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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations and Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
June 15, 2004 9:05 PM EDT

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I just have a short update on the transition process and then General Kimmitt has a briefing, and then we will be happy to take your questions.

 

            I just want to give an update here on the status of the operational transition of the respective ministries in government. Right now nearly 60 percent of the Iraqi government has already been transitioned to Iraqi control.  These institutions are the ministries of Oil, Foreign Affairs, Health, Education, Public Works and Municipalities, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Displacement and Migration, Culture, Water Resources, Industry and Minerals, Planning and Development, Youth in Sports, Environment, and the Ministry of Transportation.  That is 15 ministries of Iraq's 26 ministries.

 

            Seven hundred and thirty-seven Iraqi workers are covered in those ministries, reporting to Iraqi supervisors, reporting to Iraqi ministers.  These Iraqis are already making the decisions, carrying out the day-to-day responsibilities of their own governments for their   own people, and these ministers are already responsible for their own policies, strategies and budgets.  So as the coalition's role in governance and operations management decreases, the amount of Iraq's authority over its own affairs increases.  And that will continue as we lead up to June 30th, and then of course, afterwards.

 

            The Ministry of Agriculture, for instance, has approximately 11,000 employees, but only five coalition consultants will remain after June 30th.  The Ministry of Electricity has 45,000 employees, but only nine coalition consultants will remain after June 30th.  The Ministry of Communications has more than 15,000 employees, but only 20 coalition consultants will stay behind post-June 30th.  The Ministry of Industry and Minerals, which has approximately 130,000 employees, will have one single coalition consultant after June 30th.  And the largest ministry, the Ministry of Education, with 300,000 employees, will have no coalition consultants or technical assistance post-June 30th.

 

            In addition to the progress being made within the ministries, all provincial governments are operating, and about 90 percent of Iraq's municipalities have operating city councils or town councils.  And there was once, as you know, a single political organization that Iraqis were forced to participate in, the Ba'ath Party; there are now hundreds of political parties through which Iraqis are freely and peacefully expressing their political views and preparing their democracy.

 

            Much of Iraq is already in Iraqi hands, and the remaining 11 ministries will transition in the next two weeks, bringing the total number of Iraqis operating their own federal government to more than 1 million workers.  Those that will transition in the coming days are the ministries of Defense, Interior, Justice, Communications, Electricity, Finance, Higher Education, Housing and Construction, Human Rights, Labor and Social Affairs and Trade.

 

            So, while we have said from this podium for some time that we should expect violence in the days leading up to June 30th as those foreign regime diehards or foreign fighters and international terrorists that come into this country and are going to try and throw the transition to sovereignty off track, and we should expect the violence, unfortunately, and prepare to defend against it, it is important to note that the Iraqis are moving forward with taking control of their government in spite of the violence.  And they have made it clear to us, and certainly Prime Minister Allawi has made it clear to us that they do not intend to slow down this process.  That as I -- as you can -- this process is illustrated by these statistics, they do not intend to slow down this process that has begun in earnest many weeks ago.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Good afternoon.  The coalition and Iraqi security forces continue operations to establish a stable Iraq leading to transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.  To that end, in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,884 unilateral and joint patrols, 16 offensive operations, and captured 36 anti-coalition suspects. Yesterday at Abu Ghraib, over 400 detainees were released, and over 100 will be released in the next 48 hours.  The next release is anticipated for mid- to late June.

 

            The Iraqi air force this week purchased its first two aircraft in Jordan as part of a plan to provide surveillance capability to the growing Iraqi security forces.  The two reconnaissance aircraft represent the initial acquisition of a tentative force of 16 aerial observation and surveillance aircraft intended to assist in the protection of electrical and oil assets as well as border and coastal security.  Delivery of these airplanes is scheduled for mid-July.

 

            Twenty-five Iraqi police service officers began a joint FBI and DEA-sponsored criminal intelligence course.  The 10-day course is the first of four that will be offered over the next two months.  Training on fighting organized crime, political corruption, terrorism, as well as developing intelligence information and intelligence information sharing amongst ministries.

 

            In the northern area of operations, an ICDC compound in Mosul was attacked with indirect fire, leading to the injury of three Iraqi civilians, including two children.  The three were taken to a local hospital and are in stable condition.  Coalition forces and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers conducted operations in the vicinity of the point of origin.

