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MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) You have heard early in this morning that we have reached an agreement, an initial agreement, with Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr. This is a very happy news to save the blood of our people. This is also a victory for the supremacy of law and order, a victory for the forces of democracy and freedom in Iraq, and a victory for the Iraqi people also.

You may have been acquainted with the text of the letter sent by Muqtada al-Sadr. The text of the letter will be distributed among you. And for television purposes I am going to read this letter. The letter will be distributed in Arabic and in English.

"To put an end to the tragic events in holy Najaf, and the violation of the holy shrines in it, I agree with this, the following plan.

"The plan is four points. First, canceling all military activities and the evacuation of all governorate buildings, and the withdrawal of the Mahdi Army who are not from Najaf, and stop pursuing people or bringing them to court. Give the opportunity for the police and the other national forces to provide security and not bothering them by anyone.

"Third, the withdrawal of the occupation forces to their bases, except for small units to protect their headquarter and building of the municipality.

"Fourth, hold discussions with representative of the Shi'ite house concerning al-Mahdi Army, and not taking any measures until that time. Please take the necessary measures to carry out this plan. Thank you."

MR. AL RUBAIE: And you have to excuse my pidgin English in translating this agreement, but I'll try my level best:

"Honorable brother, members of the Shi'a house, peace and the mercy and the blessing of God be upon you.

"To put an end to the tragic situation in noble Najaf, and the violation of the sanctity of the sacred shrine of Imam Ali, and the rest of the noble sites, I announce my agreement to the following plan.

"Eliminating -- number one, eliminating all armed manifestations, putting governorate buildings to use by the governorate offices and institutions, withdrawing all Mahdi Army fighters who are not citizens of Najaf from this city, ceasing the pursuit and trial of persons in the courts, and undertaking not to return to that.

"Number two, opening the way for the police and the rest of the Iraqi national forces to carry out their duties in providing security and order, and refraining from anyone getting in their way in that duties or work.

"Number three, withdrawing the occupation forces to their bases, with the exception of small units to protect their headquarters and the governorate building, with a continued connection to these two places.

"Number four, engaging in a broad discussion on the future of the Mahdi Army and the judicial trial with the representative of the Shi'a House, and the refraining from taking any measure until that time.

It's requested that the measures necessary to implement this plan be taken." Signed and sealed by Syed Muqtada al-Sadr.

Before you start your questions, let me try to do what I call preemptive strike on the journalists -- try to answer some of your questions before you ask them.

Let me tell you the agreement announced in the small hours of this morning is a signed agreement between Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shi'a House, which brings together prominent Shi'a members of the Governing Council. It provides for the following:

The departure of all Mahdi Army fighters from the streets. It provides the departure for all Mahdi Army fighters not from Najaf Governorate -- so they depart the governorate -- those people who have come from outside the Najaf Governorate -- they go back home. It provides the evacuation of all governorate buildings occupied by the Mahdi Army to go back to the governorate institutions and offices. It also provides the cessation of illegal acts of arrest and trial. It also provides the resumption of Iraqi police and ICDC responsibility for the law and order. It also provides the resumption of the Iraqi police and the ICDC responsibility for the law and order and maintaining the services. Also, the redeployment of coalition forces to their bases, with the continued access to the CPA offices and the governorate building.

The offering of discussion -- also provides for the offering of discussion with the Shi'a House and between the Shi'a House and Syed Muqtada.

On the issue of Mahdi Army and the arrest warrant issued against them. Syed Muqtada and suspension of action on the warrant in the interim.

You will ask whether the coalition forces have participated in this negotiation. The coalition did not participate in the negotiation of this agreement, but was kept aware of its progress. We understand its terms to apply -- the terms of this agreement applies to Kufa and Najaf, because it's one governorate.

I'm very hopeful that Syed Muqtada al-Sadr -- and I hope and pray that Syed Muqtada Sadr will live up to the commitments he made in this agreement. And we know it in this regard press reports Mahdi Army will implement it, the departure from Najaf as soon as noon today.

