(Joint Press Conference with Defense Minister Antonio Martino at Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Italy)
Martino (as translated from Italian): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to start out by saying that this morning we had a meeting with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Prime Minister Berlusconi, and in the course of that meeting, PM Berlusconi underlined the Italian position just as he had reported this position to the Chamber of Deputies and to the Italian Senate. Secretary Rumsfeld and the government of Italy share the same position, and in discussing the issue of Iraq we've come to the understanding that one of the main points is supporting the credibility of the United Nations. If there should be noncompliance with the 17th resolution of the United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1441, it would be a terrible, terrible blow to the credibility of the UN.
Unfortunately, we've seen on the basis of the report of the weapons inspectors and the speech delivered by Secretary of State Powell to the United Nations, that there has been serious material violation of the resolution. We are hopeful that it will be possible to have disarmament in Iraq without any recourse to military intervention. But we cannot hide the fact, as was stated yesterday by the Prime Minister to the two Houses of Parliament, that a dictatorship with weapons of mass destruction is a terrorizing fear and peril for the rest of the world. After that first meeting this morning, we went on to have a bilateral meeting, and in fact there we had representatives of two allied governments, but not only that, but also people who are personal friends, and we were able in the course of that meeting to cover a number of important issues.
I would like to thank Secretary Rumsfeld for the words that he expressed in the course of our meeting, and in fact he underlined the commitment of the United States armed forces in terms of providing all the tactical and logistical support necessary to ensure the safety of the Italian Alpine troops. We also were able to cover other issues, but I don't think it would be very polite of me to continue with my remarks. I would like now to leave the floor to Secretary Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, Minister. Good morning. It is always a pleasure to be able to make even a brief visit to this wonderful city. Prime Minister Berlusconi has been a most gracious host. We had an excellent discussion. We appreciate and thank him for his hospitality, and certainly even more we thank the country of Italy for its strong friendship and its staunch support in the global war on terrorism. I'm particularly pleased to be here with my friend the Minister of Defense, and I thank you also for your hospitality. I also thank the Prime Minister for his leadership in the statement that was issued last week by eight governments, the leaders of Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, as well as Italy, expressing their determination that Iraq disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction. Their statements sent a very strong signal, an important signal, that the world is increasingly united in its purpose and is determined to see Iraq disarmed. More recently, the so-called Vilnius 10 nations have followed with an equally strong and important statement to the world. And as the minister indicated, we had a good discussion on both our responsibilities in NATO, as well as our bilateral relationships and we would be happy to respond to questions.
Q: - Mr. Secretary, you recently made a statement in which you placed Libya, Cuba and Germany on the same plane, substantially, and this of course engendered the outrage on the part of the Germans. We are wondering how you could have made a statement of that kind. In other words, how could you compare someone like Fidel Castro to Schroeder?
Rumsfeld: Let me respond this way. I did not make such a statement. I was asked a question as to which countries are supporting the U.S. effort with respect to Iraq, which countries have offered to assist in the event there is a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, and which countries are opposed. I answered the question just as I'm answering your question. And I said some countries were supporting, some countries that offered to be helpful later, and some countries had by their own statements nominated themselves as countries that were opposed. It just happens that those are some of the countries that are opposed, and each sovereign country can do whatever they wish. And I can't imagine why it would cause a stir in any country, because it was each of those countries that developed their own policy and announced it and, in the case of Germany, ran on it in a political campaign. And there are obviously enormous differences between those countries. Enormous differences, just as there are big differences between countries in the first group that are supporting it. And for people in any country to cast it in the way your question was posed would be inaccurate, and possibly even mischievous.
Q: President Bush said that Saddam Hussein has recently authorized his field commanders to use chemical weapons. Have you seen any indications that those field commanders are actually preparing to do so and if they did, is nuclear retaliation an option that the U.S. would consider?
Rumsfeld: With respect to the last portion of your question, the U.S. doesn't discuss that matter. I wouldn't want to elaborate further on what the President said, with respect to the intelligence that he cited. But I will say this, Saddam Hussein cannot use chemical or biological weapons himself, he has to use his chain of command and military officers. And we are sending very clear messages to the people around him that they would be well advised not to use those weapons. And in the event they do, they would wish they hadn't.
Q: Good morning Mr. Secretary
Rumsfeld: Good morning.
Q: I wonder if you could share with us what sense of urgency you arrived here with this morning and while you're here in Italy, to whom that message is directed to today. To what countries might that message be directed, and also what words you might have in light of the strong words from President Bush last night to Saddam Hussein.
