those heavy weapons we talked about. The score seems to be somewhat of an amber. That's a pretty liberal amber based on the conditions of the weapons that you've seen from the pictures that we've showed. It is true that yesterday some different weapons came in. In fact, there were a couple of good dragon-off rifles. But for the most part, the vast majority of weapons that have been turned in are not functioning very well, rusted, corroded. The ammunition is dangerous, can't be used in a military setting. And the numbers of weapons that have been turned in don't approximate any expectations of what we would have seen coming out of Fallujah or frankly what's been fired at our marines.

Re-establish police and ICDC in the city starting 18 April. There are small numbers of ICDC and IPS that are inside the city but it is hard to say that they restored order in that city or if they even are a credible organization inside that city.

Obviously, coalition and Iraqi security force routine patrols not happening. Police and Iraqi civil defense corps supported by coalition forces to remain -- eliminate remaining foreign fighters and criminals, not happening.

Condemned foreign fighters and criminals who want to continue the violence, we had an expectation that the leadership would stand up and condemn those responsible for the violence inside Fallujah. It has not happened.

Issue positive public statements and positive mosque speeches, there have been one or two, but certainly not the volume and the quality that one would expect if the heart was in it.

Initiate investigations into criminal acts, the four U.S contractors and attacks on the Iraqi police station from -- in February hasn't happened.

By contrast, it's important for people to understand that the coalition certainly understands that it can use force at any time. It has more than sufficient force to go in, conduct offensive operations, and end the hostage taking of the town of Fallujah that has been conducted by the foreign fighters, the ex-Saddam Fedayeen, the ex- mahabharat, and those inside of Fallujah. But we have adhered to the provisions of the cease-fire. We have allowed our Marines, as is their inherit right, to return fire in self-defense.

We have allowed humanitarian access to the village -- to the city. The curfew has been adjusted. Allow 50 families per day back into the city for three days. We did that for about a day-and-a-half. We had to cut that off because of the risk to those families as the enemy continued firing inside the city.

ICDC set up checkpoints before the clover leaf coming in from the east side of Fallujah and the old bridge. It's been done.

Access to the Fallujah general hospital to treat the sick and injure, it has been done.

Facilitate passage of official ambulances through the city, especially checkpoints. It has been done.

Allow engineers to fix the water problems at Fallujah dam. It has been done.

Allow tribal sheikhs to enter the city, it has been done.

Allow some fuel tankers into the cities, when the fuel tankers show up, we will allow them into the city. We are prepared to allow them, but they just haven't showed up yet.

By any score card, by any measure, it would appear to us that the coalition is demonstrated a full faith effort to achieve a peaceful resolution in the town of Fallujah. We would ask the people of Fallujah who are being held hostage by the foreign fighters, by the Saddam Fedayeen by the former mahabharat to do the same.

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

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Muhammad Ali from Acusa Newspaper (ph).

We have heard about confrontations in Sadr City between coalition forces and a few of the armed resistance. Can you please clarify these attacks and why has there been an escalation in these attacks in this city? KIMMITT: The most recent attack in Sadr City, I'm sorry to say, was in fact some mortar rounds that were fired by an organization -- certainly not the coalition -- resulting in a total of six killed and 38 wounded today. That was in an area near a coalition base, down by the old cigarette factory. Why that's happening, I would have to ask those who are attacking not only the coalition forces in Sadr City but attacking their own people inside Sadr City. However, we don't think that it is a significant uptick or an upsurge in violence in Sadr City. But as there have been two incidents in the last 24 hours, it is -- there have been two incidents there, one of which was an attack on a patrol going through Sadr City, a coalition patrol that was fired on by RPGs. A couple of our soldiers injured -- and we hope soon for their recovery -- and the mortar attack from last night that we talked about earlier.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. Gene Shoe (ph), NBC News.

This question is directed to General Kimmitt. General, just picking up on my colleague's question here, there seems to be a more sort of incidence of attacks not just in -- sort of in Baghdad or Fallujah but throughout the country. Kut, Taji, we heard about a car bomb in Takrit, and then another roadside bomb in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I believe. Is this a trend that you're seeing here in terms of increased attacks? And, also, because the coalition is focused on the events of Fallujah, do you think this is sort of -- that the insurgents are sort of concentrating in other areas throughout Iraq militarily?

