DoD News Briefing - ASD PA Clarke and Rear Adm. Gove
(Also participating was Rear Adm. David Gove, deputy director for global operations, J-3, Joint Staff. Slides shown during this briefing can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2002/g021011-D-6570C.html.)
Clarke: Good afternoon, everybody.
First, on behalf of the department and the American people, we would like to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and friends and colleagues of Lance Corporal Antonio J. Sledd of Tampa, Florida. Corporal Sledd was killed by terrorists on Wednesday while on a training mission in Kuwait. A second Marine, Lance Corporal George R. Simpson, was wounded in the incident. The two men who launched the attack against the Marines were killed.
In a separate incident in Kuwait yesterday, three Marines were wounded by the accidental explosion of unidentified ordnance. They were treated, and their injuries are not life-threatening.
The casualties remind us of the constant dangers these people face, the men and women in the U.S. military who are serving around the world. Their service is difficult, it's dangerous, and deserves our real thanks and praise.
In the briefing on September 30th, the secretary and the chairman discussed the no-fly zones in Iraq, which were established to protect the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's aggression. And they discussed also the many violations -- Iraqi violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Since we showed those videotapes a week or so ago to audiences around the world, and since we dropped leaflets urging the Iraqi forces not to fire on coalition aircraft, the Iraqis have continued to fire on coalition pilots on an almost daily basis.
Admiral Gove will give you some details of the last few days, but if there was ever a case of "Watch what he does, not what he says," this is it. While expressing willingness to work with the United Nations and the international community, Saddam Hussein orders his military to attack American and coalition pilots.
Earlier today at the White House, President Bush led a ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of the American campaign to aid Afghan children. And as you know, children from around this country have been donating dollars -- and usually it is a dollar at a time -- to help children in Afghanistan live a better life. To date, America's Fund for Afghan Children has raised more than $10 million for the purchase of school supplies, shelter and medical provisions. As I said, most of this is one dollar at a time, kids reaching into their piggybanks, into their savings account to help children in another part of the world that they'll probably never see. And as the president highlighted today, the United States government since last October has given more than $500 million for the relief and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan, and another $1.45 billion has been authorized for the next four years.
The ceremony also featured two soldiers, two American soldiers, who have done great work for the Afghan children. Captain Britton London led an Army civil affairs team in Orgun-e, Afghanistan, that repaired health clinics, built new schools, provided school supplies to children, dug wells for local villages and distributed food. Also at the ceremony was Sergeant First Class Victor Alan Andersen, an Army medic, who conducted assessments of hospitals and clinics, distributed supplies to medical facilities and treated broken bones, gunshot wounds, cuts, diseases and a small child who evidently was bitten by a donkey.
Then, to finish up, in honor of my partner here, we at the department would like to wish the Navy a very happy birthday this Sunday -- 157 years. Admiral, it's all yours.
Q: Two hundred and --
Q: Two hundred and fifty-seven.
Gove: Two hundred and twenty-seven. (Chuckles.)
Clarke: Which was it?
Staff: The Navy guy says 227.
Gove: Two twenty-seven.
Clarke: Two twenty-seven. There you go. (Soft laughter, cross talk.)
Gove: Thank you, Ms. Clarke.
Good afternoon. I'd like to add our deepest condolences to the family of Lance Corporal Sledd, who died in Kuwait on Tuesday. Lance Corporal Sledd and another Marine were fired upon by two terrorists while participating in the annual military exercise Eager Mace. Lance Corporal Sledd made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.
We also wish the three Marines injured in the Udari Range accident and the Marine injured in the shooting on Tuesday a speedy recovery as well.
As the global war on terrorism continues, our forces in Afghanistan continue to recover weapons. On Wednesday a Special Forces team in Bamian, located southwest of Bagram, discovered a weapons cache containing over 1,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance, to include RPGs, 82-mm high-explosive recoil-less rifle rockets, 57-mm rockets, 120-mm high-explosive mortars, 107-mm artillery projectiles and M-60 rifle grenades.
Also on Wednesday, a Special Forces team operating near Kandahar found a cache of 1,000 82-mm mortar rounds and 300 multiple rocket- launcher rounds.
