WASHINGTON -- As U.S., coalition, Iraqi and U. N. authorities work to transfer sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government June 30, a senior U.S. official cautioned today that it wouldn't be a complete process.
"On June 30, there will not sort of be a light switch turned on or turned off where it's just instant - it's a gradual process," Coalition Provisional Authority chief spokesman Dan Senor noted at a Baghdad news conference.
Additional authority is being turned over to Iraqis each day as the turnover date nears, Senor told reporters, noting the CPA began establishing Iraqi interim government ministries March 28.
"Iraqis will not assume all authority" on June 30, Senor said, but he added that the process of transferring power to an interim Iraqi government continues.
Thus far, he said, Iraqi ministries for education, municipalities and public works, science and technology, culture, agriculture, and displacement and migration have been set up. The ministry of water resources, Senor added, is being established today.
Senor said the Iraqi ministries of industry and minerals, foreign affairs, and planning and development are to be set up this week. "And we will continue to work every single week between now and June 30 to turn over additional ministries to the Iraqi leadership," he noted.
U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces continued offensive operations across Iraq to establish stability, effect reconstruction and prepare for the transfer of sovereignty, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt noted at the news conference. Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, accompanied Senor at the briefing.
Over the past 24 hours, he said, the coalition conducted 1,637 patrols and 17 offensive operations, flew 32 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 29 anti- coalition suspects.
Today, the general noted, senior Marine officers from the 1st Marine Division convoyed into Fallujah to meet with the mayor and other officials to talk about plans to rebuild the battered city. Pro-coalition Iraqi troops, Kimmitt said, facilitated the Marines' trip into Fallujah, which took place without encountering any hostile fire.
Kimmitt also reported that 1st U.S. Cavalry soldiers used Bradley fighting vehicle, Abrams tank and helicopter fire May 9 to demolish an illegal militia headquarters building in Sadr City that was in the process of being reclaimed. About 35 insurgents were killed in related fighting over the last 24 hours, he noted, and four coalition troops were wounded. The militia is commanded by militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is wanted by Iraqi authorities for the alleged murder of a fellow cleric last year.
An improvised explosive device detonated near the Four Seasons Hotel in eastern Baghdad May 9, Kimmitt reported. Two British and two Iraqi citizens were injured in the blast, he said.
Kimmitt also discussed the May 19 court-martial of Army Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits at the news conference and during two American morning television news shows Slated for trial in Baghdad, Sivits allegedly abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and faces several charges: conspiracy to maltreat subordinates and detainees; dereliction of duty for negligently failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; and maltreatment of detainees.
Six other U.S. service members, Kimmitt noted on NBC's "Today" show, have been referred for criminal charges regarding alleged detainee abuse at the Baghdad prison.
The general said he hadn't yet seen the latest photo depicting alleged detainee abuse using guard dogs at Abu Ghraib, nor any videotape, but he said the public should be braced for additional "disturbing" photos.
The detainee abuse scandal, Kimmitt acknowledged, likely makes U.S. service members' jobs harder "because the people of Iraq are going to be looking at them with a different eye." U.S. troops will continue their mission in Iraq, he said, and the American and Iraqi people "should take great pride in their accomplishments."
Later, the general told the CBS "Early Show" that U.S. troops are "disgusted" by the photographs. "They're disappointed because they know that doesn't reflect what they're doing over there (in Iraq)," Kimmitt said.