 

            Coalition forces also conducted three offensive operations in al- Shura (ph), south of Hammam al Alil.  Ten persons were detained, including three primary targets.  The ten have ties to an FRE cell believed to be responsible for terrorist activities in Mosul and Hammam al Alil.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations, gunmen ambushed four ICDC soldiers waiting for a taxi in the vicinity of Al Dululah (ph). Two ICDC and an Iraqi taxi driver received minor wounds from small arms fire.  The wounded were evacuated to a medical facility and are listed in stable condition.

 

            In Baghdad yesterday, a GE contractor convoy was attacked by a suicide car bomb in the Sadun district of central Baghdad during morning rush hour. Five contractors were killed, five injured.  And according to the Ministry of Health, eight additional Iraqi civilians were killed and 69 injured.  Iraqi police have the lead for the investigation and will be supported as required.

 

            Yesterday coalition forces conducted a cordon and search in Baghdad to seize arms, ammunitions and explosives.  The unit found five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 131 RPG rounds, two 50-caliber machine guns, seven additional machine guns, 13 light anti-tank weapons, 411 blocks of C-4 explosives, 50 pounds of other types of explosives, and over 46,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition.  The unit detained seven individuals as part of this operation.

 

            In the western zone of operations, Marines were attacked with an RPG and small-arms fire in the vicinity of Ar-Ramadi while conducting a patrol in response to an earlier incident, resulting in a series of small engagements going on for about four hours.  The Marines responded to enemy fire and cleared a number of buildings suspected of holding the anti-Iraqi forces firing on the Marines.

 

            In the center-south zone of operations, the Polish CMIC group completed renovation and equipping of two schools in al-Mashru (ph) and al-Qasin (ph.)  Additionally, the Polish CMIC group accomplished five projects related to the renovation of roads in al-Faruk (ph). The total cost of these projects was over 365 (sic) U.S. dollars.

 

            Yesterday, approximately 350 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers and Iraqi police service members conducted joint reconnaissance patrols in An Najaf in the vicinity of the (Gary ?) IP station.  There were no incidents in relation to those patrols.

 

            The 1st Armored Division continues operations to successfully isolate Sadr and his militia through rewards and rebuilding programs in both Karbala and Najaf.  To date, over 550,000 American dollars has been paid for weapons and ammunition in those two cities.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we would be happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Hi.  Two questions.  First, Dan, President Ghazi said today that he'd like to see the palace vacated as soon as possible.  And if you could clarify what the plans are for the palace, and also the embassy, clarify what the plans are on that.

 

            And also, to both of you, you've continually warned of violence in the run-up before June 30th.  But do you have any evidence or good reasons to believe that the violence will diminish after June 30th?

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, obviously, we need substantial space, property, for the U.S. mission here.  This will be the largest -- one of the largest U.S. missions in the world -- I briefed on that over the weekend -- close to a thousand U.S. employees, close to 600 to 700 Foreign Service nationals.  The largest USAID mission in the world will be here.  And the Iraqi interim government recognizes that if we are to continue to play the role here that they are hoping we will play going forward, we will need not only the requisite property from which to operate, but in an area that enables us to maximize, to the extent that we can, the security of our U.S. citizens working here.  And so we are going to work out with the interim government -- and this has been the basis of discussions that Ambassador Bremer has had with Prime Minister Allawi as to what's basically made available. Certainly nobody intends to use space permanently.  It's just a matter of what we can use here in the near future that meets the criteria that we've laid out, and the prime minister has been receptive to that.

 

            Q     Where's the embassy going to be then?

 

            MR. SENOR:  It's going to be within the current Green Zone.  And we will be -- certainly when Ambassador Negroponte arrives -- but Ambassador Jeffrey, who's the deputy chief of mission who's already here, will be, I think, providing some tours to the press and providing information to show you the facilities that we will be using.  The current idea, the current plan is to use the existing CPA headquarters as, effectively, some office space for the embassy, sort of an annex, if you will.  And then the actual main embassy building will be in a different location nearby, but within the perimeter of the current Green Zone.