Yesterday Special Forces recovered three truckloads of anti- aircraft machine gun ammo at a site north of Tarin Kowt in the south central part of the country. They also recovered a weapons cache of 15 SA-7s and three RPGs in the vicinity of the town of Sherberghan, near the northwestern border with Turkmenistan.
Moving now to Iraq, the tally of Iraqi firings on coalition aircraft has risen to 122 since September 16th when Saddam Hussein sent the letter to the U.N. inviting weapons inspectors back into his country. Of those 122 firings, 33 were against aircraft flying in Operation Northern Watch, and 89 were against Operation Southern Watch coalition aircraft.
We're going to show you some gun-camera footage now of coalition responses this week to Iraqi firings.
The first video clip shows an Operation Northern Watch F-16 dropping ordnance on an SA-3 launcher.
The second clip shows an Operation Southern Watch coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on an Iraqi Spoonrest radar near al-Basra yesterday.
Q: What kind of aircraft, by the way?
Gove: That's a coalition F-16 aircraft.
Staff: Only the first one.
Gove: Correction; that was the first one.
Here's the second clip on the Spoonrest radar, which is targeted in the middle of an open field about 600 feet from the nearest building.
Q: When was this?
Gove: This was yesterday.
Q: And the aircraft in the second one was also an F-16?
Gove: I'll get that for you [F-16]. I'm not sure which aircraft it was.
Q: And can you explain what a Spoonrest radar is?
Gove: It's a portable air-defense radar used by Iraqi air defense system.
Q: About a week ago, another one of those was targeted a couple of times and, I believe, destroyed. Do they seem -- they seem to have a lot of those. Is that something that they can just replace easily?
Gove: I'm not sure what the Iraqi inventory is. They obviously have multiple numbers of Spoonrest radars. And we have destroyed numerous over the last couple of years.
Q: Was this near the airport?
Gove: It was near the airport, but well away from any of the airport buildings that were supporting the airport.
Clarke: And one of the reasons he's making a point of saying that is there was some reporting out of Baghdad that suggested it was the buildings themselves right near the airport. And it could not be further from the truth. It was at least 600 feet away.
Q: To follow up on that: Admiral, do you know what the provocation was that led to today's strike in the South that was reported by Central Command this morning? Just said it was a hostile activity.
Gove: The specifics are not releasable yet. It was that the aircraft -- coalition aircraft were fired upon and the response is coordinated by the Joint Task Force commander in Southwest Asia.
Q: Fired upon so are we saying, I mean, immediate response or was this a planned kind of operation, preplanned or whatever --
Gove: This was a relatively immediate response.
Q: Going back to I guess it was Tuesday's incident with the two guys that fired on and killed the Marines, how did they get close enough? What kind of perimeter defenses are normally up? The, obviously, Kuwaiti forces weren't providing force protection. Could you -- I know you can't go into specifically what kind of things were, but does this concern you-all, does it show some kind of a vulnerability, and have you changed anything?
Clarke: Well, I'd just say we're always concerned about force protection. I've gotten a little bit of information over the last couple days of the area itself. It's a mixed-use island, for instance, and there are civilians there. I believe there's a government building there, as well. So there are different ways for this to occur. But it was a terrorist attack, and as many precautions as you might take; it's hard to protect against every terrorist attack.
Do you want to add anything?
Gove: The Marines as well as the Kuwaiti government are conducting investigations, and all aspects of this attack will be looked at closely for lessons learned.
Q: Anything on the Marines that did kill the two guys? Were they -- could you explain -- were they guards? Where they guarding the exercise, or did they have live ammo for a different part of it?
Gove: It was a group of Marines in a different location, not sure how far away from the original attack, which responded to fire from the two terrorists. The fire from the group killed the two terrorists.
Q: Right. But were they participating in the exercise? Because it's my understanding this was not a live-fire exercise and so therefore they would be carrying blanks. And I know that there are some safeties on the guns that they use when they're in these exercises that don't allow them to fire live ammunition. So do you know how it was that they had live ammo?
Gove: I do not. It's under investigation. And when the results of the investigation are complete, then those details will be available.
Q: (Inaudible) -- the first shooting, the second group of Marines?
Gove: I don't have that level of detail.
