Michael Ware


LE: An offer to talk

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Length: 3:40

WOLF BLITZER: In Iraq, deadly attacks, as Fred just pointed out, continue against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians, with apparently no end in sight.

One key insurgent group, though, has now broken its usual silence. Our correspondent Michael Ware is joining us now with an exclusive report. He's joining us from Baghdad.

Michael, tell our viewers in the United States and around the world what you are picking up now for the first time.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we have here is, amidst this wave of dreadful violence during the holy month of Ramadan offensive by the insurgents, we have one of Iraq's leading insurgent groups, part of one of the most powerful homegrown alliances of guerrilla organizations, reiterating its offer to negotiate with U.S. forces for what effectively would be a truce or a cease-fire.

What we have is the Islamic Army of Iraq, one of the backbones of the insurgency, in an interview conducted by what's purported to be its spokesman, Ibrahim al-Shimary, with CNN.

CNN forwarded a number of questions through known Islamic Army channels to the leadership of the insurgent group. And their response to CNN came back in a professionally produced videotape with the spokesman answering CNN's questions. On the issue of negotiations, he says that the Islamic Army is again prepared to negotiate with U.S. forces.


IBRAHIM AL-SHIMARY (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We in the Islamic Army, as we have announced many times, do not reject the principle of negotiations with the Americans, but only if the Americans are serious.


WARE: In this wide-ranging interview, Wolf, he sets two conditions for those negotiations: a time-table approved by Congress for the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a formal recognition by the U.S. of the Iraqi insurgency.

It was a wide-ranging interview, where the Islamic army canvasses the role of al Qaida, the civil war here in Iraq and, most pertinently, what it considers to be the driving force behind the Sunni insurgency, which is Iranian influence in Iraq.

The speaker talks directly to the American people, urging them to question President Bush's record on Iraq. Wolf?

BLITZER: I take it that the Iraqi insurgents blocked out this insurgent leader's face. That wasn't what we were doing. Is that right?

WARE: Absolutely, Wolf. We sent written questions. We have known channels of communication with this very powerful insurgent group, which has been on the guerrilla radar here in the war in Iraq since 2003. So it's one of the oldest, strongest and most active groups, representing a key faction within the insurgency.

And the video that came back, much like their propaganda videos that we've seen, is rather slick. It has a setting akin to a studio. It's professionally lit and it has the group's logo or watermark on the screen. So this is the form of the answers that they sent back to CNN's questions. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Michael Ware, doing some excellent reporting for us. Michael, we're going to check back with you, so stay tuned for that, Michael Ware, doing some exclusive reporting for us, as he so often does.