Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I want to try and
bring you up to date with the campaign in Iraq and then
take your questions. I intend to make a statement to
the House of Commons this afternoon where I will set
out the progress of the military campaign in Iraq and
the activity the coalition is undertaking to help the
Iraqi people begin rebuilding their country.
of all I would like to offer my condolences to the families
and friends of the three British Servicemen killed in
action over the past two days. This brings the total
British losses to 31. These men will not be forgotten,
they have played their part in helping to rid the world
of Saddam Husseins barbaric regime.
days have seen further significant progress against
our campaign objectives. The United States V Corps has
International Airport, defeated the Republican Guards
Medina Division. The First Marine Expeditionary Force
overcame the Baghdad and Alnida Divisions of the Republican
Guard. This morning we have seen the pictures of US
forces in the very centre of Baghdad.
air and missile strikes have continued to degrade the
regimes command and control capability, and the
Republican Guards combat effectiveness. UK forces
continue to control the south-east of the country and
to work to secure a better future for the Iraqi people.
Basrah, British troops began an operation to take control
of the city on Saturday. Yesterday they moved into the
heart of the city. They are now in Basrah to stay. Some
desperate remnants of the regime continue to hold on
in parts of the city. Operations to remove them continue.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Sir Percival is
expected to deliver a further cargo of humanitarian
aid to Umm Qasr today. The water pipeline constructed
by the Royal Engineers is now delivering up to 1.5 million
litres of clean water each day, sufficient for some
160,000 people. UK troops have delivered around 170,000
sets of rations to people in south eastern Iraq.
the regimes resistance is not necessarily at an
end. In Baghdad itself, as in other urban areas, coalition
forces may well face a
difficult and dangerous period of flushing out the remnants
of Iraqi forces, and particularly the various groups
of irregulars, thugs and
fanatics who hang on to the coat-tails of the regime.
And a number of Iraqi formations outside Baghdad may
yet need to be defeated if they do not capitulate first.
is clear is that Saddam Husseins regime is coming
to an end and that a better future is in sight for the
You mentioned the number of British casualties. How
many Iraq casualties and how many American casualties
have there been as far as you know?
Well I dont have the up-to-date figures for American
casualties, I am sure that they can be made available
to you. As far as Iraqi
casualties, we can only estimate the numbers. As I have
indicated all along, we have gone to extraordinary lengths
to minimise the number of civilian casualties and that
effort continues today, but as far as their military
losses are concerned, all I can say is that I anticipate
sadly that they have been substantial.
How would you describe the British successes in Basrah
overnight, and what is your message to the troops who
are still fighting out there today?
I think they have achieved a tremendous amount given
the constraints that have been placed upon them, both
to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties, as well as
not to take unnecessary risks for their own safety,
and I think that the operations that they have conducted
over a long period of time have been absolutely tremendous.
What really happened over the weekend is that they continued
this process of testing out the resistance by the militia
forces based in Basra and simply found that that resistance
was crumbling and therefore sought to take advantage
of it in a military way by establishing themselves firmly
in the centre of Basrah, and that process continues.
Are you proud of your troops?
I am enormously proud of them, they have done a fantastic
job in very difficult circumstances.
Do we have any good intelligence at all about the whereabouts
now of Saddam Hussein and his sons? And do we now have
confirmation one way or the other about the reports
of the death of Chemical Ali?
We are still not sure of the location of either Saddam
Hussein or his sons. There are reports beginning to
come in as to the whereabouts of some of those three.
As far as Ali Hassan al Majid is concerned, we have
some indications that he was killed in the raid conducted
on Friday night, but I cant yet absolutely confirm
the fact that he is dead, but that would be certainly
my best judgment in the situation.
You said you have some indications beginning to come
about the whereabouts of Saddam.
No, no, I said that in relation to Ali Hassan al Majid.
What I said is that there are indications as to the
whereabouts of the three, but
obviously at this stage that cannot be confirmed.