Q: Torie, the White House -- senior White House officials are, in fact, now talking a bit more today about this notion of a post-war Iraq and what it would look like, and the U.S. thinking about a military role in post-war Iraq. What is this building's thinking, as much guidance as you can give us, about a military occupation force, a military role in a post-war Iraq? What tasks the military is most likely to undertake?
Clarke: It's too soon to say what specific tasks might be. And clearly there are a lot of senior people in this administration who are focused on what a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would be like. And I'd like to say, first and foremost, I think the Iraqi people themselves would have some very strong opinions about what a post- Saddam Hussein government and system would be like.
There are fundamentals to the process, if you will, that I'm sure are shared by a lot of the Iraqi people and shared by their neighbors. And you want one country. You want a government that doesn't invade and threaten its neighbors. You want a government that does not have and use weapons of mass destruction. You want a government that is respectful and represents the interests of minorities in the country. To get to that situation will take time. It will be very hard. It will clearly involve a multinational effort. But it is way too soon to start talking specifics. There -- as I said, there are a lot of senior people in this administration who are focused on that part of the thinking and worrying through those issues. But it's too soon to say what specific roles might be.
Clearly there would be -- and this is "would be;" these are hypotheticals at this stage of the game -- there would be security considerations. So DoD would have an important role. Clearly, one of your first priorities would be to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction. So there's another role. But I for one think it is way too soon to start talking specifics. And again, I think the Iraqi people themselves will have a lot to say about what their world is like after Saddam Hussein.
Q: Is there any thinking by the Defense secretary at the moment about putting a U.S. military person in charge of Iraq, analogous or similar to the role of Douglas MacArthur in post-war occupation Japan?
Clarke: The thinking now and the work now is part of an interagency process, and that's where it should stay.
Q: Is there any concern that by even thinking or talking about establishing a U.S. military government role in Iraq, in a post-Saddam Iraq, that it would just feed the suspicions, apprehensions, accusations by people as recently as Ayman al Zawahiri that the U.S. is setting out to conquer the Arab world?
Clarke: I think most reasonable people know and believe that the United States has no aspirations for other people's lands, we have no hopes or aspirations to run other people's lives. That's just not what we're about, and that's not our intent, and that clearly wouldn't be part of the planning going forward.
As I said, you're talking a lot of hypotheticals here. There would be a security situation that you would have to deal with in a post-Saddam-Hussein world.
Again, I just go back to the Iraqi people. These are oppressed people, these are tortured people. But these are smart people and they're well-educated. And there are a lot of the defectors, Iraqis who have gotten out of the country, who have a clear interest and vested interest in what happens with that country, and I think they are going to have a huge part to play in this.
Q: Torie, you're mentioning many exiled Iraqis. And it would seem that they might have a more -- it might be more seemly for them to have a bigger role rather than having a U.S. military government, don't you think?
Clarke: Oh, I think it's too soon to say exactly what will happen. I think the important thing is that a lot of smart people are focused on how you do it. And clearly, there are lots of conversations and discussions going on with the Iraqi National Congress, looking at ways to draw down on the funds for the training of the Iraqi liberation army -- that is going on. Clearly, those people will have a role. How it shakes out, I don't know.
Q: Admiral, you characterized 122 firings since September 16th. Can you tell us what that is as far as numbers? Are you seeing -- is it more bold on the Iraqis' part? We went through this numbers game with General Myers and his presentation. But is it more, is it more significant in recent weeks, as far as the firings go?
Gove: Yeah, the numbers overall across the three calendar years, 2000, 2001 and 2002, are about consistent. And there's been a remarkable number, I think, since September 16th in terms of continuous action -- or near-continuous engagements in the northern and southern no-fly zones. And I can't get into more details in terms of specifics, the current analysis across the last several weeks.
Q: Now, on some of the targeting, is it also some of the things that Secretary Rumsfeld talked about, not just in response to firings, but actually degrading Iraq's air defense, not necessarily having been fired on or painted by radar?
Gove: The attacks on coalition aircraft in both Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch have been continuing. And our responses are against both the shooters -- the facilities -- or the launchers that shoot, as well as the integrated air defense system that supports the targeting of coalition aircraft. And we've been very open about -- that we're going to go after, you know, the infrastructure and help degrade the capability that targets coalition aircraft whenever they're fired on.
