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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coalition Press Briefing

Aired April 30, 2004 - 10:14   ET

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


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we go across the world live to Baghdad. Here is the daily briefing with the Coalition Provisional Authority.
GARETH BAYLEY, COALITION SPOKESMAN: The first meeting was with a group of Iraqi women, representatives of the Iraqi Women's Network representing 55 NGOs working on women's issues and the Advisory Committee for Women. We had an exchange of views and issues facing the Iraqi women and the Iraqi people as a whole.

They agreed on the paramount importance of secure environment in which Iraq's people can prepare the way for an interim government, and free, direct election by the end of January 2005. He urged the group to ensure the women's views were heard in consultations with the U.N. special representative al Brahimi, and in the nominations process for the independent Iraqi Electoral Committee.

His second meeting was this afternoon with a group of senior sheikhs from various areas of Iraq. This meeting was also an outreach meeting; it allowed him to gauge the views of sheikhs, and also to encourage them to ensure that those loyal to them, the tribes, will play a constructive role in the weeks and months ahead. Their concerns were focused mainly on the security and the economy.

General Kimmitt.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, DEPUTY OPS DIR., U.S. MILITARY: Thanks. Good afternoon. In the north central zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a cordoned and search north of Mukaidia last evening. And the operation targeted and detained 24 individuals suspected of anti-coalition activity.

In Baghdad last night, an Iraqi police Colonel Ahmed Kaz Raji (ph) was murdered in downtown Baghdad. He was gunned down as he left his office to go home for the night, and the Iraqi Police Service are investigating.

In the last 24 hours, activities by the Sadr militia has continued in Sadr City. While executing patrols early this morning, coalition forces were engaged by heavy small arms fire and multiple RPGs in five separate incident. In a separate incident, the body of the DACT Chairman Mr. Swadi Shadi (ph) was found in Sadr City by his family, hung with a sign on his chest that said "Mehdi army business." It appeared that he had been beaten, tortured and then hung.

Despite continual attacks against coalition forces in Baghdad, the First Cavalry Division is engaging the Iraqi people throughout the sectors in a concerted effort to improve their lives. First Cav forces are currently employing a thousand people alone in Sadr City and this is only one of the many projects throughout the city. First Cav continues to develop labor-intensive SURP (ph) projects that repair and replace existing infrastructure, demonstrating to the Iraqi people that we care about their future and will continue to assist them, if they're willing to take the steps forward with the coalition.

As you know, in the western zone of operations, there have been a number of initiatives to bring peace to Fallujah. In one of those initiatives, today the First Marine Expeditionary Force is overseeing the formation of the first battalion of the proposed Fallujah Brigade. The mission of this interim organization, to be completely integrated with that of the First MEF, is part of the ongoing operation to have Iraqi Security Forces completely cooperative and cooperating with the coalition forces to provide security tasks, and eventually to assume responsibility for security and stability throughout Iraq.

The coalition objectives in Fallujah remain unchanged. To eliminate armed groups in Fallujah, to collect and positively control all heavy weapons, and turn over foreign fighters, and disarm anti- Iraqi insurgence in Fallujah. This battalion will be recruited largely from former soldiers of the Iraqi army and work alongside the First MEF to assist in the return of peace and stability for Fallujah. The battalion will function under the subordinate command under the operational control of the First Marine Expeditionary Force. And the First MEF will provide the resources and equipment necessary to ensure mission accomplishment by this force.

Until the battalion -- until the units of the battalion demonstrate capacity to man designated checkpoints and positions, Marines will continue to maintain a strong presence in and around Fallujah. Consistent with our duty to provide security, coalition forces will maintain their right of freedom of movement in all areas of the AOR. As calm is restored, families will be allowed to return to the city. And during this transition period, families will be allowed into the city on a daily basis, numbering about 200 families per day.

After commencing the restoration of law and order inside the city of Fallujah, Iraqi Security Forces will work inside the city assisting police with investigations to identify the murderers and mutilators of the four American contractors, and the criminals responsible for the 14 February attack on the Fallujah police station. When captured, those persons will be tried in the Iraqi judicial system.