KIMMITT: I don't think so. We've had a number of attacks in the last 24 hours. It doesn't seem to be anything extraordinary. For some reason, these happen to be a bit newsworthy. We did have a dreadful attack on a coalition base this morning north of Baghdad. But the numbers that we are seeing over the past two weeks, 10 days, are demonstrably lower than we had seen in the first two weeks in April. They certainly are much higher than they have been by about a factor of two-and-a-half or three in the time period December to late March where we were seeing roughly, on the order of 20 attacks trending per day.

Over the last -- the first part of April, it was far above that, three or four times that. Now it's trending in the 37 to 42 and we're continuing to push those numbers down on a day-to-day basis. I think today we just had a couple of incidents. I think it will be quite a few days before we can make an assessment whether this is another trend -- an upturn in the trend or if it was just one day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just as a follow-up, General, any developments on who carried out the attacks in -- down in Basra and also any other sort of idea of -- better idea of who these insurgents are?

KIMMITT: On the attacks in Basra, there were some reports that came out from some media networks that were discussing a report that had come from the Basra chief of police that linked five members who had an association with al Qaeda to those bombings, and apparently had been led to some large amount of explosives. We haven't seen any more on the report.

But as we continue to see, as we look at what happened in Basra, the method that was used, the techniques that were used, the fact that you got a suicidal car bombings on symbolic targets in an attempt to get a very, very spectacular newsworthy event, those the hall marks of groups such as the Zarqawi network and the al Qaeda network.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tamart Morat (ph).

A market inside the Sadr City, Baghdad, the people in the city say that this attack was done by the U.S. forces. How do you respond to it?

KIMMITT: I can categorically deny that the attack, the mortar attack in the vicinity of the cigarette factory was conducted by coalition forces. SENOR: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who did Ambassador Bremer talk to in Fallujah today and what did he achieve?

SENOR: We are not releasing the names of the individuals with whom he met. I can just tell you that as part of his broader effort to reach a peaceful resolution in Fallujah he, himself, visited Fallujah today for some meetings related to the situation there.

Yes, Larry, go ahead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks. Just on that, is it right though that he met with Fallujah representatives?

SENOR: I'm not going to comment on who he met with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the other question, are there plans, General Kimmitt --because I've heard speculation about this -- that there be another time window in Fallujah for -- when all the civilians would be told they should leave or given another chance to leave? Or what's the status on that?

KIMMITT: Well, the civilians inside of Fallujah are free to leave at any time. They are certainly not being held up by the coalition forces in any manner. If civilians present themselves to the coalition check points, they'll be allowed to pass through. They will also be given humanitarian assistance if needed.

We have set up humanitarian assistance spots outside of the checkpoints where they can receive food. They can receive water. But it is certainly not in the -- within the desire of the coalition to bottle people up in Fallujah. It may be on the part of the insurgents inside of Fallujah that they would want to keep the civilians inside Fallujah for the purposes of wrapping themselves around the civilians to try to cause large numbers of civilian casualties, but I don't think the people in Fallujah are going to play that game. And certainly, the coalition will not prevent the movement of civilians out of Fallujah for that very reason.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sadr Quahim (ph), Zaman (ph) Newspaper Daily.

Mr. Dan, my question is I notice there is a change in the political -- American political status in Iraq. There are a lot of different, new directions that are being taken by the coalition provisional authority such as the de-baathification process, returning the minister of defense. Is there anything that the coalition is thinking about and the American administration is thinking about to build a new relationship with Iraq? That is the first question.

The second question is related to the negotiations in Najaf. It is said that the coalition authority has specified that Muqtada al Sadr has -- Muqtada al Sadr has to prove and sign anything that be done in the negotiations. Sistani said that he's not real responsible for the negotiations. Why have you requested Sistani's participation in this?

SENOR: On the first question -- those questions you'll have to take up with Ayatollah Sistani and his representatives, and Muqtada al Sadr and his representatives. I'm not going to comment on any discussions that clerics may be having with one another.