 

            GENERAL KIMMITT:  Regarding the post-30 June security situation, we've seen mixed intelligence reports, some suggesting there will be continued violence, with that violence directed at trying to demonstrate that the new government is shaky, wobbly and won't hang in there.  The coalition forces will continue military operations, continue to assess that intelligence, continue to stand ready for that additional violence along with our Iraqi security partners.  So our assessment is whether it happens or not, we'll be prepared to handle it.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And I would just add to that, if you look at the statements made by Prime Minister Allawi in the recent days, this is a government that seems prepared for the fact that they will be tested post-June 30th.  Terrorists and the Ba'athist diehards that are looking to wreak havoc in this country probably have every good reason, according to them, to test the will of the new government. And I think the statements from the new leadership have been quite strong in that regard, that they will do everything they can to beat back this terrorist threat and not allow it to throw this path to democracy off track.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Just two questions.  With regard to the prisoners that were released yesterday and are being released from Abu Ghraib, who are they?  Are they security detainees?  Are they reformed security detainees?  Are they petty criminals?

 

            And just also, with regard to the issue of handing Saddam over to the Iraqis for trial, if we could get commentary on that that would be great.  Thank you.

 

            GENERAL KIMMITT:  All the persons that have been released over the past 24 hours and anticipated to be released over the next 24 to 48 hours are security internees.  We do not release the criminal detainees; those are handled by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court through their provisions, through their procedures.  These are all security internees who were deemed to be no longer a threat to the imminent security -- an imminent security threat to Iraq.  And hence, as we've always said, if they are considered to be a security threat to Iraq, we have a responsibility and obligation to continue to detain them.  Once it is demonstrated that they no longer are a security threat, they are released.

 

            MR. SENOR:  To your other question, shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured, President Bush was quite clear.  He said that Saddam Hussein would receive the justice he denied to millions and that the process of prosecuting Saddam Hussein would be led and handled by Iraqis.  And our commitment to that remains.  Under international law, however, we cannot hand Saddam Hussein over to a non-sovereign government, and the government will be fully sovereign June 30th.  We also do not have to hand him over until there's a cessation of active -- cessation of active hostilities, and the repatriation doesn't begin until after that.  Hostilities, unfortunately, continue.

 

            But our goal, our priority is to get him into Iraqi hands as soon as possible, and we expect sometime after June 30th to be able to do that.  It is the basis of discussions with the interim government, as Prime Minister Allawi has recently said.  And this is something we'll work out as to what the appropriate time is after June 30th, once there is a sovereign government here and once the Iraqi special tribunal is ready to receive him.

 

            Yes.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     Sorry.  Catherine Philp, Times of London.  Are you suggesting that there has to be a complete cessation of hostilities before that can take place?

 

            MR. SENOR:  No.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Ayman Weldon (sp) with CNN.  If I could just follow up on that.  Are there current negotiations under way, as Prime Minister Allawi indicated, regarding the fate of Saddam?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah.  I wouldn't call them negotiations.  I would call them discussions.  And we -- both sides have an interest in handing Saddam Hussein over to the Iraqis, and the only matter is when is the appropriate time, and that is something we are discussing with the prime minister right now.  It is not a negotiation; it is a discussion.  We both have the same goal.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Yeah, Micah Garen, Four Corners Media.  This is for General Kimmitt.  Question: on June 11th, Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez issued a directive in response to the damage caused to the archeological site of Babylon.  Are you familiar with that directive?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Mm-hmm.

 

            Q     Okay.  I have a couple of questions regarding that.  The first question is, they -- the directive says they're halting all activity, and I'm wondering what activity that is specifically?  The second question is, why did this happen?  And the third question is, what are you doing to ensure the future protection of the site?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, again, there were some concerns that were expressed by a team that had gone down and reviewed the situation.  We did have some construction activities in the vicinity of Babylon.  The archeologists determined that that might be too close to the actual location, so as prudence would dictate we halted all construction activities in the vicinity of the military operations that are going on down there.

 

            We've called for an investigation.  I think it's prudent to let the experts go down there, investigate to see what's going on, to see if there has been any damage done to either the actual location and the walls that we all know as Babylon, that Saddam had built on top of, or the surrounding area that might have some archaeological or historical value.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Dan, the Red Cross has said quite explicitly that if Saddam is not charged or released by June 30th, and the occupation finished, under the Geneva Convention you will actually be in breach of international law if you're still hanging on to him.

