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'Vast Majority' of Iraq Relatively Stable, Rumsfeld Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Dec. 1, 2003 – Though sporadic violence continues in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today that "the vast majority of the country" is relatively stable and not in conflict.

Rumsfeld, along with Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with reporters at NATO headquarters here, where the alliance's defense ministers are engaged in a two-day conference.

"There's no question but that there are periodic incidents where people have been killed or wounded we know that," Rumsfeld said. "We also know that the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, that people are engaged in economic activity throughout the country, and that the vast majority of the country is not in conflict. It is in a relatively stable circumstance."

The secretary said a limited number of people in Iraq are determined to kill both innocent people involved with the coalition and innocent Iraqis. "Those people are also being rounded up, captured, killed, wounded and interrogated," he said.

Pace, who said he had just visited Iraq, agreed with the secretary's assessment. "You have those who are bent on preventing the Iraqi people from experiencing freedom those who look and see what tremendous progress has been made and are afraid that their 'thuggery,' their way of intimidation, is in fact being overpowered" by the coalition and the will of the Iraqi people, Pace said.

The vice chairman said it's hard to tell on the basis of one attack whether the Dec. 1 firefight in Samarra, Iraq, that left dozens of insurgents dead means they've changed their tactics or have access to coordinated intelligence. "The fact is that in this particular case, about 50 or so of the enemy did collect together for whatever reason they thought was appropriate," he said. "They attacked, and they were killed. So I think it would be instructive to them for future analysis when they're thinking about what they're going to do next."

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