Successful implementation of this agreement will permit the people of Najaf, which was living under total paralysis for the last several months, or the last several weeks, since early April -- it will allow the people of Najaf, who have been paralyzed and living in total paralysis, to resume their normal lives. It will also permit the safe resumption of pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Ali Ali Selam, and also the removal of further danger to that shrine by parties seeking to inflame the population.

The coalition forces will reposition to their bases outside Najaf, while maintaining protective units at CPA offices and governorate building, as soon as the Iraqi security forces have assumed responsibility for public security and reestablish law and order. There will be no vacuum of security in Najaf. Until that time, coalition forces will suspend offensive operations, but will continue to provide security by carrying out some patrols.

We understand that the additional Iraqi security forces may be moved into the region, and that the urgent recruitment, training and deputization of the tribal element may act to bolster the capabilities of the limited police and the ICDC forces currently available.

Ladies and gentlemen, we pray, we hope, we expect Syed Muqtada and the representative of the Shi'a House to open discussion to resolve these issues as soon as possible. Insha'Allah.

I am open for questions.

Q Kimberly Dozier with CBS News. Sir, what does this say about the arrest warrant against Muqtada al-Sadr, that you are suspending it? Can you describe in detail what you are intend to do with this? It was a warrant for murder.

MR. AL RUBAIE: Well, this is being left for the negotiation, or the discussion I should say, between Syed Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shi'a House. And so we thought to break down the big problem, to phase it out -- that's the idea.

Q Daniel Williams, the Washington Post. Are you understanding that the coalition has accepted this deal? Have you been told that?

MR. AL RUBAIE: I understand that the coalition will honor and respect this deal, yes.

Q (Through interpreter.) What about the victims who fell in Najaf? Will there be any compensation for that from the coalition forces? And about putting Muqtada al-Sadr to a trial, will it be postponed?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The Shi'ite House will choose the delegation which will enter into negotiations with Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr to solve the security file and the file of the Mahdi Army?

Q Is the effect of this agreement focused strictly on Najaf, or has Syed Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to restrain his forces all over Iraq, including in Sadr City?

MR. AL RUBAIE: Well, the standard for the last few weeks now was in Najaf. And because of the special status of this city, and there are no military manifestations or armed manifestations outside Najaf now after the Karbala has been sorted out, so we thought we'd concentrate on the heart of the matter, and that's Najaf. And if we sort out the Najaf then it will be easier to go somewhere else.

Q Hi. Will members of the Mahdi Army be eligible for employment in the security services that you're talking about expanding recruitment for?

MR. AL RUBAIE: Sorry, the Mahdi Army?

Q Will they be eligible to join the Iraqi police and ICDC? You said you were expanding recruiting.

MR. AL RUBAIE: This is a matter for discussion between the Shi'a House representative and Syed Muqtada. When they enter into this discussion, then all possibilities are open for discussion.

Q Addie Raval, ABC News. The last couple of weeks coalition forces have captured some of al-Sadr's aides, including a capture yesterday. Is it now your understanding that under the terms of this agreement that the coalition will no longer take such action in the future?

MR. AL RUBAIE: This item has not been discussed, has not been addressed in this agreement. So the only thing I can tell you is I assume that law and order has to be implemented, and it's -- our prime concern -- the pivotal issue here is the law and order.


Q (Through interpreter.) Does the Shi'ite House have legal authorization from the coalition forces?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) There are many legal problems which prevent the coalition forces from entering into direct agreement or hold any direct negotiations with Mr. al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr. These are technical issues. Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr wrote a letter to members of the Shi'ite House, and the members of the Shi'ite House are the guarantors of this agreement. And the coalition force is welcoming the implementation of this agreement.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible.) Peace be upon you. Will there be any compensation for the citizens of Karbala and Najaf? For example, the cars, houses and shops that have been destroyed as a result of bombarding and the fighting which took place between the coalition forces and the militia forces.