On your first question, Ambassador Bremer expressed concerns regarding these -- the implementation of procedures on de- Baathification some time ago to the Iraqi governing council, the de- baathification committee. This was done before the incidents in Fallujah over the last couple of weeks. It was purely a technical point. Thousands of teachers who had been granted appeals were not having their jobs reinstated. Thousands of teachers who were pursuing appeals were not getting their answers back about whether or not their appeal had been granted, for lengthy periods of time. And so in an effort to rectify that technical point on the procedure, Ambassador Bremer, as he articulated in his address to the nation, instructed that all those granted appeals, all those teachers, should be re- employed at their positions immediately and that anybody going forward among those individuals who applies -- pursues an appeal will get an answer within 20 days. Purely a technical point on a procedural matter.

The overall policy on de-Baathification remains the same. Senior levels of the Ba'ath Party and senior levels of the ministry who, by virtue of the positions they had were technically senior members of the Ba'ath Party. Individuals with blood on their hands, individuals that had a hand in Saddam's atrocities and in running Saddam Hussein's totalitarian regime do not have a role in the new Iraq, period. That was the policy when Ambassador Bremer issued it last May. That was the policy when Ambassador Bremer delegated the de-Baathification authority to the Iraqi governing council in October. That was the policy on January 10 when Ambassador Bremer and the governing council reached agreement on procedures and that is the policy today. There's a lot of reporting out there suggesting that there has been some change. There has been no change. The policy remains intact. And in fact, these technical points were raised by Ambassador Bremer several weeks ago.

As far as the army is concerned, Ambassador Bremer, when he issued the order for disbanding the ministry of defense and the army, all we've said, that it was important to shut down the former regime's military, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was a symbol of Saddam's repression. It was a tool of Saddam's repression, not only a repression of the Iraqi people but of Iraq's neighbors. And it was important to shut it down operationally. It was effectively already shut down because the army disbanded itself following April 9th. But from a symbolic standpoint, it was also important to shut it down.

At that point, Ambassador Bremer said we will now rebuild new Iraqi security services, a new Iraqi army. And at some point, when it's appropriate we will appoint a new minister of defense in the free Iraq, not a minister of defense from Saddam Hussein's regime, and that we will build up the ranks starting at the junior levels. And ultimately, we will build up a command structure in the senior levels.

He talked -- Ambassador Bremer talked about this almost a year ago when the military was -- when the old military was disbanded. Again, that policy remains intact as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Is there still disagreement between members of the governing council and Ambassador Paul Bremer? Members of the governing council according to what we heard, they say that he is making decisions without consulting him. Is this truly the case?

SENOR: On that particular issue, on de-Baathification?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In general.

SENOR: Well, I can tell you specifically on de-Baathification, the governing council was consulted several times going back weeks. Ambassador Bremer meets with the governing council on a weekly basis as a group. He has individual meetings with members of the governing -- individual members of the governing council and the leadership of the governing council almost every day. So there is a very fluid relationship with constant communication back and forth.

And now, look, under international law, Ambassador Bremer has certain authorities and certain responsibilities. We are ultimately responsible for promoting a safe and secure environment in this country. We are ultimately, under international law, contemporary custodians of the Iraqi government, temporary custodians of the Iraqi government. That requires Ambassador Bremer often to make decisions. But he goes to great lengths to delegate as much authority to the governing council as possible, to delegate as much authority to the ministers as possible.

You've seen over the past few weeks that Ambassador Bremer has been systematically handing over total authority for the management of the ministry to the Iraqi ministers and their ministries. This is something that is part of his broader effort, to hand over sovereignty, get Iraq ready for sovereignty on June 30th. He delegates authority, like he did with the de-Baathification; he delegated authority to the Iraqi governing council.

The guidelines announced on January 10th were announced by the governing council. Those were guide lines they proposed, albeit we consulted. But it was -- those were their guidelines. So there is a very vibrant relationship of consulting with each party consulting the other. Now that goes on almost on a daily basis -- Patrick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, General Kimmitt, two small points. Do you have an estimate for the number of insurgent fighters that are inside of Fallujah and how many of them are believed to be foreign? How many not? And then also, could you clarify the -- I may have come in late and missed it -- the attack on the base in Taji, how many injured, how many killed and whether there was any -- whether U.S. forces were able to find the people who launched these rockets?

KIMMITT: The estimate that we've used for the last couple of weeks in terms of what we believe is inside Fallujah, somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 fighters of which probably 15 to 20 percent of those we believe are foreign fighters. That is our template. That will be validated, of course, once those people are in coalition hands.

