MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and then we will be happy to take your questions.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon. The coalition continues offensive operations to establish a stable Iraq. To that end, in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,845 patrols, 16 offensive operations, 42 Air Force and Navy sorties, and released 12 detainees.
In the north-central zone of operations, three persons in a black Opel opened fire on an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps checkpoint northeast of Baghdad. The attack resulted in one ICDC soldier killed and one ICDC soldier wounded. The wounded soldier was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
In Baghdad, coalition forces were reopening multiple traffic control points in the southeastern area when they were attacked by an improvised explosive device. One coalition soldier was killed, and one other soldier later died of wounds. An explosive ordnance team later assessed the IED to be a 500-pound bomb.
Yesterday personnel from a private security company were traveling on Route Irish when their convoy was attacked in northwest Baghdad from an overpass by crew served weapons. One Iraqi security guard was killed and one was wounded. The wounded Iraqi citizen is receiving treatment at a coalition medical facility.
Today at 13:12, a remote detonated car bomb exploded 400 meters west of the clock tower in central Baghdad. Iraqi ambulances and police were on site shortly after the incident. According to the Department of Health, there were four Iraqi citizens killed and 25 wounded. Four vehicles were destroyed, including the car bomb.
In the western zone of operations, Fallujah remains calm. Coalition forces are executing reconstruction and clean-up projects with over 1,400 Iraqis employed in those projects. Yesterday coalition forces conducted a raid against an anti-Iraqi cell leader in Barwanah. The target is suspected of being involved in multiple attacks against the Al Asad Airbase, and the placement of numerous IEDs along military convoy routes. Coalition forces detained one suspect and confiscated weapons and ammunition, various documents and passports.
In the central-south zone of operations, Muqtada militia continues to attack coalition forces in Kufa. There were three incident last night. In two of those incidents, coalition forces were attacked by small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. And in a third incident one mortar round impacted near a coalition base camp.
Yesterday coalition forces continued the renovation of the Al Hillal Jail at a total cost of $65,000. The Philippine CMIC battalion conducted a MEDCAP at the Al Amirah Health Center, in coordination with Irbil Ministry of Health, and approximately 400 patients were seen during that MEDCAP.
In the southeastern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 308 patrols and captured one anti-coalition suspect. Last night enemy forces attacked coalition forces in Al Amara. There were a number attacks over the last 24 hours, with the concentration of engagements in the vicinity of the CMIC House. Coalition patrols through the city were attacked with RPGs and small arms fire seven times as they were conducting search operations to locate possible mortar firing points. Coalition forces returned fire in each event, forcing the enemy to break contact. And in the nine engagements there were no coalition casualties.
MR. SENOR: And with that we'll be happy to take your questions. Charlie, go ahead.
Q Thanks, Dan. I wonder if you could comment on something that Mahmoud Ahman told Reuters today, which is that the Americans asked for the meeting today, the Governing Council meeting to be delayed, and that there's been interference from the U.S. in trying to figure out who's going to be in the new interim government.
MR. SENOR: Interference with whom?
Q With their process.
MR. SENOR: With the GC process?
Q Yeah, and trying to figure out --
MR. SENOR: I'm not familiar, Charlie, with the GC process. I can tell you about the broader process that the U.N. is leading. As you've heard me say many times from this podium, the U.N. process has been designed and has been executed to reach out to Iraqis from all corners of the country, all regions, all ethnic groups, all religions, all communities, to try and build the consensus around an interim government to take control here on June 30th when we hand over sovereignty, for the seven months between June 30th and when there are direct elections in Iraq in January 2005.
And Mr. Brahimi, who is leading this effort, has met with dozens and dozens and dozens of organizations across the country -- he's probably met with hundreds if not thousands of Iraqis. I'll let him speak to the stats and facts of his consultations over the last several months. But one thing is certain: Iraq is not a free country, and many individuals and many organizations will have different views about who should govern this country during the interim period and beyond. And they will express those views, whether in formal endorsement processes like the GC has done, or just in informal consultations with Mr. Brahimi, where they just make known who they think should be leading the government, or what kind of profile the individual should serve as prime minister, or any of the respective ministers. And so part of a broad discussion, in that Mr. Brahimi is hearing from many individuals and many groups, including the Governing Council. And when he's ready to make a formal announcement, he will. He's indicated that he thinks we'll be in a position in the next several days here to make a formal announcement based on the recommendation he's making now to the U.N.
Q Could I just follow up on that and ask if Ambassador Bremer has asked the GC to prepare to dissolve itself once the interim government is named?
