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Weekly press briefing, May 23, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq


(Note: Mr. al-Dabbagh's remarks are provided through an interpreter.)

GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. As-salaam aleikum. It's my privilege to be here with you today on behalf of the men and women of the Multi-National Force Iraq. And it's also my privilege to be here with my good friend, Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh, to represent the government of Iraq as we conduct this combined press conference. Before we begin, I need to say a few words about some breaking media reports. I understand you're all interested, as we are, in our missing American soldiers. I hope that you can all understand that our first obligation is to those soldiers and their families. Here's what I can tell you right now.

The Iraqi police did find the body of a man whom they believe may be one of our missing soldiers. We have received the body and we will work diligently to determine if he is, in fact, one of our missing soldiers. We have not made any identification yet. If appropriate, we will first notify the families of the results of that identification process. We are making every effort we can to ensure that the families of our soldiers are the first to receive accurate information. We all would expect, I believe, nothing less. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. When we have news that we can share, and after we have shared it with these families, then we will share it with your audiences.

To our broader mission here in Iraq, our commitment to help Iraq's government secure progress and provide hope for its people is strong and clear. But the future is in the hands of the Iraqi people. They are ultimately responsible for their own security, their own governance and their own prosperity. But together, we are hard at work at improving the lives of the people of Iraq, especially here in the capital. Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon continues. In September, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus will be able to provide the American people an assessment of our strategy to help build a new Iraq.

As we all know, it's going to get harder before it gets easier. This is to be expected. We face enormous challenges. Iraq is trying to build a professional security force that is loyal to all of the Iraqi people. They are trying to establish a judicial system based upon fair treatment under the law. They are trying to show everyone that true security lies in compromise through civil governance, not through thugs or militias or outlaws, and they are trying to accomplish all of this while under assault from terrorists, extremists and outlaws. The Iraqi security force and its coalition partners are taking on these outlaws. We are helping the Iraqis fight al Qaeda, which is trying to plant its poisonous ideology in Iraq through horrific terror tactics and mass murders.

This past week alone, from May 16th through the 22nd, we conducted 45 focused operations against al Qaeda. These raids resulted in the killing of 19 al Qaeda terrorists and the detention of 88 more suspected terrorists. In these past three days, during two of these raids, we found al Qaeda hideouts northeast of Karma. These locations were being used as havens for foreign terrorists coming into this country to kill innocent Iraqi women, children and men. These locations also turned out to contain torture chambers. Al Qaeda was using these houses to hold kidnap victims and torture them, to try and intimidate people into cooperating with them and to submit to their desires. We freed 17 kidnap victims from these two locations. Some of them had been severely beaten with chains, cables, and hoses.

One of these victims was a 13-year-old boy who had been grotesquely tortured. In addition to being beaten with whips and hoses, he had had electrical wires connected to his tongue, where he had been subjected to repeated shocks. His brother and other family members were also kidnapped. The victims said their abductors had told them they were al Qaeda-affiliated and spoke in a variety of foreign accents. We are also taking the fight to these bad guys. We are confronting terrorists, extremists and outlaw militias -- everyone who is operating outside of the law in attempting to undermine the legitimate government here, no matter what their affiliations are. This is resulting in more confrontation with outlaws. Overall, we have not seen an increase in violence, just an increase in fights with terrorists and extremists of all affiliations. As I said, this is to be expected.

We now have more troops, conducting more operations involving more troops, resulting in more confrontations. We are here to help protect the people of Iraq, at the invitation of a representative government of Iraq and under a mandate from the United Nations. Those who attack Iraqis and our soldiers will be hunted down until they're captured or they are killed. As I have said, we are here to help secure progress and provide hope for the Iraqi people. This mission is vital for the security in this region and, most of all, it is vital for the people who live here.

Together, we still have much to do. But I am encouraged that we have brave and strong partners. And here with me today is one of those people, Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh. And with that, sir, I'll turn it over to you.

