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Secretary Rumsfeld and NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns at Press Conference in Nice, France
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Nice, France, Thursday, February 10, 2005

Rumsfeld:  We've had very useful discussions here yesterday and today.  The range of topics including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and Kosovo reflect NATO's increasingly global role and responsibilities.  If one thinks back not too many years, the thought that you would end up in a NATO meeting talking about NATO's activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and Kosovo would be stunning. 

 

I think the world is witnessing a period of historic change.  We've seen the election in Ukraine.  We've seen what's happened in the Palestinian Authority.  We know that 25 million people in Afghanistan have elected the first popularly elected president in the history of their country and are preparing for parliamentary elections in I believe June and clearly are on a path towards democracy.  Another 25 or 26 million people in Iraq have been liberated and have gone out by the millions -- despite threats, despite signs on the wall saying you vote, you die.  And had the courage and the conviction to cast their ballots.

 

The Iraqi security forces secured with an inner perimeter and an outer perimeter, some 5,000 polling places in Iraq successfully.  And the confidence that that had to give people in that country to see other people coming out of their houses, being willing to do exactly the opposite of what the terrorists told them to do.  The terrorists declared war on democracy and nonetheless they went out and voted.

 

I think it's important that the free world stand with those countries.  NATO has played and will continue to play an important role.

 

The alliance members know well that extremists seek to prevent democracy from taking root in those countries and alliance members recognize that the NATO countries remain top targets for extremist attacks.  If the world changes, so must NATO.  Those of us who strongly support this alliance recognize the need for it to continue to transform itself to meet the 21st Century challenges and threats.  This includes making NATO forces more capable, more useable, more deployable.  It also entails organizational reforms to streamline the NATO bureaucracy and get it better arranged for the 21st Century.  I'm confident that as these things take place they will be important in making sure that NATO remains probably the most successful military alliance in world history.

 

Finally, I want to extend my very warm appreciation to our French hosts for their hospitality.  I guess I first came to Nice in 1951 as a midshipman.  That's a long time ago.  I've been back many many times.  In fact the most recent visit here, my wife and I came for a vacation in August 2000 -- never imagining that I'd end up back in government.  But it's a pleasure to be back here and I'd be happy to respond to some questions.