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TIME: 11:05 A.M. EDT

MR. SENOR: Good evening. I just have a brief opening statement, and then General Kimmitt will make an opening statement, and then we will be happy to take your questions.

Today the Iraqi police service formally arrested Mustafa al-Yacoubi, this pursuant to a valid arrest warrant issued by an Iraqi judge. Mr. al-Yacoubi was arrested in connection with the brutal murder of Ayatollah As Seyed Ala-Majid al-Khoei (sp), who was repeatedly stabbed and shot to death last April in front of one of the world's holiest shrines.

Mr. Yacoubi has been transferred to Iraqi police custody, where he is held at an Iraqi detention facility and will be tried by Iraqi judges in Iraqi courts under Iraqi law. Today the Iraqi investigative judge held his first meeting with Mr. Yacoubi to ensure that he fully understands the charges against him and he fully understands his rights. The arrest and trial are about justice and law and order in Iraq. The Iraqi people want elections, not mob violence, to determine who will govern Iraq.

General Kimmitt.

GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon. The coalition is acclerating its offensive operations to kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people. In response to the latest increase in violence, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,566 patrols, 10 offensive operations, 18 raids, and captured 42 anti-coalition suspects.

In the Al Anbar province, Iraqi security forces and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force initiated Operation Vigilant Resolve to confront anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi elements in the Fallujah area. The joint force, currently consisting of over 1,300 personnel from the 1st MEF, Iraqi armed forces and the Iraqi Civil Defense Services, have established a series of traffic control points around the city of Fallujah, along with additional assets to regulate passage and establish a cordon in and out of the city. A curfew from 1900 to 0600 has been established, and these are the first of a series of actions taken to attack anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi forces, to reestablish security in Fallujah and begin the process of civil military assistance projects in Fallujah.

Over the past 36 hours, there have been a number of demonstrations and incidents throughout the central and southern zones of Iraq, some of which turned violent, as elements of Mahdi Army incited and perpetrated violence against Iraqi citizens, Iraqi security forces and the coalition.

In Baghdad yesterday there were six demonstrations in support of Muqtada al-Sadr and demonstrating against the detention of Mustafa Yacoubi. In Sadr City, three police stations came under attack, but all have been returned to IPS control.

In An Najaf, a large crowd gathered midday Sunday to show support for Sadr and Yacoubi, and the demonstration turned violent in the afternoon, when elements of the Mahdi Army attacked coalition facilities on the edge of the city.

In An Nasiriyah, a violent demonstration of approximately 200 Mahdi Army personnel attempted to secure bridges entering the city. The only hostile action against coalition forces was a rocket grenade fired at a CPA building, which missed. The governor defused the incident, and the demonstration ended peacefully.

In al-Amarah, a crowd of about 2,000 built up peacefully during Sunday afternoon. At approximately 1700 an explosive device was thrown at coalition forces that led to violence. Order was reestablished later in the evening.

In Basra, there were peaceful demonstrations by about 1,500 Sadr supporters in a number of different locations. There were some RPG attacks after the crowds dispersed, without effect on coalition forces.

In al Kut, a crowd of 1,000 Sadr supporters protesting the detention of Mustafa Yacoubi were dispersed without incident.

Today those cities are relatively quiet. There have been a number of demonstrations in Baghdad, to include a peaceful demonstration outside the Al Hurra Police Station in western Baghdad and a demonstration in the vicinity of the Sadr bureau in Sadr City. There have also been demonstrations in An Najaf, Basra and al Kut with no reported violence.

There are reports of a takeover of a contractor building in An Nasiriyah by Sadr followers as well as other reports of a takeover of an abandoned building in Basra by approximately 200 Mahdi Army members. In both cases there is no violence reported, and Iraqi police service and coalition forces are monitoring the situation.

MR. SENOR: With that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

Yes, go ahead.