MR. AL-Dabbagh: This could be our last conference with General Caldwell, who has done a great effort to reach the message and the news to the media, and thus to the population all around the world, in a very professional way. Thank you, General Caldwell, and we wish you a very successful future and a happy future in your --

We remember now the first anniversary of achieving -- of establishing the Iraqi government that is standing against all the violence targeting the Iraqi civilians. This government, with the efforts everyone, have prevented the situation of IraqIraq wanted. And challenges are still ahead, but the -- the effort to face this challenges is still on. heading to sectarian violence, the thing that the enemies of

There is a political effort now between the political side and the political council, which will continue its meetings tomorrow, headed by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to continue the political effort, and also by the political representatives in the Parliament in facing the terrorists. Thank you.

Do you have any questions?

Q (Through interpreter.) I have questions to Dr. Ali Al- Dabbagh and General Caldwell. I have two questions for Dr. Ali Al- Dabbagh. The first question is on the 28th will meet -- an American and Iranian meeting in Baghdad. Will that deal about the security situation, or will there be any other issues or things to tackle? The second question, the Iraqi government has announced that it's ready -- that it has a -- it's ready to -- that it's ready to -- and -- that it's ready to withdraw of the American troops -- will ask the American troops to withdraw. And the question to General Caldwell, you have talked that -- you've said that you found many havens of the al Qaeda. Have you -- could you tell us about the locations of those havens that you found?

MR. AL-Dabbagh: Concerning the scheduled meeting between the ambassadors of the United States and the ambassador of the Iranian -- the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, the major thing -- or, the only thing that will be tackled is the Iraqi file. We're not discussing any other files between both countries. They will talk about common things and especially the -- their agreements and disagreements about the Iraqi issues. This all will be talked about during the meeting and -- so that the two countries will avoid any kind of confrontation on the Iraqi soil.

And all these efforts will be ready and the Iraqi government will be part of this meeting and with this dialogue. And we believe that this dialogue will be such a great -- will have such a great benefit for both the United States and Iran.

The readiness of the Iraqi government and your question about withdrawing the U.S. troops -- and I think the question should be delivered to the American side. We're working side-to-side, hand-in- hand with the Multi-National Forces to supply and train the Iraqi forces so that they can handle the security at the end, because ultimately, they will be responsible about the security situation.

And after these forces have been trained, they will be ready to face the terrorist attacks and al Qaeda that has faced Iraq, and because al Qaeda is now targeting not only Iraq, but the whole region and the whole world. And the international community's also -- should back Iraq in fighting terrorism.

So there is a great effort to receive the security from the American forces through schedules. We believe that Kurdistan provinces are ready to receive the security from the American forces. And after that, the same thing will happen in Basra according to a schedule and so on to the other provinces.

GEN. CALDWELL: With these locations forward, northeast of Kharma, there has been a series of focused operations we've doing out there in the last couple of days, specifically yesterday and the day before is when we found these two hideouts.

On the 21st, when we found the first hideout, we went in there and it was very evident that this was a facility that was being used by foreign terrorists also. And in there is where found the first five kidnap victims who had been tortured -- four men and then the young, 13-year-old boy. A brother was in there of the 13-year-old boy. He had been kidnapped at a later date than the boy had been.

And then the next day we conducted -- again, amongst many operations that were conducted up in that vicinity -- went into another hideout and that's where we found the other 12 kidnap victims. They, however, had been kidnapped much more recently -- all within the last seven days -- whereas of the first five that we found the day before, they had been kidnapped anywhere from the early part of May up until about seven days ago and been held, obviously, for varying periods between one to three weeks. Q This is for Dr. Dabbagh. Ned Park from the LA Times.

