(Participating was Deputy Secretary Of State Richard Armitage; Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Of Defense, Sheik Jabir Mubarak Al-Hamad Al Sabah, and Kuwaiti Minister Of Foreign Affairs, Sheik Muhammad Sabah Al-Ahmad Al Sabah.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, greetings. This is a big gathering on an important day. And it certainly is a privilege and a pleasure for me to be able to welcome to the Pentagon the State of Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheik Jabir, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Muhammad; and Sheik Al-Farahall (ph). The Department of Defense appreciates your being here.
And we're very pleased that Deputy Secretary Rich Armitage could be with us. Secretary Powell, as you know, is away overseas, I believe in Berlin and Brussels -- yes, indeed.
And certainly a welcome to all our guests.
Mr. Ambassador, it's always good to see you. Ambassador Zoellick, thank you for being here. And Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary is here; and Les Brownlee, acting secretary of the Army, good to see you. Chairman Dick Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and General John Jumper, the chief of staff of the Air Force. And so many -- I see Colonel Mulholland back there. What are you doing way in the back there? (Laughter.) And so many other distinguished guests, we're very pleased you're all here.
It's nice to be in a warm, dry place. (Laughter.) We had planned a big event out in the Parade Ground on the River Entrance with bands and soldiers and flags and pennants and music. But we're particularly pleased that so many of the Kuwaitis here in Washington, D.C. could be with us. Raise your hands. Let's see those flags. There we are. Good! (Laughter.) Terrific! Well, welcome! (Applause.)
It has now been well over a decade since the 1999 Gulf War, when coalition forces came together to repel Iraqi aggression against Kuwait and to defeat the forces of tyranny that had visited such terrible destruction upon the state of Kuwait.
On September 11th, 2001, it was the United States that suffered a brutal act of aggression, and in America's hours of need, Kuwait was there, a steadfast friend an ally, and a critical member of the coalition in the global war on terror. It was from Kuwait soil that the forces of the liberation of Iraq assembled and began their movement to Baghdad.
In the years since, Kuwait has been at the forefront of the coalition efforts to help the Iraqi people take hold of their country and begin their recovery from decades of repression. Kuwait has been a strong friend of the United States and of the American people, a valued and dependable ally and a courageous partner in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
And so it is fitting that Kuwait be recognized today as a major non-NATO ally, a designation that is enjoyed by just a handful of other nations.
Mr. Ministers, you honor us by joining us in alliance with our country, and by your commitment to our mutual security. Americans are grateful for your friendship, we're grateful for the steadfastness of the Kuwaiti people. And we thank both of you and your country for all you have done and are doing to defend freedom in this dangerous new century.
Thank you very much.