Q Thank you. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. Can you tell us what happened today in Shula, where there are reports that there are helicopters that fired on targets there? Is that true, and what were the targets?

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, there were attack helicopters, Apache helicopters used today in Baghdad. It is my understanding that one helicopter was fired upon by small-arms fire, approximately five to six rounds that hit, one round which may have hit the cockpit without injury to any of the pilots. Acting within the limits and the inherent right of self-defense, the helicopter fired back with approximately 100 or so rounds of 20-millimeter. But no rockets were fired and no anti-tank missiles were fired.


Q (Through interpreter.) Naji Murubai (ph) from Ad-Dustour newspaper. Mr. Kimmitt, there are -- news came from the Shula city about launching some missiles on some houses and centers of the groups of Muqtada Sadr. This was through -- broadcast through the BBC. How accurate is this information?

GEN. KIMMITT: That information is wrong. As I said earlier, the helicopter fired in self-defense after it had fired on by small-arms fire. No rockets were used, only 20-millimeter rounds.

MR. SENOR: Rachel.

Q This is for you, General Kimmitt. We've heard from senior military coalition officials that say that Sadr should be detained because they know -- they have evidence that he was coordinating attacks. So my question is, why hasn't he or will he be? And if so, can we --

MR. SENOR: Rachel, I'll answer that. An Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for Muqtada al Sadr, and that is based on evidence that connects Muqtada al Sadr to the brutal murder of Mr. al-Khoei, a murder in which Mr. al-Khoei was repeatedly stabbed and shot to death in front of the world's -- in front of one of the world's holiest shrines. And I think the message to all individuals that were involved in that murder is that the Iraqi people want elections, not mob rule to determine who will govern Iraq.

Q All right. Just a follow-up. Has he been served with --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. SENOR: Okay. Well, we'll fix the translation.

GEN. KIMMITT: Both. He is correct.

Q Al-Sadr?


Q Have you -- sorry, Dan.

MR. SENOR: Go ahead. Rachel.

Q Just a follow-up.


Q Has he been --

MR. SENOR: What I said was there is an arrest warrant against Muqtada al-Sadr.

Q Dan?


Q Has he been served with a warrant? Where is he now? Has he been taken into custody?

GEN. KIMMITT: He has not been taken into custody. He has not been served with that warrant at this time.


Q James Hider from the Times. Do you know where he is? We're hearing reports that he's in Kufa, he's in a mosque surrounded by a large number of gunmen. How difficult is it going to be to serve this warrant and arrest him?

GEN. KIMMITT: I think a lot will depend on how he intends to take the news of this warrant and whether he decides to come peacefully or whether he decides to come not peacefuly. That choice is the choice of Muqtada al-Sadr.

MR. SENOR: I would just add to that that the Iraqi Governing Council has issued, just earlier today, a very strong statement addressing this entire issue. And it has specifically said -- the Governing Council specifically said that Iraqis should show respect for mosques and other holy sites.

Yes? Go ahead.

Q Luke Baker from Reuters. These warrants were issued last autumn, we heard. Why have you waited till now to arrest or try to arrest Yacoubi? And why haven't you detained Sadr earlier?

MR. SENOR: Sure. The arrests -- there were originally 12 arrests made shortly after the murder of Mr. al-Khoei. And there was a view and there is a view today in Iraq that when these cases come to trial, in the effort to conserve Iraq's scarce judicial resources, that as many of the individuals involved in a particular case be tried at once. The initial 12 individuals were arrested. Subsequently after a meticulous investigation, additional warrants were filed. There were additional individuals they intended to pursue. The initial 12 were found early on and detained. It was more difficult to target some of the other individuals.

Recently they have begun -- the Iraqi judge, the investigative judge has begun to prepare the case for trial, about a month of preparation. And in light of the fact that the case was about to go to trial, he thought it important to take another shot at trying to gather up some of the other individuals that had been involved and for whom there were warrants. Mr. Yacoubi falls into that category, and they detained him.