I was wondering with the talks on the 28th, what do you expect can really be accomplished at a low-level diplomatic meeting? I mean, what are tangible results that can be achieved? What would be the best end result and where would things go from there?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: We expect that there will be an understanding at the cost of Iraq and Iran, but the relationship that are not good will not serve Iraq. And Iraq paid the price of the -- (audio break) -- between Iran and the United States. So the good relationship would help Iran, would help Iraq, certainly. And it would certainly and surely help Iran. We don't want Iraq to be an arena of fighting between two sides and we don't want Iraq to be an arena for sending messages between two countries.

What the -- this is what the Iraqi government wants. We expect that this meeting will be the beginning of a very normal relationship in the region, because the region has went through very tense relationship that affected everyone because of this relationship -- especially between Iran and other countries. So at least the Iraqi government expect this and we expect normal relationship between all the countries in the region.

Q (Through interpreter.) Dr. al-Dabbagh, the media said that the United States will give the Iraqi government two months to improve its work. Is that true?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: The Iraqi government is responsible in front of the parliament that has been elected. And they elected those people and the Iraqi government will take the trust from the parliament in achieving any progress. And so putting or setting any timetable for the Iraqi government by any other sides is not true and the Iraqi government -- the Iraqi government is fully committed to everyone who has elected it.

Q (Through interpreter.) A question from Kanan Nassanam (ph) to Dr. Dabbagh.

Yesterday we met the governor of Anbar and he never -- he didn't give us any good image about Anbar. And he said that things are going well. You as the Iraqi government, do you think that things are going in Anbar in a good way? People in Diyala province are facing and very terrorist attack, what are your procedures and the coordinations that you're doing with the Multi-National Forces to help and protect the people in Diyala province?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: No one can give you a very good idea about Anbar, but the things that happened in Anbar happened because the tribes participated in doing that, in fighting those terrorists, because those -- al Qaeda has threatened Al Anbar and have taken Anbar as a starting point to fight or target other places in Baghdad. And the tribes themselves decided to stand against the al Qaeda. And we think that the effort of those tribes backs the efforts of the government and also backs the effort of the Iraqi security forces. That's why the prime minister has asked to establish a provincial council in Anbar. And the same thing will happen in Diyala province. In Anbar we need services so that the Iraqi people -- the normal civilians there -- know that things are going well.

In Diyala, there are, of course, joint efforts with the Multi- National Force to stop this security deterioration in the province and the terrorist attack that all the Baqubah people -- the people in Baqubah are facing. There is a great -- we're paying a lot of attention to what's happening, attention to what's going on in Diyala province so that we can set some plans and implement them later.

Q (Through interpreter.) Iraqi to -- a question to General Caldwell.

A few days ago one of our friends went to Diyala province. And when we fresh there we've seen men from the Iraqi army saying that they're ready to protect the people, but the terrorists are much strong than them, because your presence in Diyala is weak. And Mr. Nechirvan Barzani is in Baghdad concerning the wealth and the richest between -- dividing the riches between Baghdad and Kurdistan.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I'd tell you first, in the last two months we've moved an additional 3,000 coalition forces into Diyala province to in fact provide additional fire support and capabilities to help deal with the insurgent effort up there. And we've done that in close coordination with our Iraqi counterparts. It's been a deliberate decision to move those forces there and they are all in place now, been there for about two full weeks now, starting to operate. And that in itself should help with the overall effort between the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces working together up there in that province.

Q (Through interpreter.) Concerning the visit of Major Vant (sp).

There are three files that are being discussed now: The state of the peshmerga troops and also dividing the riches and the constitutional amendments.

The negotiations are on -- that there was a meeting yesterday with the Security Ministries and -- to the discuss the issue of the Bishmerga and to move them from security guards in the region, and how can they organize themselves in the region as guards, or they join the minister of defense ?). As for dividing the riches between the Economic Ministries, they're also following up the -- this issue. They're -- we have vision and we -- the people in Kurdistan have a vision that they talk about, and there's a great spirit of cooperation and mutual trust between both sides, and the meetings are continuing and today we have many meetings and weeks -- we hope that we will reach a satisfying point so that democracy will be enhanced and -- because the region of Kurdistan is an important part of Iraq and this is a new experiment that the central government backed. As for the constitution and the constitutional amendment, this is among the political sides in the Parliament. There's a -- there are talks and meetings about solving the -- some disputes that need some dialogue.