Regarding Taji, this morning, we had attacks at about 0530. We had four soldiers killed in action and seven wounded at that time. Subsequent reports indicate that one of the soldiers died of wounds, so the number is now five soldiers killed and six wounded. A quick reaction for us, including attack helicopters responded to the scene. It destroyed a truck that had been used to launch the rockets. We don't know if there were any personnel inside the truck or near the truck at this time. We haven't -- don't have that report yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I meant to ask you also about (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Housa (ph) area. There was also some kind of an explosion down in -- south of Baghdad later this afternoon. Do you know anything about that?

KIMMITT: I'll check my reports. I don't have a report on that yet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have two questions from Ben Schultz at "The Chicago Tribune," one for Dan Senor and one for General Kimmitt.

There was a report in today's "Washington Post" that sort of indicated that members of the -- or would be members of the interim government were being winnowed out; in particular Mr. Chalabi's name was mentioned as having been excluded. I wanted to know if there was anything you could add to that because we talked to some people who are in the ITC and they were expressing concerns that decisions were being made in Washington without consultation with them. That's the first question.

The second question is I don't know if it was the same question that was just asked you, but the place we were thinking of was a place called Haswa where there was some kind of an explosion and reports said 14 people were killed. Thank you.

SENOR: I think everybody here has to -- I think it's a point where we all put our seatbelts on and take a step back. We are still waiting for Mr. Brahimi to announce the final recommendations of the details of his political proposal for Iraq's political transition. He is scheduled back here soon.

He has been here, you know. He spent some meaningful time here. He will return. He has said that he has consulted widely with Iraqis. He will continue to consult widely with Iraqis, as will we. We continue to consult widely with Iraqis on the shape of the interim government. The governing council is consulting widely with Iraqis. In fact, there is -- my understanding is DR. Muwafa Guvwis (ph) is holding an event here tomorrow dealing with the transitional, administrative interim constitution. There is a couple of hundred Iraqis that are being consulted. Let's let this process play out. Once we have more time invested in the consulting process, we will have a better sense of which personalities, which individuals, which leaders may or may not play a role. We will have a better sense when Mr. Brahimi returns and he begins to make final recommendations about how we'll go forward.

KIMMITT: I have a report on an incident up in Tikrit, but not in Haswa. OK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sir Hasham (ph), "Farrate (ph) International Newspaper."

Yes, you have started by turning over the ministries to the Iraqis. However, we have not heard about a plan to turn over the ministry of defense and the ministry of interior. How about the rest of the ministries that have been turned over? Is there a surreal plan to turn over these ministries to the Iraqis before handing over the sovereignty to Iraq?

SENOR: Yes. In fact, every single ministry will be in Iraqi management hands by June 30th.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): "The Union of Journalists."

Mr. Dan, is there a red line from the White House to the civil administration in Iraq and is returning the Baathists to Iraq from the White House or is it a result of the hardship that the coalition forces are living right now?

SENOR: As I said earlier, the procedural matter that Ambassador Bremer addressed in his address to the nation was a technical point. It does not involve a change in policy. It does not involve bringing back those Baathists to power who are supposed to be debaathified under the policy. It hasn't changed. There is no effort to bring people back who should -- who were disqualified earlier for reasons because -- reasons of being involved with the Ba'ath Party beyond just in name only, but because of active participation at the senior levels in the former regime.

This was based on discussions and comments Ambassador Bremer had with thousands of Iraqis who expressed particular concern with regard to the issue of teachers, the some 10,000 teachers who were out of jobs despite, in the case of many of them, having successfully appealed their disqualification and looking to have their jobs reinstated. Despite all that, their jobs had not been reinstated. Others complained that they had submitted appeals, never heard anything. So Ambassador Bremer just sought to correct that technical point. And he made the decision to do that after hearing from a lot of Iraqis several weeks ago. This was communicated to leadership within the governing council, including the de-baathification committee of the governing council well before there was any violence in Fallujah.

So there's just simply not a collection along the lines that you're stating it. Ambassador Bremer over the past several months has heard from many people. He sought to address it. And this was before the events of Fallujah in the last couple of weeks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shiria (ph) Nelson, with "Knight Ridder Newspapers". As you indicated on the chart over there, there have been -- there's been very little progress on the Fallujah discussions. At what point do you declare that it just doesn't work and you take the next step? And what will the next step be?