Q But -- sorry -- you could have detained Yacoubi and Sadr months ago, then. I mean, they've been freely available to be detained. Why only now?

MR. SENOR: The investigative judge made a determination that as he prepared this trial, that it is important to go -- try again, take another shot at trying to detain Mr. Yacoubi. And so in consultations with coalition forces, we carried this out.


Q Yeah, Daniel Cooney (sp) from Associated Press. Can you just say, when was the warrant issued for Sadr's arrest, and when will the arrest be carried out?

MR. SENOR: The arrest for Muqtada al-Sadr has been -- it was issued within the last several months. I can get you the exact date after this meeting. I know the warrant for Mr. Yacoubi was even prior to that. And as to when the arrest will be carried out --

GEN. KIMMITT: You'll know.

MR. SENOR: Yeah. Let's just say there will be no advance warning.

Yes, go ahead.

Q Carrie Gerhardt (sp), National Public Radio. I have two questions and they're kind of big, but it's my last day, so I feel like maybe you guys will answer them both.

So, okay, the first one is, we've heard from doctors at the al- Khatib (ph) hospital in the Al Shula district of Baghdad that U.S. troops have been going in there and asking the doctors to -- anyone that they're treating with a bullet wound to save the bullets and the fragments and put them aside so that they can then test those bullets afterwards to see if they're from coalition weapons.

I'm wondering why they would have a crazy idea like that.

And also, my second question is the arrest warrant for Sadr was issued several months ago. Can you tell us when exactly, maybe?

MR. SENOR: Yeah, I just said in the previous question that I would get the exact date after. I said in the last several months.

GEN. KIMMITT: I have not heard those reports about coalition forces going into hospitals.

Q Hi, it's a question for General Kimmitt. CNN is reporting that General Abizaid has asked for options for increasing the number of troops in Iraq. Do you think in the light of the recent events that more troops are needed to stabilize the country going into and following the handover?

GEN. KIMMITT: Well, if that was a statement made by General Abizaid, I'd suggest you ask General Abizaid.


Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.) I have a question regarding the subject of detaining Mr. Muqtada al- Sadr. Of course you know that al-Yacoubi was not present as you indicated, and there have been some -- and due to so many reasons you have delayed detaining al-Yacoubi. So what are the reasons behind delaying the detaining of al-Yacoubi while he was involved in so many occasions in -- (inaudible) -- to call people or to ask people to act against the coalition, why haven't you called those people to investigate, and put them for investigation? And why have you just taken this -- you have taken this decision only right now? Are you going to delay the handing over of the -- stick to the deadline for handing over sovereignty to the Iraqi by the 30th of June, or are you going to be -- try to delay it to another time or another date?

MR. SENOR: The Iraqi investigative judge has made it clear that there were a number of individuals that were connected to the brutal murder of al-Khoei, and the first 12 individuals were detained sometime shortly after, but not immediately after the incident. Keep in mind that the court system was initially in some mild state of disarray immediately following liberation. So it took some time to get organized, and then the Iraqi investigative judge began to organize the investigation. Twelve individuals were arrested.

The Iraqi investigative judge is now prepared to bring the trial to court. And in an effort to conserve scarce judicial resources in Iraq, the goal by many Iraqi judicial -- by many Iraqi investigative judges is to try as many individuals involved in any particular case at one time. In light of the fact that the trial was going to court and the case was being prepared, he thought he would take another shot at trying to gather up other individuals involved with the case, and that's when warrants were issued and this matter came -- sort of bubbled up, if you will, recently.

To your second question --

Q (In Arabic.)

MR. SENOR: Let me answer your second question before you ask a third.

Q (Through interpreter.) Why haven't you been calling them -- why haven't you been calling them for investigation while this person was present and while he was accused a long time ago?

MR. SENOR: It isn't our investigation. It is the investigation of an Iraqi investigative judge, and we have been working with this Iraqi investigative judge and a number of these steps have been taken at his initiative, not ours.