Q (Through interpreter.) Question to General Caldwell, and also to Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh.

What are the latest information about the operation that happened this morning in central Baghdad? This is first. The second question is to Ali al-Dabbagh, concerning the disputes between Kurdistan -- the disagreement between Kurdistan region and Iraq concerning the Article 100 -- 140 about Kirkuk. What -- where did the negotiations reach concerning this point?

GEN. CALDWELL: Okay, sir.

INTERPRETER: The first question is for General Caldwell.

GEN. CALDWELL: I'm not sure of the particular operation you're particularly asking about, but I would tell you that across all of Baghdad, currently today there are a countless number of operations that are going on in each of the 10 districts between the Iraqi Security Forces and the coalition forces. I mean, as you know, Fard al Kanun was set up so that there could be that kind of simultaneous operations being done in each of the 10 districts, so I'm not sure which particular operation you're talking about. But they continue across all 10 districts every day between the 65 Joint Security Stations and combat outposts that are currently within the Baghdad area that are operational, being manned by both coalition forces and Iraqi Security Forces. I think he want -- he has a clarification.

Q (Through interpreter.) Concerning the operation of (Sinek and Kalani ?), there were -- oh, there were clashes between terrorist members and --

MR. AL-DABBAGH: There's a spokesman for the -- for al Kanun, and he makes a briefing about it and the information will reach you. And these are daily informations. And as far as I'm concerned, I don't have any specific information about this -- about Fard al Kanun.

The second question that you've asked -- we don't have any disagreement about the Article 140 about Kirkuk. And -- but we say we need a national dialogue that we need to implement the articles of the constitution in a (friendly ?) way that will not create any problem to any side in Iraq. This democracy is sort of a democracy that will save the rights of others, and solving things in Kurdistan and Kirkuk will be in this high spirit. We don't have -- there is no kind of a disagreement between the two parts of making any disturbance in Kurdistan or any other part of Iraq. The issue or the -- of federalism has not been implemented so far so that it will not cause any problem in Iraq, and the issue of Kirkuk will be solved in the same friendly way.

INTERPRETER: Question. Put the mike --

Q (Through interpreter.) Question from Professor Alam -- Dr. Al Dabbagh that the Iraqi army is ready to handle the security situation and responsibility if it went -- if you guys went through. The Iraqi government is now making plans in case the U.S troops decided to withdraw. Why do you think this happened?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Of course, the Iraqi Security Forces will handle their responsibility and -- but we think that the withdrawal of the U.S. troops will be -- or the redeployment of the Multi-National Forces will be in coordination between the Multi-National Forces and the Iraqi government. The president of the MNF now is under a demand by the Multi -- by the Iraqi government with a coordination, and there will not be a sudden withdrawal of the troops. The Iraqi Security Forces now are on its way to receive the security files everywhere.

GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you is that our president has been very clear -- is it working?

It's not working. Do you -- do you have any -- (Off mike.)

What I would tell you is our president's been very clear that we're committed to remain engaged here to help work with the Iraqi government to protect the people of Iraq, and we still right now are bringing additional forces into Iraq, not moving forces out. We have an additional full brigade that is still deploying here, and about 30 days from now -- or three weeks from now, we'll be fully employed within the Baghdad area, providing again greater protection for the people of Iraq. So our president's been real clear on our commitment. There are no plans to go anywhere, and I would tell you as far as the Iraqi Security Forces go, there are so many just -- very extremely dedicated and committed forces. They're out there every day putting their lives on the line, they are sustaining casualties just like the coalition forces are -- in fact, normally at larger numbers on a regular basis than we are.