KIMMITT: Yes. First of all, I want to modify what you said. There has been a tremendous amount of progress in the discussions. It has been one-sided progress, unfortunately.

As you can see from what the coalition has done, there has been a full-faith effort on the part of the coalition to meet every one of the requirements, every one of the aspirations set out in the statement of agreement of a couple of days ago.

What do we intend to do? We intend to continue to pursue a political track for a period of time to try to resolve the problems in Fallujah which are, let me remind you, are the restoration of Iraqi control inside the city of Fallujah. That means restoration of the Iraqi civil defense corps inside of Fallujah. That means Iraqi police walking up and down the streets of Fallujah. That means Iraqi government officials making the decisions in Fallujah. That is our in-state. We also are looking at bringing in out of Fallujah those that are trying to hijack that sovereignty for Fallujah -- the foreigner fighters, the former Saddam Fedayeen, the mahabharat who don't want to see Iraqi control of that city. But we will continue to talk. We will continue to try to settle this peacefully. But our patience is not limitless and our patience is not eternal. Should there not be a good faith effort demonstrated by the belligerents inside of Fallujah, the coalition is prepared to act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have two questions. First question is for Mr. Dan Senor. The second question is for General Kimmitt.

Mr. Dan, Mr. Lakdar Brahimi has stated that he is U.N. representative in Iraq. He said he will relieve his position if the United States does not respond to a number of requests. What is your -- what do you say to this? What do you say to the fact that Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi is trying really severely to place a plan, a final plan to improve the political process in Iraq?

General Kimmitt, today there was -- there was a number of bombings in Sadr City. What are your -- what is your information about this? And who was the person responsible for these explosions? Thank you.

KIMMITT: On the second question, I think we have talked about the mortar attack on the outskirts of Sadr City. There was a mortar attack that would appear to have been aimed at the old cigarette factory where coalition forces are occupying. Sadly, it did not land in an area, in an open field. It neither hit the coalition, but it did hit some of the citizens in Sadr City. We know of six killed right now.

Who did it? We suspect the same people who fired those mortars that typically fire the rockets, that fire the mortar rounds at the Palestine Hotel, at the Sheraton hotel. These people, we believe, are the same group of people we see inside of Fallujah, former Fedayeen Saddam, former mahabharat, former regime elements that are trying to push this process toward sovereignty and peace for the people of Iraq off the rails.

SENOR: On your...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): General Kimmitt, the operation that occurred in Sadr City was -- a military source said that -- he denied that there were military soldiers or military vehicles in the city. However, the operation occurred in a market, a local market inside of Sadr City, an area called Chuwada (ph). It's a market that sells chicken and other products. More than three explosions occurred and there was no military presence, American military presence in -- at the time the explosions took place. This is what a military source stated. We want more clarification on this, please.

KIMMITT: Well, the clarification I'd ask is who is your source? Get yourself a new military source, because he doesn't know what he's talking about.

SENOR: And your other question, I haven't seen the specific comments that you're referring to by Mr. Brahimi, but I can tell you that we have tremendous respect for Lakhdar Brahimi and his experience and his diplomatic skills. And we are grateful that the U.N. secretary-general has agreed to send Mr. Brahimi to Iraq to play this role in helping to help make recommendations and advise Iraqis and advise us on the formation of an interim government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just regarding the new Iraqi army. From what we head yesterday, have you got any indications about the proportion that the line is being made up from, former -- from former Iraqi army elements?

KIMMITT: We have probably 60 to 70 percent of the membership within the Iraqi armed forces have former affiliation with the old Iraqi army.

SENOR: Which we, at the time of disbanding the military, the army, as I said earlier, we said that we were not going to discriminate against members of the former Iraqi army in recruiting for the new Iraqi army. We were going to discriminate against members of the old Iraqi army who were senior Baathists, who had blood on their hands, who were directly involved in the repression of the Iraqi people. And we said all along that there is an enormous talent pool out of out there of patriotic Iraqis people who served but were not involved with the Baathist crimes. And those individuals would have an opportunity to be recruited and be considered to serve in the new Iraqi army. And that's exactly what our policy has been over the past 10 months as we've built up the security services here.