Now to your second question, we intend to hand sovereignty over on June 30th. That has been our plan. We've made that clear that that is our plan, going back to November 15th, and it will continue to be our plan on June 30th when we hand over political sovereignty to the Iraqi people, period.


Q Dan, there are several points in your account of the arrest warrant for Mr. Sadr that I'm a little bit unclear on. They're all small ones, but if you could help me clarify to understand. First of all, if I'm not mistaken we're talking about a total of 37 individuals, then, who are -- who have been implicated in the death of Mr. Khoei, 12 who were arrested shortly after his murder last April and then an additional 25 who -- for whom arrest warrants were issued in the fall.

MR. SENOR: Where's that number coming from?

Q The 25? Remember yesterday?

MR. SENOR: Yeah. It's a total of 25, 12 initial and then 13 subsequent -- now 13, including Mr. Yacoubi.

Q Oh, but you said a short time after. So are you saying by the fall?


Q Because yesterday --

MR. SENOR: I don't know the exact date, but in any event, it's -- what I said yesterday -- it's a total of 25. Twelve have been arrested. Now the 13th has been arrested, Mr. Yacoubi, and now there's -- the balance is 12.

Q Including Mr. Sadr?

MR. SENOR: That's correct.

Q Can you name the investigative judge in Najaf?

MR. SENOR: I cannot. I will try to do that in the next couple of days, but obviously I have to get authorization from that individual.

Q When did this judge issue his request for the coalition forces to, A, detain Mr. Yacoubi, and B, to make public the arrest warrant for Mr. Sadr?

MR. SENOR: I don't know the exact date that a discussion was held, but we have been in consultations with the investigative judge for some time.

Q You -- and finally, your definite -- your position is definitely that this announcement of an arrest warrant -- of a murder warrant for Mr. Sadr, coming 72 hours after his sermon in Kufa, is just a coincidence and then that is related exclusively to his -- to the initiative of this investigative judge?

MR. SENOR: The -- absolutely. The arrest warrant has been issued some time ago, well before any sermon he gave on Friday.

Q But the announcement is now.

MR. SENOR: I'm sorry?

Q But the announcement is now, so that means you --

MR. SENOR: Well, that's correct, because we are obviously addressing this issue with regard to Mr. Yacoubi and surrounding events.


Q Dan Murphy from the Christian Science Monitor. Is any action being planned against the Mahdi Army more generally? And if so, what?

And a separate question: I read an AFP report that said the ICDC turned on American troops in this neighborhood where the Apache fired today. Have you heard anything about that?

GEN. KIMMITT: I have heard nothing about the second report. It would -- I think it would fall in line with some of the other reports that we've heard over the last couple of days that have proven not to be correct.

We have a very strong policy and a very direct policy towards militias. Militias are inconsistent with a democratic and sovereign nation with a central government. We are particularly focused upon militias that start attacking coalition forces, start attacking Iraqi forces, start attacking Iraqi civilians.

The actions of the Mahdi Army over the past 48 hours is clearly inconsistent with a safe and secure environment, and clearly inconsistent with the security of the people of Iraq. And we will take action, as and when necessary, to maintain a safe and secure environment in Iraq. Individuals who create violence, who incite violence, who execute violence against persons inside of Iraq will be hunted down and captured or killed. It is that simple.


Q Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency. Could you explain in more details the events yesterday in Sadr City? You mentioned three police stations were attacked. You counted eight U.S. military lost lives. So was there a real gun battle? What happened?

And my second question: In Shwala (sp) today, some of our photographers saw a burned-out -- what looked like a burned-out military -- American military truck. So was there casualties in the American side, a convoy attacked, or whatever?

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, the -- if you would like the specific details, I would recommend you go to the 1st Armored Division. They can give you -- I mean, we could spend 15 minutes talking about all the events of the last night. But as I understand, the casualties were taken in two separate incidents as coalition forces were moving into Sadr City, based on intelligence of anticipated attacks upon those Iraqi police forces.