There are things that we continue to work with them -- to help them with -- are things like leadership, because it's a very young army. So it takes time to develop leaders -- to professionalize them. So leadership is one of the items we continue to work with them. Logistics is another -- helping put all the logistics systems in place to help supply those forces. In some cases, it's some loyalty questions and we still continue to help them work through that, when we identify people whose loyalty is not to the government and to the people but to some other element. And then the last one is intelligence -- again, helping them develop those Intel -- the intelligence networks so that they are a much more self-sufficient security force than they are today. But they do continue to grow. They do continue to get better. They are better equipped today than they were a year ago, and they will be even better equipped by this December than they are today. The equipment has already been purchased and is already going into the process of being delivered -- more equipment for the forces over the next six months.

MR. : (Off mike.)

Q (Through interpreter.) Dr. Ali, the travel of Mr. Hakim and -- to the United States and the meeting of the Alhamedi and the phone call between President Bush and Maliki, what's the common point -- thing between all those things?

The second question to General Caldwell -- don't you see that the achievements of the American forces are nothing compared with what's going on -- or with what al Qaeda doing now?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: I can't comment about the traveling of Mr. Hakim, but we wish him a speedy recovery. This is a medical travel. It's not a political one. That's what we know. But the common thing about the meetings of Dr. Alhamedi and the phone call to Mr. Maliki is that we're to work closely with the American administration create a better situation in Iraq. And this is exactly what the Iraqi officials are doing.

And all the efforts that President Talabani and Tariq al-Hashimi are doing -- they're all cooperating to move forward with the political process and create a better environment to solve these problems that we're facing now.

GEN. CALDWELL: As far as the question about al-Qaeda and the U.S. forces -- what I would tell you, the U.S. The Coalition Forces operate very closely with the Iraqi security forces in these operations against al-Qaeda. And out west, it's the tribes that have come together and are -- actually decided they're going to reject the ideology and the ways that al- Qaeda is trying to make them live, and have been pushing back and striking against al-Qaeda and taking al-Qaeda on -- by themselves even, through formations that have been sanctioned by the government of Iraq as they exert themselves and reestablish themselves out there. forces are not operating alone.

So there is -- what we are seeing, more than we even did a year ago is a rejection of al-Qaeda by the Iraqi people of much greater numbers than was present there before. And it's primarily because they've realized that the al-Qaeda in Iraq does not care about them. They don't care about the people themselves. They'll conduct horrific, brutal murders, car bombs that kill -- (audio break) -- innocent women and children, and do it without even thinking.

And so there is a rejection going on that we have not previously seen that's occurring within Iraq. And that's a good thing because the people of Iraq need to have the ability to determine their own futures. And the coalition forces will continue working very closely with the Iraqi security forces in targeting and going after the al- Qaeda in Iraq that exists here.

(Foreign language spoken.)

Q Does this work? Yeah, okay.

Doctor, hi I'm John Anderson (sp) from the Washington Post. I know you said that you didn't want to talk about timelines, but I'm wondering whether or not your government feels that the political component of the surge that everybody's talking about -- the three important components that they're mentioning are the de- Ba'athification liberalization, the constitution, the oil revenue sharing bill -- whether or not those are important towards achieving a greater level of security here. And if you don't want to talk about timelines, when exactly will the government take some kind of action on that, because from all, everything I can see -- and I haven't been here that long -- it doesn't seem that there is any movement on them at all.

General, I'm wondering -- I haven't seen them but I understand that there's been another large number of American troop deaths announced today, and I'm wondering how important these political components are, you feel, towards achieving greater security here in Iraq?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: The government is working on the gas and oil distribution. And we know that these are laws are very important and the Iraqi government wants to approve these laws of oil and gas through the -- from the Council of Ministers, and now it's presented to the Parliament and it's their responsibility to approve this law. But there are some blocks that think approving the law of oil should be an agreement to pass all the laws, including the constitutional amendment. We believe, as the Iraqi government, that there should be some priorities to follow, to raise the -- and to move forward with the political and economical situation in Iraq. And these laws are very important now and the Iraqi government have approved them.

