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Rumsfeld Departs on First Middle East Trip

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2001 – Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is on a mission to the Middle East, his first trip there since taking office earlier this year.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (right) and Jaswant Singh, Indian minister of defense and external affairs, talk with reporters at a press conference outside the Pentagon. Rumsfeld and Singh met Oct. 2, 2001. The secretary said India had offered “spontaneous, open” support to the United States immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon and that its help since “is appreciated and valued.” Rumsfeld also used the forum to announce his departure that evening on his first Middle East mission, to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman and Uzbekistan. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

At a late-afternoon Oct. 2 Pentagon press conference with Jaswant Singh, the Indian minister of defense and external affairs, Rumsfeld said he was departing that night for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman and Uzbekistan to consult with defense officials.

He said India had offered "spontaneous, open" support to the United States immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon. India's assistance, Rumsfeld remarked, "is appreciated and valued."

The secretary said he hopes to visit U.S. troops during his trip. That depends on scheduling. He said he expects to return to Washington by the weekend.

The countries on the secretary's Mideast itinerary are allies in the fight against global terrorism. The U.S. government, NATO and other American allies believe Saudi exile Osama bin Laden masterminded the Sept. 11 New York World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, in which 6,500 are feared dead.

The evidence against bin Laden and "the relationships among terrorists and terrorist networks, are abundantly clear," Rumsfeld noted.

Uzbekistan is on the northern border of Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding under the protection of the ruling Taliban. The Central Asian nation is an ideal staging area for any anti-terrorist coalition military strikes, Rumsfeld said.

"It seemed to me that given their geography and their situation, that having a first face-to-face meeting with leadership there would be useful," Rumsfeld said.

He used the occasion to reiterate U.S. messages of recent weeks. The fight against worldwide terrorism will not be short, and it will not be an effort by a single coalition, he said.

"There will be a variety of opportunities for countries to work with us in different ways, at different times, in different parts of the world -- sometimes visibly and sometimes less visibly," he said.

Information that will turn the day against terrorism, Rumsfeld said, will be bits and pieces provided by people from all across the globe, including "people from inside countries that are harboring terrorists." He added that information could also conceivably be provided by people inside organizations that would like terrorists to leave.

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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Indian Defense Minister, Oct. 2, 2001

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