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Iraqi Security Ministerial Meeting

Why do I get the feeling, from press reports of the last couple of days, that the media will need to learn to be "polite" to Iraqi officials, or they won't be invited back.

NOTE: The following was received via full text e-mail direct from CPA Public Affairs, Iraq. There is no 3d party involvement. This was not lifted from any web site, consequently "no link". There are no copyright considerations.

POOL REPORT

Pool report -- First meeting of Ministerial Committee for National Security under Iraqi Interim Government

June 3, 2004

Pooler: Anne Barnard, The Boston Globe

CPA press officers escorted the pool to the Governing Council complex, where Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was holding the first meeting of the Ministerial Committee for National Security after taking charge of the committee.

The committee was established early this year under the CPA to coordinate national security policy among various ministries and agencies. Up to now, Bremer has chaired the twice-weekly meetings.

The permanent members of the committee, now that the new government has been appointed, are: Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Minister of Defense Hazem Aha'alan, Minister of Interior Falah al-Nakib, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari, Minister of Justice Maslik Al-Hassan, and Minster of Finance Adel Abdel Mahdi. Permanent advisory members include National Security Advisor Muaffaq al-Rubaie; Senior Military Advisor (the top military official in the Ministry of Defense ) General Babekr al-Zibari; and Mohammad Al Shehwani, director general of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service. (These are the spellings provided by the CPA; some of the names have alternate spellings. A fact sheet is available from Susan Phalen or J. Pepper Bryars,Security was tight. At around 1:30 p.m. press was escorted in two Suburbans to the Govening Council office building and asked to wait until the meeting was over. Two private security helicopters constantly circled the Governing Council area. Just before 3 p.m., the pool was escorted to the former Governing Council chambers, where a podium was set up outside the front door.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi emerged from the building, followed by the members of the committee, except for Foreign Minister Zebari,and intelligence director Shehwani, who sent their deputies; their names were not immediately available. Allawi wore a dark grey suit, blue shirt and patterned tie. To the right of Allawi was Barham Saleh, who has been named deputy prime minister for national security policy. General Babekr al-Zibari wore military khakis and a beret; the rest were in suits. They were flanked by about a dozen CPA security advisers, press advisers, guards and others.

Press were warned they would only be allowed two questions. They were kept behind a nylon barrier and were not allowed to place microphones near the podium, hence a few missing words in this pooler's transcript. The inaudible parts, where Allawi dropped his voice, are not more than a word or two.

Allawi read a brief statement, first in Arabic, then in English. The gist: The committee met today for the first time under his direction. They discussed security threats and received a report from the Interior Ministry. The English version follows:

?I met with Ambassador Bremer and General Abizaid and General Sanchez earlier today and (inaudible) they officially handed over the ministerial committee (inaudible) to me. While the coalition will continue to be responsible for (inaudible) security until the 30th of June 2004, I believe that the Iraqi Prime Minister, not the coalition administrator, should be the chair, decision chairing these meetings [sic]. Effective today I will chair and started chairing these meetings.

"Today I requested a security update from the members of the Ministerial Committee on National Security. This is the first meeting between me and this security committee since the establishment of the interim Iraqi government. And the principal purpose of the meeting was to receive a security update and to assess the significant terror threat faced by the Iraqi people.

"Finally, I received an update from the Ministry of Interior (inaudible.) Today a new class of Iraqi police graduated. I would also like to welcome today my friend and colleague the deputy prime minister for national security, Barham Saleh. Thank you very much."

He then turned to walk away, initially ignoring questions, until he was called quickly back to the podium by the CPA handlers.

The first came from this pooler, who -- observing the experience of yesterday's pooler in trying to get a specific answer -- attempted to ask a very specific question. Allawi was asked to describe the content of the Interior Minister's security report, and to describe how much progress has been made on the goal set two months ago by the previous interior minister: re-vetting the entire police force. How many police had been re-evaluated and retrained and were ready for work?

"You mean the new ones?" he asked. Both new and old, was the answer.

"We just started yesterday. We are in the process," Allawi said, and chuckled.

"We are doing it," the Interior Minister said from the back row.

The next question, shouted impromptu from the crowd, came from Al Jumhuriya newspaper: "Will Iraq enjoy complete sovereignty after June 30 and will it have the right to decision making with full sovereignty?"

Allawi answered in Arabic: "Of course, there will be complete, full sovereignty, for the Iraqi interim government to take decisions with full sovereignty. And now we are negotiating about an agreement in the Security Council and in the cabinet and we have asked our brother, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to go to negotiate about a UN resolution regarding the multinational forces. Of course, the multinational forces will remain in Iraq now. "

The last question, from BBC's Arabic service: "What is the role of the United Nations in the bilateral security agreements between you and the coalition forces, and will the Iraqi government abide by the UN resolution?"

Allawi answered in Arabic: "No doubt, the UN will have an important role in the coming political process and the new resolution will specify the main features of this sovereignty. There will be an important role and its role will be consistent with the free will of the Iraqi government and on the basis of complete sovereignty."

Press was able to grab Steve Casteel, the senior adviser to the Interior Ministry, afterward. Casteel, who attended the meeting, was asked whether the committee had discussed in detail what language it would like to see in the Security Council resolution governing the status of forces, or what mechanism there should be for the Iraqi government to influence the actions of the multinational force.

"Not at this point. It?s a very general discussion, but it's not locked in yet," he said.

As press was being called back to their vehicles by increasingly anxious security personnel, Casteel said the Interior Minister is still learning the ropes at the ministry but has already set priorities such as strengthening intelligence gathering and border control. His statement:

"The former minister (Samir Shakir al-Sumaiday) and the current minister have met now on several occasions. They?re very much in similar veins.. .We?ve got another series of meetings beginning tomorrow, I would say its going to be a few days before he announces his agenda. He recognizes intelligence and some areas like that as being critical, and the borders."

He threw in a parting remark with a laugh: ?I?m on my third minister this year.?

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