As for de-Ba'athification, the Iraqi government is very much interested in this matter and there are so many efforts that are being exerted by the Iraqi government to move this to another -- to assure justice for all criminals and that this idea of de-Ba'athification will not be used in the wrong way against others. This is the effort that the Iraqi government is doing. Certainly the situation is not as the Iraqi government wants and this is not in favor of the Iraqis. There should be some -- so there's an invitation between the Iraqi government and to the -- all the political blocks so that there will be a dialogue with them. This will take a long -- probably a long time, but we hope -- we hope that this will -- this -- the constitutional amendment will end -- will end soon.

GEN. CALDWELL: John, what I would tell you is that --

MR. : (Speaking in Arabic.)

GEN. CALDWELL: -- purpose behind the reinforcing elements coming in here into Iraq, (especially ?) around the Baghdad area, is in fact to create greater security to allow the political process to take place. That's been a recognized facet of -- since the very beginning of this plan was approved by the prime minister and put into place. So that's a clear recognition by the government of Iraq; that's the purpose behind the reinforcing forces coming into country here. The prime minister talked about it yesterday when he addressed the Iraqi people, and obviously Dr. al-Dabbagh talked about it too. So it is important because ultimately we know -- we can win every battle out there but we can't win the peace.

Q (Off mike.) I'm sorry, are you happy with the -- I'm sorry, are you happy with the political progress that's going on? GEN. CALDWELL: The political component is as critical to achieve the long-term security and stability that's essential for this country. All the U.S. forces are not in place yet -- they will be in June. At that time the conditions will be set to allow for that political process to take place. And we know that the government of Iraq is very much engaged with -- and working a lot behind the scenes far more than seen publicly in dealing with these things. And we all remain very hopeful that they'll be able to move some of these forward.

MR. : (Off mike.)

Q Thanks. Thank you. This is for General Caldwell regarding the surge and the search around the south of Baghdad for the three missing soldiers.

I know we don't know who this person was who was found today, even if he is a U.S. soldier or not, but based on the comments from the weekend by General Petraeus, are you still operating on the belief that two of these missing soldiers are alive? And the other part of the question is, when, in fact, does this become not a search-and- rescue mission but simply looking for what are, who are -- when do you, when do you actually say, well, we're no -- realistically, these people are not alive?

GEN. CALDWELL: Well, what I would tell you is that this -- the search continues right now for three American missing soldiers -- it's that simple. And we will not stop until we are able to find our three missing soldiers. It is true, as we discussed, that the Iraqi police did, in fact, find a body that they have turned over to us. And, like I said, we're going through that identification process to determine if it, in fact, could be one of our missing soldiers. But if it is -- again, as much interest as I know as everybody has in this story, our first responsibility, truly, is to the families of those three soldiers. And that's the first people that we would, of course, want to talk with and engage with and dialogue with before anything was said publicly. But we're going to continue searching for our three missing soldiers.

Q And you believe that all three of them are still alive then? Do you believe that?

GEN. CALDWELL: We right now are continuing the search for our three missing soldiers. We are not going to draw any conjectures as to what may or may not have occurred this afternoon with this one body that was passed to us by the Iraqi police that they found. So we continue to remain prayerful and hopeful that we will find, safely, all three of our American missing soldiers.

MODERATOR: Gentlemen, time for a few more questions.

Q Stephen Farrow (sp) on the London Times. Is there -- Dr. al-Dabbagh, is there any sense of frustration in the Iraqi government at your U.S. colleagues putting such public pressure on you about timelines and benchmarks? And when you mentioned priorities there, could you clarify -- are you saying that the priorities that are frequently mentioned by the Americans -- the oil law, de-Ba'athification, and so on -- are the same priorities your government -- are the most important things as far as your government is concerned, or not?

