Rumsfeld Pays Visit to Iraq

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld makes a surprise visit to Iraq as officials there struggle to resolve disputes over recent elections. Rumsfeld also visited troops in Afghanistan. Los Angeles Times writer Borzou Daragahi gives Madeleine Brand an update from Baghdad.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, a profile of the leaders of both sides in New York City's transit strike.

But first we go to Iraq, where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made an unannounced visit today. Rumsfeld's visit comes one week after historic parliamentary elections that will pave the way for a full-term national government. Joining us now from Baghdad is the Los Angeles Times' Borzou Daragahi.

And, Borzou, welcome to the program.

Mr. BORZOU DARAGAHI (Los Angeles Times): Thank you. It's a pleasure.

BRAND: What more can you tell us about Secretary Rumsfeld's visit today?

Mr. DARAGAHI: Well, I'm not sure what he's doing here. This is a very typical thing for US officials to come here on these whirlwind tours. I'm sure there are some concerns in the administration about the extremely sectarian and ethnic nature of the vote last week. Essentially, you had Shiites voting for Shiites, Sunnis voting for Sunnis and Kurds voting for Kurds. It doesn't bode that well for the sort of ideal of Iraqi unity and kind of creating a government that represents all types and all ethnic groups and sects in Iraq.

BRAND: And some Sunnis calling for new elections because they're charging fraud.

Mr. DARAGAHI: Yeah, some of the groups that are--that didn't do so well in the elections are calling for new elections. I don't think it's really going to work out, though, because they haven't been really able to get any of the big players on board.

BRAND: Well, meanwhile, the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continues. Yesterday, he claimed that he was beaten while in prison; US officials strongly deny that. And there were more dramatic scenes in the courtroom today. Can you catch us up on what happened?

Mr. DARAGAHI: Yeah. Yeah, Saddam--basically, he called the US denial lies. He got into a bit of a shouting match apparently with one of the observers in the courtroom. I think it's kind of interesting that Saddam sort of took the lead on cross-examining the first witness. You know, a lot of people have raised questions about the court and how well Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin is kind of keeping control of the courtroom.

BRAND: Right. So who is in control there?

Mr. DARAGAHI: I think that's a good question. It seems that at times, the--you know, Saddam, the defendants themselves, are taking control of the place. Today, it seemed that Jafar Mousawi, the lead prosecutor--he was taking on a much more forceful role, telling the defendants--basically telling him--giving them a lesson on manners and saying, `Don't insult people, don't say bad things about people and we won't have to cut off your words when it goes out on the television feed.' You know, he was basically saying that it's wrong--basically giving him a lesson in manners.

BRAND: And are Iraqis paying much attention to these proceedings?

Mr. DARAGAHI: You know, I got to say that they are. They're absolutely paying attention. It's on on every single channel in Iraq, so it much be some kind of a ratings-getter, you know. So it seems to be a big moneymaker for these hours because they're showing a lot of commercials.

BRAND: Wow. So some American-style capitalism has seeped in there.

Mr. DARAGAHI: Absolutely.

BRAND: Borzou Daragahi is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. He joined us from Baghdad.

Thank you, Borzou.

Mr. DARAGAHI: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

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