Q: Admiral, can you talk about whether the number of actual patrols in the no-fly zones have increased in the last couple of months or six months?
Gove: I will get that information for you. I think it's consistent, but I'll -- will verify it and get it back.
Clarke: Let's go back to Jim.
Q: Yeah, going back to the question of a possible U.S. military occupation of Iraq after a war: Would it be possible for the U.S. military to ensure that the country is rid of weapons of mass destruction without having an occupation, where they're in complete control of the country for some period of time?
Clarke: Well, you get into -- let me repeat a couple of things. The president hasn't made any decisions about military action. He has not said that military action will occur. Having said that, you know, there are so many people; there are so many countries. Look at the vote in Congress yesterday and last night -- so many people who clearly think that Iraq would be a better place, the world -- the region and the world would be a better place if Saddam Hussein were not running the country. So it just makes sense, and it's common sense to begin planning and begin thinking through the tough issues of how you would do this.
The only thing I would say, Jim -- on the weapons of mass destruction is, it will be hard. I mean, they have gotten very clever and very agile in hiding these programs: mobile means, putting them in bunkers, putting them in all sorts of different places. It would be very, very hard and be very time-consuming.
Q: Two questions. First, on the occupation, question: Ari Fleischer seemed to pretty strongly try to knock down that story today and say the idea that Tommy Franks essentially would be a MacArthur- esque military commander of Iraq was the least likely option to be considered or least likely option under consideration. You haven't said that here. You've --
Clarke: What I've tried to say -- it's too soon to think about or speculate on what the options might be at all. People -- smart people in this administration have begun to think, how do you address these sorts of issues in a post-Saddam Hussein world? But let me be very clear: I've tried to say I think it is very premature to talk about what the options might be. What I'm trying to do is wave you off any specifics or any serious options, "It's this one versus that one." It's just not at that stage of the game.
Q: The second question is along the lines of common sense that you just mentioned to start thinking about this. Give that there is a -- resolutions have come forward from Congress, do you think that we will begin to see now something of a more overt military buildup in that area as a sign to Hussein that we're serious or to allies that we're serious? Now that the Congress has essentially given the president this power, whether the president chooses to exercise it or not, do you think we'll start to see something more overt in that region in the way of a buildup?
Clarke: I think two things are very -- two or three things are very important. The president hasn't decided. We are still working hard -- the secretary of State, the NSC -- working hard with the United Nations on that resolution. So there's an important process that is still under way before any decisions are reached as to what the president decides to do.
Having said that, the secretary has said from up here, the chairman has said from up here that if the president decides military action is the course to follow, the U.S. military will be ready, and the U.S. military will be ready to move quickly. That's it.
Q: There have been some concerns expressed, including from within U.S. intelligence agencies, though, that an attack on Iraq would spark terrorist -- new terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Is that a legitimate concern, and is it part of the consideration as you plan ahead?
Clarke: There are so many concerns. But I was talking to some folks about this this morning, looking at the stories and the reporting off the -- what the CIA had declassified from the testimony the other day and the hard and fast conclusions about what people's thoughts were or what their positions are, based on very, very small aspects of the documents and the testimony. And people focused on one or two sentences and says, "Well, this is the position" or "this is their conclusion." That's the furthest thing from the truth. I mean, I have seen these people brief as well, and seen very comprehensive presentations. And they say a lot of what you see the secretary say from up here. There's some information we know. There's some information about which we have a little less knowledge, but some certainty. And then there's a whole lot of information we don't know.
The thing I -- one of the things I was struck by in the portions of the testimony that were declassified -- in the above dialogue, the witness's qualifications -- quote, "in the foreseeable future" -- comma -- "given the conditions we understand now," end quote, were intended to underscore that the likelihood of Saddam using WMD for blackmail, deterrence or -- using WMD for blackmail, deterrence or otherwise grows as his arsenal builds. Think about that. I mean, you can take out a sentence or two there and say that what they were saying is, if we just let him keep doing what he's doing, the likelihood of an extraordinarily dangerous situation grows.
So I would just wave people off -- people drawing hard and fast conclusions from a sentence or two on a declassified document.