And General, on the missing soldiers -- without going into details of individuals obviously, is there any indication of how long this individual may have been dead or any obvious cause of it?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: What is most important to us in Iraq is the message that is being sent by the American administration, which are all of -- messages of support and -- that are being done between President Bush and the prime minister, and the meetings that are taking place. They will talk about the support of the political process. There could be some messages that could be -- that could lead to some misunderstanding in the region, this is what actually worries -- (audio break) -- us now. But I think the priorities now, of the Iraqi government -- of the American government is to achieve success in Iraq and this is the very big priority in here and we think --

(Cross talk.)

Q -- press you on what you mean by "misunderstandings in the region?"

MR. AL-DABBAGH: There could be some messages that are being sent by -- of setting benchmarks or timetables that could be misunderstood by some in the regions or some political blocks in the region, but there -- are that -- or because there are some alternative plans or alternative projects. So we think that anything but democracy is against the wish of Iraqi people and the 12 million people that have elected and participated in electing this government. So any mechanism of change in Iraq should come through the mechanism of democracy. This is what actually matters and we don't disagree about the priorities. Succeeding is not about one or two law, our goal is achieving security now so that we can implement all laws that you've mentioned. With no security, we feel that these laws are ineffective and all the efforts now are now heading to provide a good security situation to the Iraqi people.

GEN. CALDWELL: Again, I would say there's no question that -- (audio break) -- completely understand the incredible interest that everybody has in this story. But it -- again, our first responsibility really is to the families. And if there's any possibility at all that this body that was given to us by the Iraqi police could be one of our missing soldiers, it -- they really need to hear from us first, any of the details associated with that. And obviously, we're proceeding along in very cautious manner at this point associated with that. So if you don't mind, I'll just -- just defer that, and we'll go through our regular notification processes once we've determined whether or not -- and whether if this is one of our missing soldiers.

Q (Through translator.) Dr. al-Dabbagh, what are your readings to the American and Iranian negotiations? How far do you think they will succeed and what are the matters and subjects that --?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: What -- well, we've answered this question, but we can answer that too. But our reading now is that the relationship is -- that a good relationship between both sides will reflected here in Iraq. And we feel that there is a good desire between both sides of negotiations and dialogue, and this is a good thing.

We think -- we think that there should be a political resolution so that we can pull out Iraq from this deteriorating situation. The subject that will be discussed, we don't have -- there will not be any preconditions. Everything is open, and all the talks will be about Iraq. And the major things will be about the security situation -- the security in Iraq, and this is what will -- this is what will take place soon.

GEN. CALDWELL: And I would add, from the American side, dialogue is very important in this respect, in helping find a solution for Iraq's problems, because we all want to find, ultimately, the ability for the Iraqis to determine Iraqi's future. So the discussions are focused on Iraq as to how we can help the Iraqi people. And I think we'll all look forward to that session.

MODERATOR: Thank you. -- (inaudible) -- closing comments?

(Off mike.)

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Thank you very much --

GEN. CALDWELL: If I could, I'd just like to say, you know, for the last 13 months I've had the distinct privilege and honor to have represented the men and women serving in the Multi-National Force, and have many times represented those -- (audio break) -- to serving -- the civilians over here working to help the Iraqi people.

And, you know, to all those men and women who, each and every day -- you know, they put on their boots, they lace them up; they put on their body armor; they pick up their weapon and they move out on patrol to help the Iraqi people. You know, our hearts and prayers continue to stay with them. They're great Americans, they continue doing just an incredible job.

And I only hope that -- in this role I had as trying to represent them and what they do that I was able to convey to you their incredible dedication, their commitment and their desire to help the Iraqi people and see a better way of life for you all for the future, so that, truly, Iraq becomes the nation that has the potential to grow into and be representative here in this part of the region of the world, serving the interest of all the Iraqi people and a model for the rest of the world. So thank you very much.

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Thank you.


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