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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Stakeout following NBC Meet the Press

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 13, 2003

(Media stakeout following NBC Meet the Press)

 

     Q:  What can you tell us about the rescue of the (Inaudible.)?  Where they the POWs or the MIAs or what?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I think that until families have been notified the proper way to characterize it is that seven Americans have been taken into possession of American forces, and we have their names.  They're all American servicemen.  They're in good shape.  Two have gunshot wounds.  Rather than try to characterize them as having been POWs or MIAs or what units they come from, that will be known soon enough and we've got to appreciate the feelings of all the families who have prisoners of war or MIAs, that this is the best way to handle it.

 

     Q:  Did they escape?  Were they rescued?  Can you tell us about the process?

 

     Rumsfeld:  It's interesting.  It's happening quite frequently now in Iraq.  In this case Iraqis came up to American military and said that there are seven Americans at this location, and it was about six or eight kilometers south of Tikrit, and that you should go get them, and they did. 

 

We're having that happen a lot.  People are coming up and telling us where Ba'ath party members are that are killing people, where Fedayeen Saddam death squad people are that are trying to intimidate the local population, where some of these foreigners who have come into the country thinking they're going to help fight for Saddam Hussein are located.  There’s quite a few of them still in Baghdad.  Some of them killed some of our folks at a checkpoint yesterday.  They're telling us where they are and we're able to go find them.

 

     In fact there was quite a firefight yesterday and I think 40 or 50 of them were killed, which is a good thing.

 

     Q:  Do we know, sir, whether Iraqi leaders have gone into Syria?  What do we know about that?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Sure, they have.  Senior Iraqi people have been moving into Syria and some staying and some transiting.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:   Relatively calm.  Not permissive yet.  But no organized resistance and services are in the process of being restored.  There is not any organized fight taking place.  A lot of people have disappeared from the country and the Ba'athist party senior people seem not to be there.

 

     Q:  At the end of the show you made a comment about you don't believe that there's a fall-back (Inaudible.), that there are some parts that have been removed.  Can you elaborate?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh sure.  I get told periodically that Number X and Number Y is gone, and I say good.  But I don't keep count.

 

     Q:  Do you know how many of the 52 are still on the table?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I could guess, but why?

 

     Q:  Is Syria trying to cooperate with us, with the United States, since your warning (Inaudible.)?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Not noticeably.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh, you know, we certainly are hopeful that Syria will not become a haven for war criminals or terrorists.

 

     Q:  Franks says that you have Saddam's DNA.  This is a good thing, I would imagine, if he has defected?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I heard that he said that, I just happen not to know about it.  I'm sure it's true if he said it.

 

     Q:  In the next round, what role would you like to see the U.N. play in the aftermath?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well certainly the president's indicated he would like the U.N. to play a role and there's lots of things they do that can be very helpful.  That's up to the president to decide exactly how that works out. 

 

     The French, of course, have announced, I think, that they've opposed certain kinds of roles for the United Nations.  I don't know what will ultimately be decided, but certainly I'm hopeful that they will be cooperative and supportive and helpful.

 

     Q:  What's your reaction to the North Koreans' latest statement (Inaudible)?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I didn't see them.  I didn't even read the papers this morning.

 

     It's nice to see you all.

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