Q: Besides whatever those people said, is it a concern here that that could be the case, that groups would be more -- that an invasion of Iraq might spark new terrorism here?
Clarke: People around here take any kind of conflict very, very seriously. It's a dangerous business. Lots of things can go wrong. Someone can go up in a plane. That is a very dangerous circumstance. So they take every action very seriously. The president in his remarks last night said, war is not your first choice, by any certainty. You try to exhaust every other option so you don't have to go to that. But, you know, I mean, my way of saying it is, is a cornered dog dangerous? Sure. But does that mean you let the dog run around the neighborhood and bite your kids? I don't think so. At what point do you say enough is enough.
Let's move around here. Otto.
Q: Admiral, the three Marines that were injured the other day on the Udari Range, there was some question as to whether or that was a leftover landmine or whether it was just unexploded ordnance from our use of the range. Has that been determined, whether there was actually a landmine there or was it a --
Gove: Not that I'm aware of. The investigation's in progress, and the Marines are receiving medical care. None are in danger. And once the investigation concludes, we'll be able to tell whether or not it was a landmine or unexploded ordnance.
Q: I have a -- unrelated to Iraq, two weapons systems questions.
Clarke: Don't think you're going to score points by getting off --
Q: I don't care. (Laughter.) We'll talk about no-fly zones in a second. (Laughter.)
What's the status of the A-12 negotiations with the companies? Why haven't you started collecting dollars against these guys? Or are you hoping that the situation won't come to that?
Clarke: The situation hasn't been resolved. I think you're -- at least you were aware of the fact that the Navy has sent DFAS a letter saying, start the coordination process here, start to figure this out. So that is a wheel turning. But I have nothing new to give you.
Q: Well, how close is the Pentagon and the companies to any kind of resolution, a settlement, any --
Clarke: I couldn't characterize it for you.
Q: Another separate subject. The Comanche helicopter, the $40 billion Army helicopter. There was a report today that Pete Aldridge yesterday approved the Army's plan to restructure this thing and essentially keep it going, giving it his imprimatur. Is that true or not?
Clarke: Nothing's been signed.
Q: Nothing's been signed.
Clarke: No. So that report was wrong.
Q: Is there -- next week, possibly, or --
Clarke: You know, just -- it's '04 budget. It's one of many programs that are under review. They're going through a really tough scrutiny to see how it's going to meet our needs for a 21st century military, how it's going to fit into the defense strategy. But we're not going to be talking about it in a piecemeal approach.
Q: Admiral, a quick one for you on the no-fly zone firings, since I don't want get off that. Are there any indications these attacks have been anything but unguided shots in the sky, golden BB- type shots versus well-coordinated attacks?
Gove: My understand is that the launches are unguided, either unguided rockets or AAA, anti-aircraft artillery. In terms of coordination, they have an air defense system which is utilized in order to help target the aircraft from the air defense system.
Q: Is it fair to say that if Iraq really wanted to shoot down a plane, they would be using radars to guide the missiles rather than firing unguided? Is that true or accurate?
Gove: I can't comment on what Iraq would do or not do if they had unguided weapons or chose to use them or not.
Q: But from an efficiency standpoint, it's more dangerous to our fliers if they were guided, as opposed to unguided, attacks?
Gove: I would say that it's dangerous to our fliers, the coalition pilots that are operating there, regardless of how the ammunition is used to shoot at our aircraft and our pilots. And certainly if Iraq had a -- or demonstrates a greater capability, the risk will be higher. But it's high risk now; they're in combat. And that's why we respond the way we do.
Q: Following on that, have we just been very fortunate to not lose a plane, a pilot, up to this point, with the amount of firings that have been happening over the past couple of months?
Gove: Our pilots, our coalition pilots are in combat, and they are trained, they have great equipment and great capability, and they're able to not be successfully targeted and shot at by Iraqi air defense system and their missiles or anti-aircraft fire. I mean, whether or not they've been fortunate -- it's terrific that nobody has been shot down yet. But we have very capable forces in both the Northern Watch and Southern Watch areas.
Q: Is anybody in either the Pentagon or the U.S. military attempting to determine if this sniper being sought in the Washington, D.C. area is either an active duty or former military? Or has local law enforcement or federal law enforcement asked the Pentagon or military to help them in that determination?