But the 1st Armored Division has the details on that, and I would commend you to them for those details and the details of the large truck that I think many people saw on fire today in the Al-Shwala (sp) district.

MR. SENOR: Yeah?

Q General, can you say whether or not al-Sadr is being pursued also criminally in regard to the demonstrations that turned violent over the weekend? And also, could you elaborate a little bit more on what's going on in Fallujah? There's been a report of at least one Marine killed there. I don't know whether it's related to the operation that's ongoing. But are they operating on specific intelligence, pulling people out that they have developed information on?

GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, on the first question, not only are militias banned inside of Iraq and when those militias turn to violent acts, will we take actions against them; but we will also go for their leadership, their leadership organs, the people at the top, the people in the middle, the people that are inciting, the people that are planning, the people that are executing the violence.

As regards Fallujah, I would refer you to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force for the details of their ongoing operation. We did confirm this morning that there was a Marine killed in the Al Anbar region. For more details about the ongoing operation, we have embedded a number of reporters out with the 1st MEF, and I think they could probably give you far more detail than we could from this podium.

MR. SENOR: John?

Q General --

MR. SENOR: Use the mike, John. Can't hear you. Thanks.

Q John Burns, New York Times. General, Dan, if we look at everything we've seen in the last week and what you've told us today about the decision to proceed, with or without American active cooperation and encouragement, with the serving of an arrest warrant against Muqtada al-Sadr, it looks as though you've reached a critical moment on the approach to June 30th, where the attempt to approach June 30th as softly and as cooperatively as you could, in your judgment, has had to turn to something much tougher; that we get the impression that there's a new steeliness, a new decision to go hard. Is that correct?

GEN. KIMMITT: Well, first, I would say that that decision was not independently made by us. That decision to conduct offensive operations is in response to some others who have made the decision to, as you would say, go hard. It was not the coalition that caused the casualties in Fallujah. It is the coalition that is responding to those casualties in Fallujah. It is not the 1st Armored Division who executed combat operations in Sadr City for the purpose of disrupting operations in there, but in fact it was Mahdi Army members who took on the 1st Armored Division as they were trying to set up control or reestablish control on legitimate government offices and Iraqi police stations.

We are responsive to the level of violence. We have a responsibility, we have an obligation to maintain a safe and secure environment. We have forces that are absolutely capable, 100 percent of the time, to be in a mode of fixing schools, fixing sewers, fixing health clinics. That's what our soldiers would like to be doing. That's what our Marines would like to be doing. And soon in Fallujah they will be doing that. But their first and foremost responsibility is for safety and security in Iraq. And when that safety and security is threatened, is challenged, and violence is incited, and violence is executed, those same soldiers and those same Marines are capable of putting down their paintbrushes and picking up their weapons to defend the people of Iraq and to ensure that the process of taking this country to democracy and sovereignty will not be impeded.

MR. SENOR: John, I would just add that there are clearly foreign terrorists and former Ba'athists and other extremists inside Iraq that are trying to derail the process to June 30th, in which we hand over sovereignty. As General Kimmitt has said, we absolutely will not tolerate that. The Iraqi people will not tolerate that. For example, Samir al-Sumaidy, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, earlier today was quite explicit on this point: that the debate in Iraq today is not between any two ethnic groups or any two regions; it's between moderates and extremists. And there are no -- there's no room for extremists in Iraq, particularly when it comes to issues like the rule of law and justice and ideas like the one I articulated earlier: that elections will determine who governs Iraq, not mob violence.

But I think it's important that this not only a lead-up to June 30th, because after June 30th, even if there are acts of violence after June 30th, American security forces will still be here. We will still be working side by side with the Iraqi security forces to address any violence or efforts to derail the new Iraq that are similar to what we are experiencing before June 30th.

