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Coalition Dealing With Iraqi Civil Disturbances

Coalition Dealing With Iraqi Civil Disturbances

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2003 – The most important mission for U.S. service members in Iraq is to win the war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon press conference.

They will also deal with civil disturbances and create conditions for peace and stability, but it isn't going to happen immediately, he said.

Rumsfeld responded to reporters' questions about looting in the Iraqi capital. He said U.S. troops are patrolling the city, they have imposed a curfew on the parts of Baghdad under coalition control, and they are guarding hospitals and other crucial institutions.

The secretary said it is easy to understand the Iraqi people's response to the death of Saddam Hussein's regime. He said there will be a transition period that the country will go through before some calm is restored in some cities. This process is already happening in Iraq's second- largest city, Basra. "The Brits are doing a fantastic job there," he said.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out that looting in Basra is going down and there are only a few reports of public disorder in the city. He said he expects the same will occur in Baghdad.

Myers said the fighting around al Qaim, strategic city on the Syrian border, is essentially over. He said special operations forces and ground forces are securing the area in Kirkuk and Mosul, "and are degrading forces near Tikrit." Forces are beginning to secure the northern oil fields.

Myers said much still needs to be done. "We have to continue to create the conditions for a stable environment," the chairman said. Coalition troops must find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction. The coalition must hunt down members of Saddam Hussein's regime. And the coalition must get humanitarian supplies to Iraqis who need them.

Rumsfeld said that the Iraqi people have shown that they care passionately about freedom. "The scenes we witnessed in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities belie the widespread early commentary suggesting that Iraqis were ambivalent or even opposed to the coalition's arrival in their country," he said.

"It's fair to say they were not ambivalent or opposed, but understandably frightened of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the retaliation or retribution they could have suffered," Myers said.

"Now as fear of former Iraqi dictator lessens, the true sentiments of a large majority of the Iraqi people are surfacing. It's increasingly clear that most welcome coalition forces and see them not as invaders or occupiers, but liberators."

Rumsfeld said he is pleased that Arab people around the world are seeing the scenes of the liberation of Baghdad. These scenes show the Iraqis welcoming American soldiers and Marines as friends.

"For America is a friend of the Arab people and now finally Arab people are hearing the same message, not from U.S. officials, but from their fellow Arabs – the free people of Iraq," he said.

As the war continues, Rumsfeld said, coalition partners are working together to begin the process of establishing an interim authority. This will eventually pave the way for a new Iraqi government. He stressed the government will be chosen by the Iraqi people, and based on democratic principles.

ENDS

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