 

            Now you say that there's these discussions, but are you going to hand him over by the end of the month, or are you going to be in breach of international law?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Actually, the individual who said that yesterday was the Baghdad representative for the International Red Cross.  That's since been corrected by the Geneva headquarters of the International Red Cross.  So the -- a spokesman for the actual headquarters has said that that statement, that characterization that you just quoted, is incorrect.

 

            Yes, Ed?

 

            Q     Just two questions.  One, on the issue of detainees and June 30th, Allawi has said that he wants not just Saddam but all detainees to be handed over in the next two weeks.  My understanding is that the American administration would like to hold on to anywhere from 4(,000) to 5,000 detainees by June 30th.  So if you could just clarify what position you're taking on that, that would be helpful.

 

            The second issue is on whether American contractors will be answerable to Iraqi law after June 30th.  I know that there's -- this is a subject of debate between Allawi's office and the American administration here.  Can you clarify where that is right now?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.  I think, on the issue of detainees, the U.N. Security Council resolutions are quite explicit.  They certainly give us the authority and the responsibility to remove and to detain imminent security threats here in Iraq.  We believe that 1511 -- and we interpret that 1511 -- provided that, and we interpret that 1546 provides that as well.

 

            We certainly are in discussions with -- between the coalition and Iraqi government officials in terms of how those detention operations will be conducted post-June.  There have been some novel thoughts about how that can be done jointly, should it be done jointly, in what manner can it be done jointly.  But I think it would be unhelpful at this point to to prejudge the outcome of those discussions.

 

            But it is important to understand that we certainly have the authority to detain and the responsibility to detain.  But we certainly want to do that as part of the partnership with the Iraqi governmental authorities on this.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And to your second question, under CPA Order Number 17, there is limited immunity extended in matters -- for contractors, extended in matters clearly related to their contract performance. This does not protect them in matters related to criminal activities -- rape, murder, anything of that sort.  It is clearly stated that it must relate to their contract performance and their responsibilities and duties within the contract performance for the immunity to be provided.  So we have made clear that any contractors that are here that are engaging in criminal activities, they are not provided immunity.  And going forward post-June 30th, obviously, this is a matter that will continue to have to be fleshed out between the prime minister and his government and the embassy here and the U.S. government.  But right now that public order stands.

 

            Q     Just to follow up on that, when you say there's immunity for work related to their contract, can you just be more specific about that and exactly what that means?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Well, I don't want to start speculating.  I'm just telling you that these contractors who are here to work on the reconstruction of Iraq and are here to help get this country back on track in every area, whether it's building electrical infrastructure or refining, retooling oil production facilities, all these projects are done in coordination with their ministries, with their respective ministries. So the ministries are supportive of the work here that they are doing, and we hope that support will continue post-June 30th.

 

            The interim government has made it clear that they hope that the contractors' work continues.  And so there will be certain responsibilities in those contractors.  I don't want to start speculating on examples, but if situations arise where the contractors were performing their duties and there was a legal issue that arose, they would have some limited immunity from being charged in an Iraqi court to perform that.  Again, it does not apply to criminal acts outside of the -- obviously outside of the universe of their responsibilities.

 

            Yes, in the back.

 

            Q     Jonathan Steel from the Guardian.  Back on the question of Saddam.  What's the reason why he hasn't been formally charged up till now?  I mean, surely there's no lack of evidence.  And secondly, the other members of the so-called deck of cards, who are POWs under our definition, will they also be held as long as he is and then transferred to the Iraqis with him, or will some of those be released in the next few days?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would defer your first question to the Iraqi special tribunal.  They are still in the process of building this   process out.  They are hiring investigative judges, they are hiring prosecutors, so to speak, they are bringing on international consultants.  They are in the lead in building the case against Saddam.  And once they build that case, of course, and establish all the evidence, they will file the formal charges.  That's okay that it has not occurred yet, because the Iraqi special tribunal is a body that reports to a non-sovereign government.  Post-June 30th, they will be reporting to a sovereign government and under international law will be in a position to allow Saddam Hussein to be tried by that body.  But right now, it just simply cannot be done.