Clarke: You should talk to Montgomery County. We're not going to be talking about anything having to do with that from up here. That's Montgomery County, it's the FBI, it's the other municipalities involved.
Q: So it sounds like they have sought your assistance --
Clarke: We're just not talking about it.
Q: -- but you're just reluctant to say so.
Clarke: We're just not talking about it.
Q: Has there been any determination by the Pentagon or the military that this sniper may indeed be former military or active-duty military?
Clarke: We aren't taking about it, Mick.
Q: Has the Navy ordered two commercial ships to carry more armor to the Gulf, from the East Coast to the Gulf, and from European ports to points in the Mideast?
Gove: I'm not aware of specific ordering by the Navy. We move equipment routinely worldwide in order to best position our forces to make them most effective against the global war on terrorism. The Military Sealift Command does use contract vessels to help in the sealift load. And you'd need to take your question to the Navy for specifics.
Q: Well but, sir, I mean, there's a report that in fact there was an order put out for two ships to carry more armor to the Gulf in November. Can you confirm that?
Clarke: I just pile on to what the admiral said. We move people and equipment and resources all the time, and reinforce and do other things. The president hasn't made any decisions about military action. However, as the secretary said, as the chairman has said, as the vice has said, as a lot of us have said from up here, if the president decides that military action is the right course, we will be ready, and we will be ready to move quickly.
Q: Torie, the family of Lance Corporal Sledd has asked that his brother, who I believe is stationed in Okinawa, be sent stateside. Has the Pentagon considered that or has it taken any actions in response to that?
Clarke: A couple of things. I can only imagine what that -- I can't imagine what that mother is going through. It's just got to be terrible. And so your heart just breaks for her and breaks for the family. I was just getting briefed on it before we came out here. And my understanding -- and we will clear this up if it's wrong -- is that the Navy will take that under consideration and decide what to do. So we'll let you know a little bit later, but that's my understanding at this time.
Q: When things got underway in Afghanistan, Secretary Rumsfeld was really clear on U.S. intentions there, which was not to be an occupying force; to have U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan as needed to fight the war, but not to be part of a peacekeeping force. Can the same general statement be made about an Iraq situation? Has that been something that's been ruled out?
Clarke: I don't know what you mean when you say didn't want the United States to be a part of peacekeeping force. I would --
Q: Of an occupying peacekeeping force.
Clarke: I would push back hard and say the United States -- you asked for it -- United States and countless others are heavily involved in trying to maintain --
Q: (Inaudible) --
Clarke: Don't be sarcastic.
Q: -- (inaudible) --
Clarke: Don't be sarcastic.
Q: -- (inaudible) -- Afghanistan. I am not being sarcastic. I was there. I saw it. I was deeply impressed.
Q: However --
Clarke: However. Okay.
Q: -- Secretary Rumsfeld made it very clear right from the start that the U.S. would be there in a war-fighting capacity and in a support capacity but not as an occupying force, having no designs on, you repeated the instructions -- as a general rule.
But specifically to Iraq, is that principle underlying planning for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, that the U.S. would be not an occupying force and that they're only there in a combat force role?
Clarke: I would specifically and aggressively weigh you off any hard and fast conclusions about what might happen in a post- Saddam Hussein Iraq. I will just --
Q: You can't say whether or not --
Clarke: There is no desire for the United States to spend any length of time somewhere longer than we have to. Absolutely no desire. But there's a clear and smart recognition that if we are faced with a post-Saddam Hussein world, there would be a lot of things that we and coalition partners and the Iraqi people -- and I want to emphasize that again -- the Iraqi people and the countries in the region would have to figure out.
Q: This question, through, is really about roles. Obviously --
Clarke: Right. And it is too soon to say what roles might be. Would there be a real need for security? Absolutely. Would there be need for an intensive, aggressive effort to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely. But it is too soon to say what specific roles might be.
Bob, just in from the --
Q: (Inaudible.) Has the Navy secretary made a decision on changing the status of Lieutenant Commander Speicher from the Gulf War?
Clarke: Check with the Navy.
Q: You don't an answer?
Clarke: Check with the Navy.
That's it? Thanks, guys.
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