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Bremer Calls on People to Keep Perspective on Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2003 – Ambassador Paul Bremer said Americans must keep things in perspective as they hear reports from Iraq.

Yesterday saw an attack on British soldiers in the south that killed six. In addition, there have been a number of clashes between Americans and what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld calls "dead-enders" Baath Party loyalists and remnants of the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam and Iraqi Republican Guards.

Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, said on NBC's "Today Show" June 25 that it's not clear who was responsible for the attacks in the south. "They certainly were forces who are disloyal to the Iraqi people, because these attacks on coalition forces, whether they're American or British, are really attacks on the Iraqi people," he said.

"We're, after all, here, having liberated the Iraqi people, to try to help them get back on their feet after 30 years of dictatorship. And these kinds of attacks certainly don't serve either our interests or the interests of the Iraqi people."

Bremer disputed the idea that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. "It's important to take this all a little bit in perspective," he said.

In the short time since coalition forces crossed into Iraq, there has been tremendous progress, he said. "We've fought a very successful war with very few casualties (and) almost no collateral damage," he said.

The coalition avoided many of the dangers experts predicted, Bremer noted. There has not been the humanitarian disaster that many predicted. There were not hordes of refugees. The oil fields were captured intact and are even now pumping crude.

Coalition forces and humanitarian relief organizations are restoring basic services, he continued. And the coalition is working with Iraqi citizens to install an interim Iraqi government.

"So it's important to keep this in perspective," Bremer said. "Regrettable as these attacks are and it certainly is important for us to stop them the fact of the matter is, we're on program here. We're going to proceed. And we're not going to be deterred by a few fanatics."

Other news in Iraq concerns sorting out the details of a strike against two suspected leadership targets near the Syrian border on June 18. Between 20 and 30 people were "scooped up" in the special operations strike against a convoy and a compound, said a senior defense official speaking on background.

DoD officials said the strikes were a result of intelligence gathered from captive regime leaders. There is no report of number of Iraqis killed or wounded in the attacks.

Five Syrian border guards are in coalition custody following the attacks three were wounded and are receiving care at an American medical facility, officials said.

The senior defense official said the details on the incident are unclear because the area is so remote and because coalition forces involved in the incident have moved to a different operation. "Between (operations) Peninsula Strike and Desert Scorpion, there've been hundreds of people rolled up," the official said. "There have been large handfuls of activities. This was one of those."

In the United States, Navy personnel took control of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a resident of Qatar, after President Bush designated him to be an enemy combatant. Al-Marri was transferred to the Naval Consolidated Brig, in Charleston, S.C., on June 23.

Al-Marri was being held in Peoria, Ill., where he was living when he was arrested. Federal law enforcement officials arrested al-Marri in December 2001. News reports said he was an al Qaeda sleeper agent who allegedly met with Osama bin Laden and worked to settle al Qaeda terrorists as they arrived in America.

According to a DoD news release, al-Marri was designated an enemy combatant "due to recent credible information provided by other detainees in the war on terrorism."

According to the Department of Justice, enemy combatant status may be used to describe an individual who, under the laws and customs of war, has become a member of, or associated himself with, hostile enemy forces, thereby attaining the status of a belligerent.

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