 

            Q     The second part of the question was what about the other deck of cards people who are held?  Will they also be held as long as Saddam, or will some be released now?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Again, I don't want to speculate on the timing of each release.  The focus of the discussions right now has been on Saddam Hussein.  But the criteria, the same criteria applies, by and large, for that -- for the others in the deck of cards.

 

            Yes?  In the back.

 

            Q     Gregor Mayer from German Press Agency.  What exactly is the status of Saddam Hussein after June 30 if he is not charged and the military occupation has ended?  Is he still a prisoner of war without occupation as well?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Technically, he could still be a prisoner of war, because there has not been -- there will not have been -- at least we don't expect there to have been a cessation of hostile activities. But that does not preclude charges being filed against him for war crimes, for acts of genocide.  So these areas are not mutually exclusive.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  When we capture personnel as part of our military operations, it could be for any number of reasons.  If you take a look at the reasons, it could be for attacking coalition forces.  It could be for attacking Iraqi citizens, Iraqi women, children.  It could be for attacking Iraqi democratic institutions, as we've seen over the past couple of months with groups such as Muqtada's militia.  Now that is what we detain them for, for their activities.

 

            Now in terms of their associations, certainly we have picked up some in the conduct of military operations that you would consider to be terrorists.  Some are foreign fighters that have come into this country to create and sow dissent.  Some have been associated with former regime elements, Special Republican Guard, Fedayeen Saddam, special intelligence services, those who would try to bring this country to back to a totalitarian regime.

 

            There are some that are just common criminals, that have picked up a weapon for any number of reasons, perhaps because they've been handed money to shoot at a coalition force or to shoot at an Iraqi citizen working as a contractor or to just shoot at an Iraqi citizen for the purpose of creating chaos within the country.

 

            So in terms of what they're picked up for, typically for presenting a security threat in this country, their associations have run the gamut from terrorists, former regime elements, to common criminals.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, I would defer you to the Department of Defense.  I have not heard any statements that reflect a position contrary to the one I have articulated here.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I can confirm that there was an attack against a three-vehicle convoy west of Baghdad, over near the airport, where two of the vehicles I believe had some persons in it that were killed, and there was a third vehicle which was able to continue driving towards the coalition base at -- nearby.  I know that the persons in that vehicle were all safe.  The vehicle was shot up a bit. We don't have the full report yet, but we have a preliminary report that said yes, there was an attack, small-arms fire attack shot from the overpass against three vehicles passing, and we don't have any more information other than that at this time.  That was at about 1:30 or 2:00.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  It was a coalition convoy, not a military convoy.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  As I said earlier, on the properties within the Green Zone, particularly the palace here that is currently the CPA headquarters, we are working out with the interim government now a means by which we continue to use space not on a permanent basis, but until we have alternative operations set up for the embassy.

 

            And I think the military's -- you can speak to the military's use of palaces.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On that first -- on the second question you asked, I'm not familiar with that particular report.  We've not seen any report that resembles that at all.  We do not throw families out into the street and take over their houses.  That would be punitive.  We are forbidden to conduct punitive operations.  There are operations that are ongoing at any time where we will go after those who have in fact may be building bombs inside the house, may be creating VBIEDs,   triggering devices.  But in terms of actually taking a family and doing what you suggested, we have no reports of that.  I'd be interested in finding that information, because I think it's very, very important that we can get to the facts behind the case rather than suggest that this rumor that you're passing on has any basis in fact.

 

            Now in terms of military use of palaces, we are working under a very simple premise.  All the facilities that are being used by the coalition military forces belong to the people of Iraq, and one day, those will be passed back to the people of Iraq.  We intend -- just like the civilian side of the operation, we will return them in much better shape to the owners, the people of Iraq, than we found them. So it is our intention that as we no longer have particular need for facilities throughout this country, we will responsibly and respectfully hand them back to the people of Iraq.

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            GENERAL KIMMITT:  And again, I would ask to see the police reports that were filed in conjunction with that nighttime operation. I would like to see what the Iraqi police have to say about that particular incident, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps units that are nearby.  And if we can bring all that information forward, it would help us hopefully quash this rumor that, in fact, coalition forces went ahead and did what you're suggesting.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah?