Q I'd like to follow up.

MR. SENOR: If you use your microphone.

Q General, Dan, if you looked at the Sunday morning talk shows yesterday, the display in American newspapers today, the media, and indeed, some politicians on Capitol Hill, are presenting the events of the past few days here as a crisis, or at least one of the most critical moments in this entire American enterprise here. Is that the way it's felt in the green zone?

MR. SENOR: I would say that the way we feel is in interacting with the Iraqis at the grassroots level, Iraqis out in the provinces, Iraqi political, regional and religious leaders, we hear one thing over and over -- it's important when we make a commitment to keep it. We made a commitment to the Iraqi people that we would hand over political sovereignty on June 30th. But we also made a commitment that after June 30th, we will still have a major role in helping to reconstruct this country and continuing to secure this country, and that will continue on June 30th.

I think there is somehow this view that there's going to be this dramatic change after June 30th, as though the lights will be switched off and we will depart. And that is simply not the case. Ambassador Bremer will depart. The coalition control -- or the coalition role in the political process will be handed over to the Iraqi people. But we will still have a prominent role here in security and we will still be deploying billions and billions of dollars in the reconstruction of Iraq, which will be spread over several years. We will have the largest U.S. embassy here in the world. We will have -- as I said, deploying over $18 billion, with civilian reconstruction personnel from the United States and other coalition countries still here.

So while Ambassador Bremer will be gone and our role in the political process will be handed over to the Iraqi people, we will still continue to work with the Iraqi people, work quite closely with the Iraqi people after June 30th.

GEN. KIMMITT: And I would just tell you that I'm not sure about the green zone, but I know on a rooftop yesterday in An Najaf, with a small group of American soldiers and coalition soldiers, Spanish soldiers and Salvadorian soldiers who had just been through about three-and-a-half hours of combat, I looked in their eyes, there was no crisis. They knew what they were here for. They'd lost three wounded. We were sitting there among the bullet shells -- the bullet casings, and frankly, the blood of their comrades, and they were absolutely confident.

They were confident for three reasons. One, because they're enormously well trained. Two, because they're extremely good at what they're doing. And three, because they knew why they were there. There was no doubt in their mind why they were there, there was no doubt of their purpose, and they knew that they were getting the support from the people back home. And they fully understood in a very crystal clear way what they were there for, why they were there, and what their purpose was and is. And to them, there certainly didn't seem to be a sense of crisis.

MR. SENOR: So ahead.

Q Nick Ricardi (sp), Los Angeles Times. On the Sadr warrant and the chronology here, I just want to take one last stab at this. I understand that you're working on a timetable urged by an Iraqi judge. And correct me if I'm wrong in my understanding of the chronology, but the judge made a judgment call -- no pun intended -- in the summer or early fall that there wasn't sufficient capacity, or what have you, to arrest individuals as prominent as Mr. Yacoubi and Mr. Sadr. But because the warrants were issued at that time, there was an official determination that they were likely to have been involved in what I think you yourself said was a very heinous and violent murder of a very prominent individual. Certainly, since that time they've had an armed militia that you consider to be dangerous and potentially a threat to national stability, and they've urged in a number of statements actions which could be interpreted as, you know, violent or disruptive actions.

Why was the coalition willing to wait all this time for the Iraqi justice system to get to the level -- the point where it could take on a challenge like this? Why did it allow this to linger for so many months if it was such a threat?

MR. SENOR: You're asking us to make an assessment of all these other related factors in determining when action was taken or action was decided to be taken.

I can just tell you that we are dealing specifically with an arrest warrant. That is the basis upon which Mr. Yacoubi was detained. And it was in consultations with an Iraqi investigative judge because it is an Iraqi arrest warrant, it's an Iraqi process. Mr. Yacoubi will be tried in an Iraqi court by Iraqi judges under Iraqi law. And these discussions about when to act upon an Iraqi arrest warrant were based on consultations with the relevant Iraqi officials.