In a central south zone of operations while conducting routine security operations in support of Task Force Iron Claw, coalition soldiers yesterday were attacked by a car bomb eight kilometers northeast of Mahmoudyia. As announced yesterday, eight soldiers were killed in action and four wounded. All of the wounded soldiers had been transported for treatment, two of the soldiers have subsequently returned to duty. The other two will be transported to Landstuhl for further treatment.

After further investigation, the suicide vehicle was described as a brown Mercury station wagon with a Netherlands license plate. Two Iraqis near the site were captured and tested positive for explosives with the vapor tracer device. The initial assessment is that the car bomb consisted of 300 pounds of explosives with mortar rounds included for shrapnel effect.

Let's go ahead and take questions and answers at this time.

IBRAHIM HASAN: Ibrahim Hasan.

KIMMITT: Yes, sir.

HASAN (through translator): Ibrahim Hasan, Filian-Kurdish (ph) newspaper. General, two days ago, the Security Counsel has unanimous decision that said that all units, nations, countries, 192 governments to prevent WMDs to get to terrorists. General, don't you agree with me that the United States and Germany are the largest countries that are spreading these country through black markets? And do you have intel information that say that such WMDs are already with the terrorists? And thank you.

KIMMITT: No, I would not agree with your statement. This is certainly outside of activities here in Iraq. We have no WMD here in Iraq. With regards to nuclear proliferation, that is well outside my area of expertise, but the United States is signatory to a number of nuclear nonproliferation agreements. And they are probably the most stringent, disciplined adherence to those nonproliferation treaties.

GREGOR MAIER, GERMAN PRESS AGENCY CORRESPONDENT: Gregor Maier (ph) from German Press Agency, GPA. General, what our reporters have observed today is a certain withdrawal of Marine forces from Fallujah. Is this part of this agreement, which have been reached? In which steps has this withdrawal to be concluded? And is it confirmed that the person in charge of the Fallujah Protective Army is a former general of the Republican Guard?

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, there is no Fallujah Protective Army. There is a brigade that is being formed that is being referred to as the Fallujah Brigade. We are working on a establishing the first battalion of that organization.

We are certainly not withdrawing from Fallujah. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the Marine forces are repositioning around Fallujah. Some of their positions that they currently were holding are being turned over to the First battalion of this organization in a very methodical military manner. And -- but that's only in certain portions of the cordon. We understand a certain that a couple of hundreds of these prospective Fallujah battalion members have shown up in cloverleaf in some of the other areas. And they're going through somewhat of a transfer of authority.

But I think it's important to understand a number of things. No. 1, the Marines are not withdrawing from Fallujah. These forces will be working alongside the Marines. These forces, when they come to fruition, will be answering to the Marines, as well as Iraqi Ministry of Defense. So this is just Iraqi component of the coalition forces surrounding Fallujah. It is only happening in certain portions of the cordon. And the initial reports that we are getting would indicate that this repositioning of the Marines, to allow these forces to come in is going well.

With regards to the selection of the general who will be answering to General Conway, I understand -- I don't know his background. I would refer you to the Marines on that. I know that he has been carefully chosen, has been initially vetted. General Conway and General Maddox have expressed confidence -- initial confidence in him, and we'll see where this proceeds.

BAYLEY: I'd like to add to that Greg, that the political objectives that we have in Fallujah are really absolutely the same. Talk of a peace deal we've seen in the media yesterday and this morning is completely out of the question. What we have here at the moment is a tactical change. But what we still have are objectives, which are to restore law and order to the city. As quickly as possible, to rebuild the judicial system there, and to ensure that the -- those who have committed crimes in the past week of instability will face justice as soon as possible, and as effectively as possible.

KIMMITT: Yes, I would just want to make one comment. Certainly we would hope that a peace deal is in the offing. A peace deal is certainly not out of the question. In fact, we are doing everything we can to achieve peace inside the city of Fallujah. However, this is not...

BAYLEY: At this stage.