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  Well, first of all, let me say that there is an Iraqi arrest warrant issued against Muqtada al-Sadr that ties him to a brutal murder, and I don't see how he would be eligible for political office before that matter is resolved.

 

            Secondly, the coalition is working right now, in consultation with the prime minister's office, to establish a political parties law before June 30th.  This will be formally announced in the days ahead. But based on early drafts, it also precludes political parties from participating in the process that are associated with illegal militias.  In fact, the exact language I have seen is no political entity may have or be associated with an armed force, militia or residual element, as defined in CPA Order Number 91, which is the regulation of armed forces and militias within Iraq that  Prime Minister Allawi recently announced.

 

            So unless those issues are resolved, I just don't see how Muqtada al-Sadr can plan for a political life.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And with regards to the security in Iraq right now, I would -- let's start from the notion and evaluating objectively the threat inside Iraq right now.  There are numerous groups that want to see the Iraqi experiment -- moving towards freedom, sovereignty, individual rights, individual freedoms, freedom of the press -- to fail.  They want to see this country brought back to perhaps an authoritarian regime, as you had under Saddam, or perhaps an extremist regime that we've seen in so many places, like Afghanistan.

 

            If you start off with that as your principle, the question is, who is going to defend and who are going to defend the people of Iraq, the children of Iraq, the families of Iraq, from those threats?  I think all of us objectively recognize that there's a partnership between the Iraqi security forces, as they get larger, more capable and stronger every day, and the coalition forces, who are standing side by side with them, number one.

 

            Number two, I think all of us recognize that there will be some period of time, certainly recognized by Prime Minister Allawi, that the Iraqi security forces will need some form of training, some form of equipping, some form of partnership with coalition forces.  That time will not be forever.  That time will not be infinite.

 

            We certainly expect that as the Iraqi security forces get stronger and stronger, the need for coalition presence, multinational presence, will get smaller and smaller.  We certainly understand that there will be a day when the Iraqi security forces are able to say, "We are capable, we are credible, we are able to provide for the internal security and the external security of our country."  And on that day there will no longer be a need for coalition forces.              But I think all of us objectively realize that that day is not going to be this week, this month or possibly even this year.  So the coalition forces will continue to stand and fight and, sadly, in some cases receive wounds and die working side by side with your fellow Iraqis who bravely are standing up to these threats as well, in a partnership.  And that partnership will continue after June 30th.

 

            Najim?

 

            Q     Shukran.  Najim al-Rubaie, Distor.  (In Arabic.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  If Mr. Barzani did not comment on the specifics of his confidential conversations with Ambassador Jones, then neither will I.  But I can tell you broadly speaking that what the coalition has communicated to Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani and Mr. Salih is that the principles and the spirit articulated in the recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution, in the preamble, where it says that Iraq's federalism and commitment to minority rights protections will be respected and strongly adhered to, is consistent with the discussions they had in a more specific level with the Kurdish leaders.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And with regards to your point about American soldiers and multinational forces have immunity from Iraqi prosecution, let's make sure we understand what we're saying.  We are not saying that these soldiers will have immunity from prosecution; it's just that that prosecution will be conducted by their home country.  Let's take a look at these soldiers from Abu Ghraib.  Yes, these soldiers who committed these heinous acts at Abu Ghraib are not facing Iraqi prosecution.  They are immune from Iraqi prosecution. They are not immune from prosecution.  And we have demonstrated in the courts martial to this point and we will continue to demonstrate in the courts martial going forward that that immunity from Iraqi prosecution does not mean immunity from prosecution.

 

            You are observing and you will see a fair, a thorough system of justice whether it's done with our judges or, quite frankly, whether it would have been done with your judges.  But nonetheless, it is common international convention in these types of operations that the nation that provides the forces takes as its responsibility the judicial actions of its soldiers in the vast majority of cases.  But don't mistake immunity from Iraqi prosecution to somehow suggest that these soldiers are immune from justice because they are not.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Deborah.

 

            Q     Hi there.  I've got a couple of questions.  Can you just explain again the attack on the convoy?  It wasn't very clear.  You said two of the vehicles were stopped and people killed.  Who were they?  Were they foreigners?  How many?

