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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt
Iraqi police car at explosion scene
It's getting worse. The mayhem which has swept the more troubled parts of Iraq hit Basra, the previously comparatively peaceful city run by the British.

In a series of murderous attacks at least sixty eight people were killed and nearly one hundred wounded.

In another blow to George Bush and Tony Blair, a third country declared it was withdrawing its troops from the coalition. The Dominican Republic's contribution may be numerically insignificant. But it has, or had, political importance.

Jeremy Paxman spoke to Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt from Baghdad. He asked him if attacks in Basra suggested that Iraq was becoming more insecure.

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COALITION OPERATIONS:

It certainly is affecting more portions of the country, yes.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Do you have any indication of who might be behind the attacks?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
This is very much the same pattern we have seen through a number of other terrorist attacks; a suicidal attack, attempting to achieve a spectacular result against a symbolic target, in this case Iraqi police stations. This is pretty much the hallmark of some of the terrorist groups we've come to know inside this country; could be Ansar al-Islam, could be the Zarqawi network or an Al-Qaeda operative that conducted this operation.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Do you have any idea of why the security situation is getting worse?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
We have said as we get closer and closer to handing over governance to the people of Iraq there are numbers of groups inside the country who don't want to see Iraq transformed to a flourishing democracy. They will try everything they can to avoid this happening. Our assessment is this is yet another attempt to derail the process of turning Iraq into a model for democracy in the Middle East.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Does your intelligence suggest that these people have any kind of coherent view of what they would like Iraq to be like?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
Our intelligence people suggest it's one of two views. Either a return to the authoritarian regime represented by Saddam. Certainly he is not coming back. But there are plenty of Ba'ath Party leadership running around this country. Or perhaps something what looks even worse, which is some sort of Talibanisation of this country as we saw happen in Afghanistan.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
In that case you could argue the whole military operation could end up being counterproductive?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
I'm not sure that I would take that argument. In Afghanistan, the military may be one of the tools necessary to ensure that some kind of rabid extremism or authoritarian regime does not return to this country.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Do you even have enough troops there?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
We feel we have enough troops. 140,000 plus troops is enough to maintain a stable situation in this country. We have the capability to respond to outbursts of violence as we saw in Fallujah recently, from the Saddam militia.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
What went wrong with the attempts to negotiate a ceasefire in Fallujah?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
I'm not sure I would use the term "what went wrong." What we are seeing in Fallujah is a political move to try and resolve the situation in Fallujah through the use of discourse, rather than the use of firearms. We haven't resolved that, because we know it's going to take a number of days to resolve the situation. At this point, there is every reason to be hopeful that we can achieve a peaceful solution through this method. I think it is equally the case that we need to be prepared to continue a resumption of offensive operations, if those that we have been discussing the situation in Fallujah with can't deliver.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Your Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld said he thought or feared you might have been trying to negotiate with the wrong people?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
That could well be the case. The real merit will be can they deliver? We will we see heavy weapons brought in, will we see terrorists brought out? We will see the people who killed and mutilated American contractors brought to justice. It's for them to demonstrate their capability to deliver. If there is no delivery there will probably be a resumption of offensive operations.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
You wouldn't go along with the idea that there is any kind of discrepancy in the way that American forces attempt to deal with insurgency and the way, for example, British forces try to deal with it?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
I think it's important to understand that we are running neither an American operation nor a British operation; we are running a coalition operation, where everyone is a full partner. All of the militaries can express a view. The input from our British partners is invaluable. We believe that as we go forward we don't represent one nation, but 30 plus nations who form the coalition.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Wouldn't the best way to get that coalition coherent give some sort of proper authority to the United Nations?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
That is exactly what is going to be happening after June 30th as the United Nations facilitates the process as we go forward towards elections.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
But the United States won't have military control, will it?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
No, it won't. The military control will remain very much as it is now, where we work with the Iraqi security forces in a broad partnership to restore stability throughout the country.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Do you honestly believe it would make no difference at all to the security situation on the ground if the United Nations were to have some kind of military authority?

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT:
There are a number of arguments that go both ways. We are comfortable with the command and control relationships operating inside Iraq and I suspect that we will continue those command and control relationships for some time to come


This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



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