Have you been surprised that chemical and biological
weapons have not so far been used from the Iraqi side,
particularly now that the coalition forces have reached
the centre of Baghdad, and do you think the threat has
I have been relieved, I dont think we can say
that the threat has now absolutely disappeared, but
certainly it was always part of our military campaign
plan to move so quickly as to make the use of chemical
and biological weapons very difficult for the regime,
and that does appear to have been successful.
Is there any indication that you find about chemical
Well we continue to see indications. The one that I
have most heavily relied on to date is the fact that
some Iraqi forces have been issued with protective equipment,
and since neither the United States nor the United Kingdom
has any kind of chemical or biological weapons, that
protective equipment could only be designed to protect
Iraqi forces against their own use of chemical weapons,
so I think that is perhaps the strongest indication
You have said that the British troops are there to stay
in Basrah, that presumably is until matters are secure.
What about the move to an interim authority, do you
think that we actually need UN backing and a UN resolution
for the interim authority?
Let me say this as far as British troops are concerned.
Obviously it is important when I say that they are there
to stay to give confidence to the people in Basrah,
we are beginning to see signs of that real confidence
now. They have been understandably concerned over many
weeks about the prospect of coalition forces abandoning
them to their fate at the hands of the regime. That
will not happen and they will stay there as long as
it takes to provide the necessary security to people
in and around Basrah and in other parts of the southern
area for which we are responsible. As far as the future
is concerned, as the Prime Minister has said, and I
heartily endorse this on behalf of the Ministry of Defence,
our troops will remain there only as long as is necessary,
and indeed not a day longer. But as far as UN support
is concerned, it is absolutely clear that we want to
see UN authority for the operations there, in exactly
the way that we did in operations in Afghanistan. But
as far as maintaining security in the immediate aftermath
of a conflict,
it is obviously right and indeed best that that should
be carried out by those forces on the ground who are
aware of the security threats, who are aware of the
risks, and who are in the best position to safeguard
people and indeed themselves. What we do want to see
though is an early move to Iraq being controlled, and
its future decided by the Iraqi people, and again I
say that on behalf of the Ministry of Defence because
we do not want our forces there for longer than is necessary,
and it is right and proper that this country should
be run by and for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and
that is what we are working towards.
The Prime Minister and the President are meeting today
to hopefully wrap up an urban guerrilla war which has
been going on for 35 years since British troops went
into liberate west Belfast from their perceived oppressors.
It is a horrible scenario and you must have considered
it many times, what is the basis for your optimism that
you can avoid being drawn into low intensity urban warfare
in Basrah and Belgrade and get out of this in less than
I think the real difference is that the kinds of forces
that we are seeing used against coalition forces in
Iraq are people, and I have said
this right through, whose entire existence and activity
is motivated by their support for their regime. These
are people who have done Saddam Husseins bidding
and once that regime has gone there is no reason for
them carrying on. Indeed we are seeing some signs already
of some of those militias simply disappearing, some
signs as well of the local population perhaps understandably
turning on them. But these are people who are there
only because of the regime and once that regime is removed
there is no reason for their continuing opposition.
but do you need to find them to legitimise the
We will find them, they are there. We know of the determined
efforts that the regime made to dismantle them, to hide
them, to ensure that they werent readily available
when the inspectors were there. We are aware of some
of those moves made by the regime to disguise their
location and we will obviously, once we have control
of the country and once there is security there, we
I am sure, not least because of the cooperation of people
on the ground, will be able to take steps to locate
You dont subscribe to the view they have smuggled
them across the border to Syria?
I dont subscribe to that view, no.
When was the last time you spoke directly and personally,
one to one, with Donald Rumsfeld?
I speak to him very regularly.
When was the last time?
It was at the end of last week, but I am not going to
give you a running commentary on the days and the occasions.
We have very regular conversations, that has always
been the case, even before this conflict. I think it
is fair to say that the number of occasions has increased
during the conflict, but we have spoken and met on a
very regular basis.
