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Cohen Moves to Gulf, Discusses Iran, Iraq in Qatar

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DOHA, Qatar, April 5, 2000 – Iran, Iraq and the Cooperative Defense Initiative were among the main points of discussion April 5 between Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and the Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar.

Qatar is the site of the largest Army pre-positioning depot in the Gulf region. While few Americans are based in the amirate, the depot has a full brigade's worth of equipment. Should trouble erupt in the region, responding U.S. soldiers would arrive, draw the equipment and begin the fight.

During an April 5 press conference with Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir Al Thani, Cohen again stressed the need for the Cooperative Defense Initiative. The initiative, he said, would allow Qatar to detect a launch and defend against the missile.

The foreign minister expressed special interest in the early warning network that is part of the initiative. "Early warning for the area is an important issue," he said. "It is no secret that the United States would like to protect U.S. troops in the area, and this would allow us to protect our area. We always discuss this with the United States.

Cohen and the Qatari leaders discussed Iran. Cohen said the United States is pleased with the results of the recent Iranian election and that it was appropriate for the United States to lift some restrictions against Iran.

"The elections shows that a new generation would like to have a different relationship with the outside world," Cohen said. "What we have not seen is any change in their external policy," he noted, citing Iran's support of terrorism, opposition to the Middle East peace process and attempts to produce weapons of mass destruction and long- range missiles.

"Our policy cannot change until we see changes in these policies," Cohen said. "How other countries deal with Iran is up to them."

The leaders also discussed Iraq. U.S. embassy officials said many in the Gulf are questioning the continuation of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Cohen said Saddam Hussein is the cause of the sanctions. Once he allows U.N. inspectors back into Iraq to verify the destruction of his previous stocks of weapons of mass destruction and that no new efforts are under way, the sanctions can be lifted.

"The United Nations insisted Iraq allow inspections," Cohen said. "There is no sense in having Security Council resolutions, which are flouted, which are ignored, which are defied, then say [to Saddam], 'Go ahead, we weren't serious. You can have your way; you don't have to have inspectors and you can go back to building the military to the point it was before.' It would undermine the credibility of the United Nations."

Cohen will travel to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman before returning to Washington April 12.

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