Yes, go ahead.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.) What are the procedures that will be done by the American forces after the -- (inaudible) -- controlled some of the government institutions and some police centers?

GEN. KIMMITT: For those personnel that we've captured in those locations, we will detain them. For those persons that we could identify, we will follow up our operations, conduct future operations to go after them, to capture them, along with the Iraqi police service. We will treat them the same way we treat any anti-Iraq, anti-coalition elements.

MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?

Q Thank you. Dr. Ahmed Rushdie (ph) from Dar es Salaam newspaper. General Kimmitt, according to your talking now, is there any arresting memos will be appeared before the 1st of June, especially against Islamic leaders?

MR. SENOR: I'm sorry, what's the question?

Q Arresting memos will be appeared?

MR. SENOR: I'm not going to comment on any other warrants that may or may not be outstanding.


Q (Through interpreter.) General Kimmitt, you spoke about that there are intentions for the American forces to arrest -- to implement the judge decision to arrest Mr. Sadr, and this action could cause disturbances again in Iraq while you are on your way to give sovereignty. Does the coalition forces looking for a middle ground or a kind of negotiation to calm the situation and so that Mr. Sadr be presented to a just trial so that you're not facing disturbances to the process of delivering sovereignty?

GEN. KIMMITT: We absolutely do have a middle ground to avoid violence in terms of having the warrant served and Muqtada al-Sadr coming to justice. He's free to surrender. He's free to walk into any police station. He's free to have that warrant served upon him. He'll be treated with dignity. He'll be treated with respect. He'll be treated the same way every other alleged criminal in the Iraqi justice system is treated.

MR. SENOR: Someone who hasn't asked a question. Yes, sir? Go ahead.

Q (Through interpreter.) Hamid (sp) Ali from El (ph). Will these incidents affect the destiny of the political process in Iraq and the expansion of the GC so that the political parties would be more cautious in choosing those who represent them, especially after what was said by some of the religious organizations and the lack of their representation in the GC?

MR.SENOR: We believe that the Iraqi Governing Council is certainly the most representative body in the history of Iraq, and it's arguably the -- one of the most representative political bodies in the entire region. You have political, religious, regional leaders from all over the country, from all backgrounds. There are Sunni, Shi'a, Kurd, Turkomen, Christians, men, women; again, from the north, from the south, from the central part of the country. We think it is a very diverse and representative body.

Before we wrap up here, I have one quick announcement that I wanted to make at the end. Ambassador Bremer today announced the appointment of 28 new deputy ministers in 14 ministries. Nominations for these deputy ministers came from both the Iraqi Governing Council and the ministers themselves. CPA personnel and Iraqi ministry officials have worked intensively over the past year to increase the capacity of the country's ministries to function effectively and deliver vital services to the Iraqi people. Their work has included everything from identifying qualified managers, renovating and equipping buildings, and training staff. The appointment of these deputy ministers is another important step in these efforts. This group of deputy ministers is expected to have major impact on the ability of the Iraqi ministries to develop their staffs, manage their programs and create effective ministries able to take on the challenges of the interim period.

This is a highly qualified group. The new deputy ministers were educated in Iraq, the U.S., some in the U.K., France and elsewhere. It includes seven Ph.D.s in areas as diverse as agricultural, political, science, law, electrical engineering, animal science, biochemistry. The group includes Iraqis from throughout the country, including six women. We plan to appoint the second tranche of deputy ministers representing the remaining 11 ministries shortly.

The new deputy ministers will be assigned to the following ministries: Ministry of Agriculture, Culture, Ministry of Displacement and Migration, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Electricity, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, and Ministry of Transportation.

What I've done is I've asked the press center staff to have bios of all these new deputy ministers available to you at the International Press Center. So if you want more information on these individuals, it will be there waiting for you.

And that's all for today. Have a good evening.





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