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) This issue has not been discussed in the agreement. This is a very important issue, and I think it comes -- this issue will come when the delegation of the Shi'ite House will discuss this when he meets with Mr. Muqtada al- Sadr.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible.) Will Mr. al-Sadr be offered a political position? Will he take part in the political process? And is the negotiation concerning the Mahdi Army in Najaf or Karbala or all throughout Iraq?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) This issue has not been discussed in the agreement, and we didn't talk about this issue during the negotiations, and I don't see any reason to prevent any political movement which resort to polls and democratic means, and the political pressure and the media pressure. Any political group can enter into the Iraqi government and contribute to building a new Iraq. The new Iraq cannot be only built on the Governing Council only or on the ministers. The Iraq people are invited to take part in this process. All sectors of the Iraqi people -- the ethnic, the religious sectors.

The negotiations about the Mahdi Army, are they confined to Najaf and Karbala? When we enter into these negotiations, the Mahdi Army is not only in Najaf and Karbala. It exists throughout Iraq, and the negotiations will cover all formations of the Mahdi Army.

Q (Off mike.) What would comprise, from Sadr's point of view as you know it, what would comprise a violation of this, if the U.S. was to do X, it would be considered a violation of this?

MR. AL RUBAIE: Well, this is a question you don't address it to me -- you address to Syed Muqtada al-Sadr. I don't think I would be able to answer this question, what's in his view considered to be a violation of this agreement.

Q But did they give any indication? I mean, did he say, you know, if I see 1,000 troops, 100 troops --

MR. AL RUBAIE: We sensed a strong will last night -- night, or 3:00 in the morning -- we sensed the strong will of wanting to get to the -- to a peaceful settlement. And that's everybody's drive. And that's everybody's motive. We want to stop the bloodshed, we want to stop the violation of the sacred places in Islam.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- from Mesopotamia. I want to ask a question. I am very sorry I cannot answer a question outside this -- we have received from the Egyptian news agency about postponing the issue related to Muqtada al-Sadr. Does it apply to Muqtada al-Sadr only or to his lieutenants also?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The agreement is very clear the security files and the suspension of any procedures is only related to the security files only.

Q (Through interpreter.) Basiy Hill from el Mineh (ph). You talked about the issue of Muqtada al-Sadr when the Mahdi Army is withdrawn and there would be no security vacuum. Do we understand that there will be joint patrols between the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces, or all the occupations forces would be confined to guard the buildings of the governorate?

You also talk about the issue of tribal participation. Do we understand that the tribal leaders will have a role in providing security for Najaf?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The agreement didn't include any joint patrols. What I talked about is there would be no security vacuum. The coalition forces will not withdraw without the Iraqi security forces and the national defense forces. After that the coalition forces will depart.

Concerning the tribes, the tribal leaders will be made use of to back the operation carried out by the Iraqi security forces and Civil Defense Corps.

Q (Off mike.) Just clarify regarding the legal situation. Will the discussions be empowered to actually throw out the case against Muqtada al-Sadr? And could you also just clarify whether or not there are any outside people coming in to be involved in the discussions? There were talks of a congressman from the States coming over.

MR. AL RUBAIE: Congress from -- congressman?

Q From the U.S., yeah.

MR. AL RUBAIE: Search me. (Laughter.) This is -- where was it made, this idea? Where was it fabricated? Which factory? One of the Arab media factories or one of the Western media factories?

Q This is from the Islamic organization.


Q From the Islamic organization --

MR. AL RUBAIE: As far as I know -- well, everything is possible in this world, but as far as I know, there was no congressman or senators were involved in the discussion at all. It was purely Iraqi initiative. And I know that the Merjeria (ph) and the Najaf people -- they have played huge role in this, in pressurizing some of the negotiators to accept this. And we are so grateful. Nobody can claim credit on this settlement and, God willing, Insha'Allah, it is going to be a final settlement. But I can tell you the people of Najaf, the holymen, the clerics in Najaf, the Merjeria (ph), have played a huge, major role in this, and we are very, very grateful for that.