A senior British official said in my hearing the other
day that you and Mr Rumsfeld was like getting pandas
to mate, it was difficult, it could be done, but it
did take time and patience.
My children like pandas. But I have to say I find him
very straightforward, very clear, we have an extremely
good working and personal relationship.
Could you give us a description of the situation in
other major cities in Iraq, like Najaf, like Amarah,
about how far they have been under control of British
or American troops?
I think that is a very good question because it emphasises
that this conflict is not simply about Baghdad and Basrah,
but is also about other major centres of population,
and inevitably the picture is a mixed one. In Al-Nasiriyah
for example there is increasing real security. Further
north, al-Hillah, Karbala, the picture is not as good,
and certainly not as good yet as we might like, and
there does appear to be continuing fighting there and
continuing resistance, but that is the kind of picture
that you would expect given the remarkable advance across
the country from the south to Baghdad. Efforts will
continue to be made to improve the level of security
in each of those places along that route.
Could you say what appears to have happened to the Republican
Guard. At one point we had 5 Divisions around Baghdad,
they have broken up, what are they doing? And on the
humanitarian operation, how is Britain going to contribute
to the Jay Garner operation, are we sending, say, a
General like Tim Cross to run the southern part in the
same way that Garner will be running the northern part
As far as the Republican Guard is concerned, an absolutely
determined effort, very successfully, was made to reduce
the effectiveness of the Republican Guard as they remained
in position, and there were various estimates of how
much their combat effectiveness, to use the expression,
was reduced, but certainly in the order of some 50%.
And as coalition forces have occupied territory they
have been able to count the number of tanks and artillery
pieces that have been destroyed, and 50%, although a
nice round figure, certainly seems to be about right.
What then happened was that the Iraqis appeared to break
down those formed
units into much smaller elements. That probably reflected
the collapse of their command and control, and actually
those smaller units, whilst they have been ineffective
in military terms because they are relatively easily
dealt with, they are threatening, particularly along
the sides of our lines of communication, and that still
remains a concern. I have indicated where some of that
resistance continues. So there appear to be Republican
Guard elements continuing to threaten our lines of communication.
I think it is equally fair to say, and this is much
harder to judge, that many of those Republican Guard
elements simply went home and we have found tanks apparently
in perfect working order simply abandoned on the battlefield,
and that again I think indicates that many of those
forces were not prepared to fight for Saddam Hussein
and once the threats and intimidation were removed,
then they took a sensible course and abandoned their
positions. As far as the role of ORHA (phon) is concerned,
we have mentioned Brigadier Tim Cross, we
have others as well engaged in working alongside Jay
Garner, we anticipate quite soon that the early phases
of ORHA will begin to provide continuing humanitarian
assistance in the south. I think what you see in the
south of Iraq is the kind of process that we want to
see unfolding elsewhere in the country, the establishment
of security, then to have humanitarian help going in
providing there is a secure environment. Increasingly
as well we will see Non-Governmental Organisations moving
in, that is now beginning to happen in the very southern
part of Iraq. As we establish security we want to see
that process continue elsewhere.
You say there is a growing sense of confidence among
Iraqi civilians, in Basrah particularly, that the coalition
troops are not going to leave them, abandon them as
they have done in the past. How is the battle for the
hearts and minds of the Iraqi people going, and are
you heartened by scenes of British troops being welcomed
by ordinary people?
Yes, and the reports from our forces are extraordinarily
encouraging, they are getting a very, very good reaction
on the street. I dont think that comes as a surprise,
I suspect, as I indicated to the House the other day,
was the shocking tactics used by the regime to enforce
their will. Once that threat was removed then we all
hoped and anticipated that people would then react as
we expected, which is now beginning to happen in Basrah.
I also do think it is of great credit to British forces
and the way they go about their work and I think there
is an obvious connection with Northern Ireland. In some
ways I regret having to say it, but I think the experience
of British forces over a long period in Northern Ireland
of working in the community, of dealing with people
on the streets, equips them superbly for the kind of
tasks that they are now carrying out in the southern
part of Iraq.