MR. SENOR: Well, actually the GC has -- agrees to dissolve itself based on the November 15th -- if you look at the November 15th political agreement, it is that when an interim government is announced, the Governing Council dissolves, so there aren't two competing political institutions in Iraq.
And also if you look at the transitional administrative law, it makes clear -- which the Governing Council signed -- all the members of the Governing Council signed, which makes clear that the Governing Council dissolves before June 30th to allow an interim government to take over. So it is the Governing Council that on two separate occasions in two separate political agreements, in two distinct documents, has signed on for their dissolution in preparation for the June 30th handover.
Q Stephanie Halasz from CNN. I was wondering if you -- or what you can tell us about these 100 Iraqi policemen who arrived in Najaf over the weekend for joint U.S.-Iraqi patrols, and who apparently deserted after not being given flak jackets or shelter.
MR. SENOR: They certainly didn't desert. There are some logistics problems that hadn't been worked through by the time they got down there. They took a look at the situation down there and the accommodations that had not been properly orchestrated -- the whole organization was going to be put together for them in terms of sheltering them, so on and so forth, just wasn't ready by the time they got there. We expect that over the next day or two after those arrangements were made -- will be made -- that they'll be done there. But to suggest that somehow they were deserting is just not consistent with the facts.
Yes, go ahead, right behind you.
Q Just -- General Kimmitt, just wanted to ask you with regard to the events in Najaf and Kufa, do coalition forces consider it possible that forces beyond Sadr's control are responsible for some or all of the attacks? And I guess another question related to that is: How would you assess or how would you figure out whether it's Sadr ordering these attacks or some other group maybe that wants to make it look like it's Sadr?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, it doesn't really matter who is causing the attacks. If they are taking up arms against Iraqis, or if they are taking up arms against the coalition, they will be taken care of -- it's that simple.
Now, with regards to your specific question about are these people defying Muqtada, not listening to him, and that could be what's causing some of the fights in Najaf? Could be. Could it be some people that just haven't gotten the word? We don't think so. It's pretty clear that there's not a lot of fighting going on inside of Najaf right now. There is some fighting going on in Kufa. Could these be other organizations coming down, loosely affiliating themselves with Muqtada, or somehow coming down, causing trouble, hope to blame goes on Muqtada? It doesn't really matter. If these people are taking up arms, aiming weapons, shooting weapons at coalition soldiers or Iraqi citizens, we've got to take care of them. We have an obligation to provide a safe and secure environment here in Iraq, and we will.
MR. SENOR: I would just add while General Kimmitt has made the point that we will do what we have to do, we should also not lose sight of the fact that on the political side, on the civilian side of this, there continues to be serious leadership and serious initiative by Shi'a political and religious leaders that want a peaceful resolution to this process. They want to minimize bloodshed. And we should not take our eye off of the initiative that they took several days ago -- many days ago -- to seek a peaceful resolution here -- Iraqis dealing with Iraqis. This is -- obviously regardless of where this goes, it's very important to remember that we have real progress that was launched last week by virtue of the initiative that Iraqis are taking to reach resolution here. It's an important -- that in and of itself is an important first step.
GEN. KIMMITT: And it's important the way you ask the question --not to suggest that somehow we are going after these forces. And the way you ask the question, I responded we have to, when we get shot at, respond. But we continue to stay focused on a peaceful solution. We are encouraging a peaceful solution. We are looking forward to the political side coming forward with a set of mechanisms so that we can stop this fighting that's going on down in Kufa, because at the end of the day you'd much rather solve this peacefully and quietly than with a lot of noise and with a lot of weapons.
MR. SENOR: Yes. Go ahead.
Q (Inaudible) from NBC News, American Television. Despite the truce being called in Najaf and Kufa, you know we have seen fighting over the last couple of days in both regions -- did the truce actually have any effect at all? Did it come into effect?
And also another question. Was Muwaffaq Al Rubaie the intended target of today's car bomb? And can this be seen as an increase in the violence towards IGC members while they have discussions about selecting a new president?
MR. SENOR: No, there's no indication that Muwaffaq Al Rubaie was the target of any car bomb today. That was on the side of the street. As we understand, Muwaffaq Al Rubaie was nowhere near that location when it went off, and there's certainly no idea -- no intent -- no evidence that suggests who the specific target was. The bomb went off, and there was certainly no significant Iraqi leaders in the area when that bomb went off.
