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Rumsfeld, Russian Minister Discuss Tsunami Relief, Security Issues

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2005 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today expressed America's sympathy to the loved ones of those missing or killed by the recent tsunami in Asia and praised the ongoing recovery efforts by the international community.

"We have seen the worst of nature and the best of humanity, Rumsfeld said in the Pentagon during a joint press conference with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov.

"Americans and Russians are working alongside thousands of others throughout the region to aid the recovery effort," Rumsfeld said. "The American people can be extremely proud of the professionalism and skillful assistance that is being provided by America's uniformed men and women."

Russia has sent teams of medical and rescue personnel to Sri Lanka at that country's request and has provided airlift for tents, blankets, water purification systems, and more than 25 tons of humanitarian goods. Russia is also assisting in distributing relief goods and searching for survivors.

Ivanov's visit today marks the 18th time in four years he and Rumsfeld have met to discuss U.S. and Russian defense and security cooperation and other issues of mutual interest to their two countries.

After meeting for more than two hours, Rumsfeld and Ivanov made brief statements and took questions from the media in the Pentagon Briefing Room. "As always, we have had good meetings," Rumsfeld said.

Ivanov agreed, saying the talks had been "meaningful, constructive and fruitful."

Rumsfeld said the U.S. and Russia share a continuing commitment to waging a global struggle against extremism and praised Ivanov's prescience about the terrorist threat.

"One month before the Sept. 11 attacks," Rumsfeld said, "Minister Ivanov spoke about the dangers of terrorism. In the last three years, we have seen extremists behead aid workers in Iraq, slit the throats of women hoping to vote in Afghan elections, and shoot Russian children in the back on their first day of school.

"These are times of great consequence for the entire civilized world," Rumsfeld said.

Ivanov said he and Rumsfeld were pursuing a "checklist" of items assigned to them by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin to advance bilateral cooperation in the areas of defense, security and non-proliferation. As a result of the meetings, Ivanov said, the two countries now have "more cooperation, more confidence, and better transparency" in those sensitive areas.

Rumsfeld spoke briefly about the upcoming presidential elections in Iraq, saying that on Jan. 30, Iraqis will finally have the opportunity to choose their own leaders and their own future.

"The Iraqi vote," Rumsfeld said, will mark still another success for democracy and a defeat for the pro-dictatorship and extremist elements. The entire civilized world has a stake in these elections."

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