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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Congressional Leaders Hold News Conference in Iraq

Aired September 28, 2003 - 10:15   ET

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

SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to take you now, I believe, to Baghdad, where congressional leaders are holding a news conference right now. They're on a fact-finding mission to Iraq. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... get Iraq back on the right track, and to put these assets to work for Iraq and the new country of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rodney?

REP. RODNEY FRELINGHUYSEN (R), NEW JERSEY: I think we -- my name is Rodney Felinghuysen. I represent the state of New Jersey. And I think I speak for all behind me that we're very proud of the coalition partnership, which totals, I believe, 31 countries, but in the lead, both the United States of America and great Britain.

And this is all about the freedom of Iraq. And as somebody who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, first and foremost, the bulk of the money is going to support our troops who have provided, I believe, a measure of security that has not been there. Obviously, those troops were responsible for liberating Iraq. And then the issue of training an Iraqi police force, a new army that is free of previous members of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The opportunities we see as extremely positive. And certainly the dollars that are going to go towards rebuilding Iraq, its infrastructure, building up its oil capacity, its road system, its institutions of government. What we saw briefly today, the situation relative to several hundred hospitals, but particularly one here in Baghdad.

These are good investments for the Iraqi people. And the $20 billion is as important to the future of Iraq and its national security as is the military portion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The timing is that the bill will be before the Appropriations Committee next week, and the House of Representatives will probably vote the following week on the entire appropriation.

Questions? Yes, sir. MICHAEL DRUDGE, VOICE OF AMERICA: I'm Michael Drudge from the Voice of America. How difficult is it going to be to sell this package to your constituents back home who are wondering why that money shouldn't be spent on projects in America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody want to take a crack at that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't hear it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question was, how do you explain the appropriations to the folks back home?

REP. RICK LARSEN (D), WASHINGTON: I'm Rick Larsen, the Washington state 2nd District. The question was how do you explain the projects back home?

I think from my perspective, something very important that I need to communicate to taxpayers in my district is that, in Iraq, there is some progress being made. There's a long way to go. But to make a peace, to build a peace that's as successful as the military victory, it is going to take a long-term commitment.

And as an example, we looked at the Dora (ph) power plant today. We saw the terrible shape that it was in. Right now, Iraq, in Iraq, we're producing about 4,000 megawatts of power. By next summer we need 6,000 megawatts of power. To get that to that 6,000, it's going to take a huge capital investment, and it's going to take getting to 6,000 megawatts of power in order for the economy to pick up in Iraq as well.

So what I'm going to tell my taxpayers -- in conclusion, what I'm going to tell the taxpayers that live in my district is that we cannot cut and run. We need to make a commitment in Iraq and to make the peace as successful as the military victory. I think that that is a message that at least people I represent will appreciate and will support.

CHOI: You've been listening to a group of about eight congressional leaders from around the nation holding a fact-finding mission in Iraq. They were holding a news conference in Baghdad talking about the U.S. commitment to Iraq, including the money that the U.S. will likely pledge, the bulk of which will go to support the 135,000 or so troops currently serving in Iraq.

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