You say there was a lot of fighting going on in Najaf and Kufa. I need to correct you: there's been very little fighting going on in the vicinity of Najaf. As we have shown from the posterboards over the last couple of nights, every night since the unilateral suspension of offensive operations on the part of the coalition, I think we've seen one activity, one engagement in Najaf. All the rest of them were in Kufa.
Q And in terms of the truce, what would you say?
GEN. KIMMITT: First of all, the truce was a declaration put forth from Muqtada to the Shi'a House, which said we will stop the armed manifestation in Najaf. Those of my fighters who are not from Najaf will leave, everybody else will disarm, and life will get back to normal in Najaf. Well, we certainly haven't seen his fighters leave, nor have we seen any turning in of weapons. But there have not been in Najaf proper any armed manifestations. But, as we said a number of times, we expect that this paper he put forward at Shi'a House does not just narrowly define itself to the city of Najaf, but the entire Najaf governorate. That does include Kufa, it does include the entire middle Euphrates. We've got to stop this fighting, and because it's leading nowhere for these young people who are falling under the trance of Muqtada, and all they're doing is getting themselves hurt, getting themselves wounded, getting themselves killed.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q (Through interpreter.) Farouk Newspaper -- (inaudible) -- bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, Abu Zarqawi and Muqtada al-Sadr were heroes of the terrorism series. So who is the candidate after Zarqawi? Why did you fail to announce anything about your procedures in your surveillance? Thank you. The question is that all these names -- bin Laden, Zarqawi -- Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and al Zarqawi, Izzat al-Douri, Muqtada al-Sadr were all heroes of the terrorism in the American dictionary. They are terrorists that threaten the stability in Iraq and the world according to the Americans. After Muqtada al-Sadr and the Najaf, who is going to be the next name? Why is there silence with regard to Izzat al-Douri?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I think first of all if you want to suggest that Osama, Saddam, Zarqawi, Muqtada al-Sadr are heroes of terrorism, I wouldn't disagree with you. Nor -- but I would also tell you that it's not just the Americans who feel this way -- it's everyone in this world who has been affected by al Qaeda, who has been affected by the attacks by al Qaeda, everyone who has seen what al Qaeda and the other terrorist groups can do -- whether it's in Bali, whether it's in Spain, whether it's Istanbul. So I'm not certain why we would want to be considering them heroes, because they're anything but.
Now, in terms of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri -- we don't know where he is. We continue to place a large reward for him. We suspect that he has some measure of involvement in anti-Iraqi activities that we see on a day-to-day basis, and we would suspect that he is responsible for the deaths of many Iraqis over these past few months. So we will continue to hunt him, to bring him to justice.
In terms of who is going to be the next hero of terrorism, hopefully no one.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Bill Glauber with the Chicago Tribune. I have a question for each of you. For General Kimmitt, could you review the three incidents in Kufa, and were any of them one of the 16 offensive operations that you described, and also casualty figures on those incidents?
And, for Mr. Senor, we've heard that Mr. Bremer may have called off the GC meeting today, and that some of the GC believe that an outside candidate will be appointed for president. Could you clarify that?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, on the first question, certainly what was happening down in Kufa were not offensive operations. The technical term "force oriented zone reconnaissance" -- these were reconnaissance missions being run by the elements that you know well, having just come up from there. These units were going through the town of Kufa, ensuring a safe and secure environment. They were not conducting specific offensive operations, targeting a certain objective, targeting a certain leader, targeting a certain person. So, no, they were just conducting reconnaissance at these two locations, and the one, 23:35 and the one 22:48, and in each of those an American soldier was killed at them, and on this Memorial Day we grieve for their loss and we grieve for their families that are just getting that news now that their sons will not be coming back from this country, because they were conducting those operations.
MR. SENOR: To answer your question, I think anybody who has been an observer of the Governing Council over the past year would know that we are certainly not in a position to control their schedule and determine when they meet or when they don't meet. So, Ambassador Bremer doesn't call their meetings; Ambassador Bremer doesn't cancel their meetings.
As for the candidates for various positions, I really would defer to Mr. Brahimi, who has indicated that in the days ahead he will be in a position to make a formal announcement. I know there's a lot of interest in the press to engage in all sorts of speculation about who may be a candidate, who may not be a candidate, who is going to be in which position, who is not going to be in which position. The good news is that you will know for certainty very soon, and so you won't have to write lots of copy with speculation. You'll have answers soon. Mr. Brahimi has taken the lead on this. We have been quite clear this is a U.N.-led initiative. It is an initiative that was at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council and the request of the coalition when last January we jointly went to meet with the secretary general of the United Nations and asked that he send his experts into Iraq.
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