 

            And secondly, after that, we had reports of an attack on an oil pipeline in the south.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I've got -- let me take the second first.   I understand that there was a pipeline rupture five kilometers southwest of Basra today at about 1330.  The Airnet (sp) security manager is calling this an oil leakage off at the source.  There may have been an IED in that location, but it apparently was a very short period of time.  The leakage is off, and it would seem that it's being taken care of at this point.

 

            Again, I only have the first reports on the attack that took place out on the highway road -- actually, it was the north-south road that veers into the airport road, and I got those reports firsthand from some fairly shaken up contractors.  They made an initial report on what happened, but I think we're really going to have to get the Iraqi police on the site to in fact find out what happened.  But when we came upon them, we had -- there was one vehicle there.  It did look like it had received a couple of gunshots to it.  All the persons were safe.  It was their judgment that there may have been some persons killed in the previous vehicles, but I think it's best if we wait for the full report.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Jim.

 

            Q     Can you tell us who those folks were in the convoy?  I just heard coalition members, but --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, they were contractors.

 

            Q     Company name or anything like that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We're going to let the company announce their persons, their activities.  I think it's only proper that we allow them to do it.  After they announce it, then we'll sort of follow up with the details.

 

            Q     You said it was a coalition convoy, sir.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Coalition contractor convoy.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Last question.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  I need you to use your microphone.

 

            Q     Ken Joseph with the Japan Times.  We received a notice that churches have been contacted over the last few days, notifying that they have to increase the minimum membership from 25 -- the current 25 to 500 or lose their registration.  Have you heard anything like that? And who would you suggest that we contact?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Who have the notices been coming from?

 

            Q     Directly to the churches.

 

            MR. SENOR:  From whom?

 

            Q     From one of the ministries, so I'm just trying to track down where that's come from.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I have -- it's the first I'm hearing of it.  You should ask the people who received the notices which ministry --

 

            Q     Do you know what ministry that would be under, or --

 

            MR. SENOR:  I do not.  I would ask the Ministry of Culture, one of the -- I mean, I would ask the respective churches you're dealing with to find out the --

 

            Q     This would under the Ministry of Culture then?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sorry?

 

            Q     It would be under the Ministry of Culture in terms of --

 

            MR. SENOR:  I don't know.  I think so.  But again -- I mean, common sense dictates that the easiest way to do this would be to get a hold of the people who are claiming that the notices have been received, and then ask them what ministry issued the notice and then contact that ministry.

 

            Sorry.  Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            GENERAL KIMMITT:  Well, I first reject your initial premise that the coalition forces, to include the Italian forces, have been unable to provide security for this country.  The stability that we brought to this country has allowed reconstruction to go on, repair of infrastructure to go on, opening of schools, opening of health clinics, more oil being pumped than prewar, more electricity being produced than prewar.

 

            Are we satisfied with the level of instability in this country right now?  Absolutely not.  But to consider it in any way a failure I think is just not consistent with the facts.  We welcome the comments of Prime Minister Allawi.  We are continuing to work with the Iraqi security forces.  We look forward to assisting Prime Minister Allawi in his new government in providing security to this country.

 

            We would hope that one day we can wake up and there wouldn't be any attacks.  We hope we can wake up one day and there won't be any bombings.  But hope doesn't get us to that day.  So we will continue to operate with the Iraqi security forces in a strong partnership with our security forces so that our common goal of providing security and stability for the country of Iraq is fulfilled. 

 

            MR. SENOR:  This really will be the last question.  Go ahead, ma'am.

 

            Q     (In Arabic.)

 

            GENERAL KIMMITT:  Well, we haven't been hiding the piece of information, because it's incorrect.  We do not currently have Izzat Ibrahim al-Duriin custody.  When we have him in custody we will be   glad to announce that because that will be a significant day for the people of Iraq, number one.

 

            Number two, no, we don't have a plan for the coalition forces to unilaterally conduct security operations.  It is absolutely vital for us to have our Iraqi security partners side by side with us.  They add so much to the operations, both in terms of their capacity to bring intelligence and to bring trained, competent security forces to the fight.  Those are 200,000 additional forces that are contributing to the security of this country.  It is absolutely instrumental to our requirements on a day-to-day basis, and these Iraqi police, Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members, they're coming to work every day and making a significant improvement in the security situation in this country.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thank you, everybody.

 

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