Q And the first part of the question regarding --

MR. AL RUBAIE: Sorry, I didn't catch the first one.

Q Will -- in discussions, will they have the power to throw out the case against Muqtada al-Sadr over murder?

MR. AL RUBAIE: We have not discuss their authority in terms of this case, because they -- see, some of them they have an official role, others they don't. So I don't think this body for the Shi'a House has a judiciary or legal authority to throw the case out.

Yes? Sorry, the gentleman here.

Q Under this agreement, will any of the Mahdi Army be disarmed? And, if so, who will disarm them?

MR. AL RUBAIE: I'm sorry, the agreement did not point or indicate that there was going to be disarmament or disarming or disbanding the Mahdi Army. The Shi'a House representatives are going to enter into negotiation or discussion with Syed Muqtada on the Mahdi Army fate, if you like, the future of Mahdi Army. And we are open for suggestion here. We are quite ambivalent. We are going into this discussion with an open arm. We have to fulfill or implement this agreement and it is for the good of Iraq.
Q (Through interpreter.) The negotiations will be between Muqtada al-Sadr and the members of the Shi'a House. Will there be any members of the Governing Council?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) I said that the Shi'a House consists of members of the Governing Council, their deputies, their assistants, and they have prominent members in the Governing Council and in the Iraqi government, and they should have responsibility of that.

Q Can you tell us who are the Governing Council members that were involved in these negotiations? And does this plan need to be approved or agreed upon by the Governing Council, by all the members of the Governing Council?

MR. AL RUBAIE: It's a letter from Syed Muqtada to the Shi'a House, which is formed of members of the Governing Council, and it doesn't need approval from the Governing Council. Actually it needs endorsement and respect from the coalition forces.

Q Well, can you tell us the members of the Governing Council that participated?

MR. AL RUBAIE: I don't think this is of any use to you as a journalist.

Q Well, can you let us decide that?

MR. AL RUBAIE: Obviously I don't want to answer this question. I just have to be rude to you. Thank you.

Q (Through interpreter.) Dr. Fahil Rasai (ph) from the Jordanian News Agency. How far will this agreement succeed? You know that there have been many violations in Fallujah.

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Arabic not translated.)

Second time.

Q Question: Can you just clarify what happened in Karbala? Was the joint simultaneous withdrawal by the Americans and the Mahdi Army -- was that the result of an agreement?

MR. AL RUBAIE: In Karbala there was no agreement. There was no agreement. I believe it was a sheer fatigue, and don't quote me on that. (Laughs.) Well, you are going to quote me on that, obviously. It was a sheer fatigue. There was no agreement in Karbala.

Q (Through interpreter.) Salam Abdel Hassan (ph) from -- (inaudible) -- Dr. Murfaq, you said that the accusation leveled against Muqtada al-Sadr is there for negotiations, and you said it was left for the jurisdiction. Will this accusation postpone or suspend it?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The agreement says that this issue will be left to the negotiation which will take -- the enlarged negotiations which will take place between the government -- between members of the Shi'a House and Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr.

Q Insurgent forces, who allegedly included foreign fighters and represented a threat to the whole region of Anbar, if not the country, were dealt with on a local basis by local and largely Sunni religious authorities.

In Najaf, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has manifested forces and military aggression everywhere from Baghdad to Basra, was again treated on an obviously urgently needed local truce basis, but again by Shi'a House, which is not a national organization. Is this starting to set up a pattern that could be dangerous to the eventual realization of a unified national Iraqi state?

MR. AL RUBAIE: Not at all. I don't believe for a minute that this is endangering -- or this won't endanger the unity of Iraq. I think the coalition and among the Iraqi communities, major communities, it's so strong that I don't think -- I mean, we have gone through a rough time, and we have not heard anybody calling for a splitting of or secession of one part of Iraq or another. So I don't believe it is.

But it is the reality that those people in Najaf probably carry more weight and influence in trying to change the view of certain people. You don't bring somebody from -- I don't know, far away -- even from Basra for that matter -- to influence the negotiators in Najaf. This is a local issue.