As we prepare for Terry Lloyds body to be flown
back fairly soon, could you comment on the growing feeling,
reluctant but growing, that if there isnt a cover-up,
it has certainly been extremely difficult to get any
information about this appalling incident, and possibly
that is because it could be extremely damning as far
as the American forces are concerned?
Well I dont accept that for a moment. We have
been in regular contact with ITN, I have spoken personally
on a number of occasions to people from ITN offering
our help and assistance, trying to establish what did
in fact take place, and that process will carry on.
But bearing in mind that the actual incident took place
behind enemy lines in a very confused part of the battlefield,
it has proved difficult to identify precisely what happened,
but that effort continues.
Can you tell us anything about defections, and particularly
there is a story in Todays Times of a Brigadier
General supposedly going to get asylum here in the UK.
Well I dont want to go into specific detail, but
certainly we have had occasions on which quite senior
commanders have indicated their willingness to assist,
I think demonstrating that most members of the regular
armed forces were not enthusiastic about supporting
the regime, but certainly many were intimidated. I think
it is fair to say as well that we had a number of indications
from senior figures who were reluctant to come over
because of their fears for their families and there
is no doubt that over the decades Saddam Hussein not
only terrified individuals, he managed to terrify their
families as well, and many of those families were clearly
in positions where he and his regime could get at them,
whatever the views of the men involved.
Go back to Saturday and the 200 odd cardboard coffins
in Basrah, what is to become of that material, when
are forensic experts coming in, and do you see that
as possible prime evidence for a potential war crimes
trial against Saddam himself or members of the regime?
Well I have seen various suggestions as to the explanation
for these horrors. A team began work today looking carefully
at the evidence and I am sure in due course they will
be able to provide us with some information as to what
precisely did take place there, but whatever it was,
something pretty horrendous.
Can I ask you briefly what your reaction is to what
has been happening in Baghdad with the American advance
Well again it has been extremely encouraging and I think
it has followed precisely the lines of the kind of operation
that you have seen conducted in Basrah, the gradual
surrounding of the city, not yet quite complete as far
as Baghdad is concerned, efforts made then to test defences,
armoured columns going into the city to demonstrate
to the population that the coalition forces are there,
and a continuing exploitation of that resistance, and
I am sure that process will carry on for as long as
it takes to take Baghdad.
The post-conflict situation may not be all that far
away now. Would you be happy to see American companies
get all the contracts for reconstruction in post-conflict
Iraq, and if not, what will the British government be
doing to see that British companies get a fair share?
Those kinds of discussions are under way. But can I
link that actually to what I said earlier about Iraq
being for the Iraqis. What we want to do is to establish
a situation where those kinds of decisions ultimately
are taken by the people of Iraq and their leaders, and
that is something that we are all, Americans and the
United Kingdom, working to establish.
Does Saddam have to be killed or captured for this operation
to be deemed ultimately a success?
I think it would help.
Are we at the end of the war?
We are not, no, and as I emphasised there is still a
significant level of resistance taking place in Baghdad,
still some significant pockets in Basrah, and resistance
taking place in other major centres. So we still have
a good deal of work to do and that obviously will continue.
Can you explain precisely what the difference between
yourself and the Americans is over the status of illegal
I dont believe that there is any difference of
opinion. We have in fact released a number of prisoners
following tribunal hearings in
recent times, in very recent hours in fact. We are going
through a careful process of identifying those who are
prisoners of war and indeed those as well who might
be considered to be illegal non-combatants. There are
elements of the regime who are operating without the
benefit of uniforms and appropriate insignia as defined
by the Geneva Convention, those perhaps are some of
the most threatening and intimidating people that we
want to get hold of in order to prevent their continuing
to terrify the population.
Didnt we give medals to the French Resistance
for doing that sort of thing to the Germans in 1944?
I dont think that is entirely comparable, Michael,
as you well know.
point, not mine, and he has the rank of a Four
Star General, as we both know.
I dont think it is a comparable situation.
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