Yes? Last question. I'll take one from you also. Go ahead. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Truly, I have numerous questions for Mr. Dan Senor. I don't know which one that's for the Iraqi audience. I ask in regards to the truth that was in the city of Fallujah. You said that you will commit to cease-fire. However, the fire is still ongoing in the city of Fallujah. Does this mean that you have not gone with your negotiation?

There is a geographical diagram inside of Fallujah. The coalition forces and the Iraqi police inside of the city, how do you explain to us that who killed his father and killed his son moves in front of his eyes without being -- without anybody talking to him or anybody confronting him?

And in terms of the hostages, General Kimmitt stated that there must be resistance, that these hostages be released. How will they be released? How will these hostages be released when they are -- when they have promised occupation forces that they will be traded -- that they will be traded for people that are detained by coalition forces?

Then there's a question about Muqtada al Sadr. He will not turn himself in. What if he does not turn himself in to coalition forces? Does that mean you will attack the city of Najaf, as you did with the city of Fallujah?

Thank you.

KIMMITT: Where should we start?


KIMMITT: There is a cease-fire that was agreed to by the coalition that has been place for almost 13 days now. There has been a unilateral suspension of offensive operations by coalition forces in Fallujah for almost 14 days now. We have ordered our Marines not to conduct offensive operations. We have not ordered our Marines to allow themselves to be picked off by the insurgents. They have the inherent right of self-defense.

Every day, we continue to get the cease-fire report that talks about what's going on in the city of Fallujah. And, for example, how many violations of cease-fire within Fallujah were committed by the enemy? In the last 24 hours, nine small arms fire, RPG, RPK, indirect fire, six. No IEDs in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). How many weapons were turned? Describe the flow of people. What went into the city through checkpoints? How many Iraqi police and how many Iraqi civil defense corps came in? We are documenting very carefully every instance of the cease-fire violation, every instance of the violation of the law of land warfare, every opportunity that the enemy has to try to draw the coalition into firing at an area that has civilians. We have been very cautious about recording this information and conservative about this information because we intend to use this information in the future in any number of venues to demonstrate time after time, wherever necessary, that in fact what is trying to be represented by many media as a gallant, noble resistance operation inside Fallujah is nothing more than foreign fighters, (UNINTELLIGBLE), Fedayeen Saddam, former special security officers who are holding that city hostage.

And what they're holding that city hostage from is the people of Fallujah enjoying the benefits of Iraqi control, Iraqi sovereignty, Iraqi police, Iraqi civil defense corps. They are preventing the deployment of some large measure of an $18.9 billion gift from the foreign countries to improve their health systems, to improve their medical clinics, to improve their schools, to improve their infrastructure, to make life better for the children of Fallujah. They are holding them hostage and in some cases watching them die as Marines are trying to come to their assistance, as Marines are trying to provide humanitarian assistance, as Marines are trying to provide civil affairs.

We've got to get beyond the polemics. We've got to get beyond the rhetoric. The fact is that the people of Fallujah are being held hostage by a small number of dead-enders who want to make Fallujah the last redoubt of Saddam and they want to prevent, the people, in fact, use the people of Fallujah as their hostages. The coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces surrounding that city are attempting to help them, not harm them, are attempting to bring them liberty, not slavery. They're trying to bring them assistance.

So I understand your question. But, again, the purpose of a free press in Iraq is to ask responsible questions as opposed to be asking literate questions and well thought out questions. And perhaps if you want to ask that question again in that matter, I'd be glad to answer it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, this is Jose (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Spanish News Agency.

I have one question for Mr. Senor and one question for General Kimmitt. I want to be as specific as possible again to bring on about this issue concerning the de-baathification. And you mention on the one hand the issue of people with blood on their hands or people who have committed crimes and on the other hand, people of senior rank of the Ba'ath Party. And I think that it's not so -- you're not making it so clear for me.

My question is if I understand that 70 percent of that component -- 70 percent, which comes from the old Iraqi army is mostly troops and not officers. And I understand that they -- that you trying, not at the moment, to fortify the new Iraqi army with officers and that, in a way you're encouraging officers from the old Iraqi army -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- because you have that need.

And my question is have you had enough coming on who didn't' commit those -- who wasn't involved apparently in any crimes from the old regime but he was in -- he belonged to one of the top three tiers -- that is regional, council, branch or section and not ferca or below -- would you accept him in the new Iraqi army if he belonged to one of those three top ranks?