KIMMITT: ... at this stage, part of any long-term discussions between the insurgents inside the city of Fallujah and the Marines. In fact, what we have here is another example of Iraqis coming forward and saying we want to be part of this process. Just as Iraqi Governing Council came forward and said we want to be part of the political track for the discussions in Fallujah, you now have fellow Iraqis standing up and saying we would like to be part of the military solution to this as well. and we welcomed the contributions. We think this will add a tremendous amount of benefit to the operations in Fallujah, in the al Anbar Province and throughout Iraq.

MAIER: Allow me to follow-up. I mean we could enter academic discussion what means stay in Fallujah. Of course, Camp Fallujah isn't Fallujah as well. But what is the idea that the Marines go, withdraw or deploy in the camp, and the brigade will take over?

KIMMITT: No.

Next question -- Saul.

SAUL CHANNEL, "THE WASHINGTON POST" CORRESPONDENT: I'm Saul Channel (ph) of "The Washington Post." I'd like to ask about two areas, if you don't mind. With respect to Fallujah, can you tell me, General, what is the projected size of this brigade after it's fully formed? And can you tell us what proportion of the officers will actually be from Fallujah? And finally did this initiative come from Fallujans themselves in the form -- in particular, were any members of the Fallujah delegation that have been in discussions with the Marines over the past two weeks, did they -- you know, what were their take on this brigade plan?

And then also for both you and Gareth, can you tell us a little bit more about the impact of these assassinations today -- last night and today of the police colonel and of the DACT the chairman? And what sort of protection in particular, for Gareth, will CPA provide to people who are taking part in your governance initiative? You're trying to get citizens to come out and participate in local government, but if they're getting brutally killed, and you know, in such a horrible fashion, you know, what will the impact be? Thank you.

KIMMITT: Yes. On the First battalion of the Fallujah Brigade, we're looking at the order of 600 to 1100 personnel. That is the number that our Iraqi interlocutors have said may be available to put this together. It is our understanding that most of the personnel are either from Fallujah or the surrounding area. I would refer you to the Marines on the specificity of each one of the officers and where they come from.

On the issue of security, I'll certainly turn it over to Garth. But I think that the assassinations last night of two persons is, yet again, part of the long-standing attempt on the part of the terrorists, the criminals, the extremists who are trying to derail this process. I would like to say that this is the first time we've seen instances where government officials or police officials have been targeted. But certainly it's not.

We've had, to our understanding, more Iraqi Security Forces killed by hostile fire since the end of hostilities last May than we've had coalition forces. And it's a tremendous credit that even though we have lost so many of your fellow countrymen, that so many continue to come forward and say I want to be a -- want to have a stake in the new Iraq. I want to be part of the Iraqi police and part of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. Now, I want to be part of the Fallujah Brigade.

And I just think it demonstrates that there are many, many people in this country who understand the stakes of not stepping up, who understand the stakes of not jumping off the fence, who understand that they must have a leadership role in the new Iraq. And those that die in the service of their country are honorable people and we should all be very grateful for their service.

BAYLEY: Saul, to just to take you up on the security point. It's clear that in addition to the security forces being killed, intellectuals have been killed over the past month; people who are absolutely key to rebuilding the new Iraq. That is why they've been targeted by all manner of people, Saddamists and international terrorists as well. It is a tragedy that something that we work very hard to ensure will not be repeated. You know that for security reasons, I can't go into how or when, or why we put in planning to protect these people.

Where I would say is that as we develop the Iraqi police and professionalize them over the next months, we've got plans to professional -- to have professional training for 3,500 police officers going through the months ahead. It will be absolutely essential if those police who know the streets of Baghdad who know the neighborhoods, who know who is the bad guy and who is not, will take their full part in protecting these people; at the same time coalition does everything it can on its side to protect them.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to the bulk of today's briefing from the coalition provisional authority out of Baghdad. General Mark Kimmitt, also Gareth Baley, spokesman for the coalition.

The main points made, especially what is taking place around Fallujah, the proposed Fallujah brigade, the gathering of former Iraqi soldiers and helping the coalition forces that are there right now in trying to maintain control in Fallujah.

The general making the point that the Marines are not withdrawing from Fallujah, that this will be one part of the coalition forces that are working in the Fallujah area.

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