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Rumsfeld Praises Coalition, Discusses Iran, WMD

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised the broad coalition supporting the war on terrorism and said the new relationships forged in this war will help protect peace in the future.

Rumsfeld spoke to reporters at the Foreign Press Center here. In addition to the war of terror, Rumsfeld also addressed Iran, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and U.S. objections to the International Criminal Court.

Rumsfeld told the reporters that more than 180 nations have offered and provided assistance in the war on terrorism. Of that number, 69 countries are contributing direct support to Operation Enduring Freedom, and 33 countries have representatives at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

Also, more than 90 countries have arrested or detained more than 2,400 terrorists and their supporters, he said.

If there was a common thread in the 10 nations he visited recently in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, Rumsfeld told reporters, it was that all actively support the global war on terrorism.

Rumsfeld said Iran supports terrorists and has served as a haven for some terrorists leaving Afghanistan. He said it has worked with Syria to move materials and people into Damascus and then into the hands of groups involved with terrorist activities in Lebanon and Israel.

Iran concerns the United States because of its work in developing weapons of mass destruction and missiles to deliver them.

"Iran is an important country," Rumsfeld said. "It has a population that's educated and industrious and, in many respects, repressed by the leadership of that country." The inclusion of Iran as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in President Bush's State of the Union speech in January, he said, was an attempt to highlight the danger Iran presents.

Rumsfeld told the reporters that the potency of weapons of mass destruction makes conflict more dangerous than in the past. Conventional weapons could cause thousands of casualties, but chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could push casualty counts into the hundreds of thousands.

"What that means is that our margin for error as people, as human beings living on this Earth, has declined," he said. "It is a much smaller margin for error than was the case for earlier generations." He said that smaller margin imposes a responsibility to recognize "we have to be wiser, we have to have better foresight as to what might take place, we have to be willing to think with a sense of urgency that we did not have to have in an earlier period."

Rumsfeld also detailed U.S. objections to the International Criminal Court due to go into effect July 1. He said the court is flawed and could be used for political purposes. He said one aspect of the court is that unlike other treaties establishing courts, this one has no time limitation and is not limited by subject or focus.

"We have looked at this and made a judgment that it would cause the United States pause to be willing to participate and put U.S. forces in countries where they could become subject to the international court and you could end up with a politicized prosecutor or people making allegations or charges, and then U.S. military forces would be subject to those kinds of allegations," he said.

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DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld News Briefing at the Foreign Press Center, June 21, 2002

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