This is on the security side. But on the political side this is not a security issue by the way. This is an issue, very complicated issue of the violence, resorting to use of violence and arms in south of Baghdad in the last couple of months. This is not a simple, straightforward issue. I think it's a very complicated one. It's an uprising -- not uprising, but it's a revolt by the underclass, by those who have been dispossessed a long, long time, and obviously a mixture of former regime elements, a mixture of religious committed people as well. A lot of social element as well in it -- religious element in it, there's an economic element in it. So it's not -- it's a very complicated phenomenon, and I think it needs to be tackled -- studied and tackled properly and in a more comprehensive approach rather than a single security type approach.

MR. AL RUBAIE: The one before last question I'll take.

Q Thank you. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. Is the door open to members of the Mahdi Army who are from Najaf to now join the security forces that will be fulfilling that security role there?

MR. AL RUBAIE: This is going to be left to the discussion between the Shi'a representative and between the representative and Syed Muqtada al-Sadr in their discussion.

Q (Through interpreter.) Khoula Diseri (ph) from -- (inaudible). And the third item says that coalition forces will withdraw except small units. Have you obtained an approval from the coalition forces not to patrol Najaf?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) As I said, the coalition forces were informed about these developments. They were following up these developments closely. And if I use the expression, "a promise" -- they gave a promise to respect this agreement. Otherwise there wouldn't be -- the agreement wouldn't be announced.

Q (Through interpreter.) What are the guarantees to safeguard this agreement? We know that the coalition forces will maintain the right to defend themselves.

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) This issue can be referred to the coalition forces. But the right of self-defense is a right entitled to all parties. This is a natural right, and we can't deny this right to any party.

Q (Through interpreter.) From al Kharia (ph). You said that you pray that these -- this agreement will be adhered to -- as if this agreement was imposed on Muqtada al-Sadr, and not by an agreement between members of the Shi'a House and Muqtada al-Sadr. I think Muqtada al-Sadr respects his promises and he respects his commitments. While you were reading this letter, is there a project for a truce, for a cease-fire or suspension of the military operations?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) I will answer the second question. Last night the citizens of Najaf slept soundly -- since 2:00 in the morning the citizens of Najaf slept peacefully for the first time since many months. They need time to restore electricity and to clean the streets and open the shops. This is the responsibility of the Iraqi government.

Concerning your first question, will there be any violations of this agreement -- any agreement I pray God that all parties will adhere to this agreement. This is an agreement. If we can't practice self-restrain, this agreement -- there will be some renegade elements. We don't know where they came from. These elements might try to subvert this agreement through the violation of cease-fire and there might be a reaction and escalation of events. That's why I implore God to honor --

Q (Through interpreter.) This means there is no fighting going on?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) No, there isn't any fighting right now in Najaf.

Q (Through interpreter.) Peace be upon you. Khalid Maseadi (ph) from Al Sabah (inaudible). I am asked Dr. Murfaq al- Lubaiee now we are in the process of the handover of sovereignty. What are the security preparations to prevent the same violations which took place during the fall regime?

MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) Although this issue is out of our conference, the Iraqi government, backed by the coalition forces, has a detailed plan as we are approaching the date of handing over sovereignty. This plan will be carried out during and in the first weeks of assuming power.

Last question, I hope.

Q (Off mike) -- problem of Najaf, what will be the second issue? This is the first question. And the second: Have U.S. military forces told Iraqis about what authority the U.S. will have to keep and operate at present facilities in Iraq after the handover?

MR. AL RUBAIE: I don't think this is part of the topics we are discussing today. Probably I can feel there are so many questions regarding the relationship between the Iraqi government, the interim Iraqi government, and the multinational forces in Iraq, the relationship between these two parties and also the security issue after the 30th of June.

I'm sorry I have to leave, but I am not going to answer the last question because it will take a long time. But thank you very much indeed, but please pray for Iraq, and pray that this agreement will stick and Insha'Allah will stick. Shukran.


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