And my question for Mr. Kimmitt -- sorry, General Kimmitt, concerning -- could you explain for me what the troops down in Najaf are doing at the moment and if there have been any changes in their numbers or -- and any movement at all and what the purpose of their presence there is since the population still feels or they claim to be still under siege? Thank you.

KIMMITT: Again, on the first question, I could probably answer that. The short answer, that's a hypothetical question. Very simply, we've had a robust number of former military officers that we don't have to go through those types of questions. At this point, we are looking at a broad number of officers who meet all the qualifications, who meet all the vetting restrictions and who meet all the experiential requirements to bring them in. Since we haven't had to come up to that type of situation, it probably is moot point to even discuss what our answer would be ahead of time.

SENOR: Let me just add to that, that Ambassador Bremer, when the de-baathification policy was drafted, the de-baathification order last May, it's explicit in the order that Ambassador Bremer has the authority to grant exceptions and provide for appeals in cases where we believe there are individuals who are Baathist in name only, who are innocent of the crimes of the former regime, who are competent and capable and can play a constructive role in the reconstruction of Iraq. And that authority applies across the board, to the civilian side and the military side. And he has utilized that authority on the civilian side, on the military side, over the past number of months.

KIMMITT: On the issue of what the soldiers around Najaf are doing, they're doing the same thing around Najaf that they're doing throughout the rest of the country. They are providing a safe and secure environment. They are conducting engagements with local leaders. They're conducting, as necessary raids, cordons and searches, traffic control checkpoints, and any of a number of operations that you see anywhere within this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 500 troops there, and concerning the exceptions that Ambassador Bremer is capable of doing, does that mean that he could make an exception for somebody above the rank of ferca, who wanted to join the Iraqi army?


KIMMITT: And with regards to the troops, there had been a recent rotation of troops as we've reset the forces on -- within Iraq, returning some to the bases that they have been operating in, bringing others down in that area to start getting ready for whatever eventualities come about.

So -- but the overall number, quality and types of equipment are relatively the same as you've seen over the past couple of weeks.

SENOR: And let me just clarify before we go. The appeals process that is explicitly outlined in the January 10th procedures allows for appeals for ferca. It is very explicit -- only the ferca level. But Ambassador Bremer still retains the authority to grant exceptions to anybody. Now, he's used that authority very selectively for obvious reasons. But from time-to-time, there is an individual who is made known to us that can play a constructive role. This has happened over the past 10 months and the authority is granted because they were innocent of the baathist crimes.

What the January 10th guidelines do is it explicitly outlines an appeals process for the ferca level, so it, in effect, is a more progressive implementation of the policy. Those guidelines allow for progressive implementation of the original policy by explicitly outlining the ferca appeals process. But the fact is we have the authority to grant exceptions at any level and, as I said, have exercised that authority on several occasions over the past 10 months.

Thank you.

KIMMITT: Thank you.

SAN MIGUEL: The daily press briefing there at the coalition headquarters in Baghdad over with Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and CPA spokesman, Dan Senor.

The big story out of this briefing today is that U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer has actually traveled to Fallujah, which is the scene of a very tense standoff and tenuous cease-fire between the insurgents and the coalition authorities. Not a lot of information given out about that trip by Bremer to Fallujah. So we do not know if he actually met with those who are, in the words of the coalition, holding that city hostage.

General Kimmitt saying that the expectations versus the reality of that cease-fire, the expectations not being met by the insurgents there. The coalition holding up its end. But the cease-fire has been broken nine times in the last 24 hours by the insurgents. The general warning that the patience of the coalition is wearing thin.

Also in Sadr City, the coalition confirming that a mortar attack did happen there, apparently aimed at some soldiers there working at a -- that are based at a cigarette factory. Six people killed, 38 wounded. Those mortars not fired by coalition forces.

And then in Taji, north of -- just north of Baghdad, an attack there. Five soldiers killed, six wounded. An attack helicopter destroyed by a -- destroyed a truck that was used by insurgents there to launch rockets at those soldiers. Kelli Arena will have the latest from Washington on the situation in Iraq at noon Eastern on "CNN SATURDAY."

We'll take a break. We'll be back with more right after this.


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