Rumsfeld: Well, I would respond this way. I think the world feels a sense of momentum. It's been a long road - 12 years. We've seen enormous efforts by the international community of a diplomatic nature and they have failed. Not only did the diplomatic efforts fail to get Saddam Hussein to cooperate and disarm himself of the weapons of mass destruction, but so too the economic sanctions and the so-called Oil for Food Program has failed to get him to cooperate. So the patience of the world tried diplomatic, tried economic, and indeed tried limited military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones, and that too has failed to get him to cooperate. And the urgency comes from the reality that every week and month that goes by, his chemical and biological and nuclear programs are more mature, and the risk of their use becomes greater, whether by that country or by transfer to a terrorist network. So the world faces a serious situation, and it is the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorist states and terrorist networks, and that is why the United Nations passed Resolution 1441 unanimously.
Q: I have a question that is addressed to both ministers, it is up to you who shall answer the question. I am referring in my question to the visit of Tarik Aziz to the Holy Father here in Rome on February the 14th. I would like to know how you view this diplomatic initiative and if you think it will engender any change.
Martino: It is not up to me to comment on this question, I am not in charge of foreign policy here in my country and therefore I don't see that it would be appropriate for me to react to that question. It would be inappropriate even if I were in charge of foreign policy.
Martino (turning to Secretary Rumsfeld): Do you wish to say anything?
Rumsfeld: No, I thought you handled it perfectly.
Q: If Italy sends forces, military forces to the Gulf, would they be intended for use in combat role, or would they be strictly for post-war stability operations, and would you require, before you send forces for combat use, that there be a second UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq? Thank you.
Martino: I got three for the price of one. With regards to the question on Italian participation in a military campaign, this is something that the government would have to decide together as a collegiate body, and of course it would be subject to the approval of the Parliament, so at this point I do not wish to react to something that may or may not happen in the future.
I'll now answer the second question. I think I possibly forgot the third, but this is the second answer. Our Prime Minister said yesterday to the Houses of Parliament that we hope, we would consider it highly desirable, to have a second resolution of the United Nations. Of course, it would be better not to need another resolution at all, and hopefully, it will be possible to have Iraq disarm without the second resolution. At any rate, should there be another resolution, then that would increase the number of resolutions that currently are not being complied with from 16 to 17.
Martino: Shall we do a last one?
Rumsfeld: Sure, or do you have to go?
Martino: Another one. The last one.
Q: Thank you. Secretary Rumsfeld, Sara Smith from Channel 4 News in the U.K.
Rumsfeld: Hello Sara.
Q: The Italian public seems unconvinced for the need for war. You're heading to Germany next, where there is even more outright opposition. How can you use this trip to try to persuade the European public of the need for military action?
Rumsfeld: I think that this is a difficult set of issues and it does not surprise me that there are a variety of views. We are in a new security environment in the 21st century, and it's notably different from that of the previous century, and I think that the debate and discussion and the consideration that is being given to this new security circumstance is healthy, and desirable and part of a process that our world and our people and our democratic systems have to go through.
The people in this room and the people of our respective countries grew up in a different period. We grew up in a period when conventional weapons, we knew, could kill hundreds and even thousands. The weapons that are available today to terrorist states and terrorist networks can kill not simply hundreds or thousands but tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. And the question our publics in the world is wrestling with is, "What does that call upon us to do? Does it call upon us to do something different than we were able to do in the last century?"
To be very specific, had we had information before September 11th that that attack was about to take place, wouldn't we have had an obligation to try to stop it, even though the attack hadn't taken place? Now, instead of an attack where 3,000 people from many countries of every religion, men, women and children were killed in the 21st century, imagine an attack with a biological weapon that kills 30,000 or 300,000 innocent people. Doesn't that call for at least serious consideration about whether or not the international community ought to do something about that risk?
In this case, we're dealing with a country, a regime that has chemical weapons, biological weapons and a nuclear program, and has used chemical weapons against its neighbors and its own people. It has invaded a neighbor, two of its neighbors. It has threatened to undermine several of its neighboring states and destabilize them. And the question is, what does one do about that? And the answer is try diplomacy 12 years; try economic sanctions at least 5 years, try limited military action, try to get their cooperation, and at some point before that terrible event occurs, even though the use of force is your last choice, the risk of not acting may be vastly greater than the risk of acting.
And I'll end where I began. These are tough issues, they're important issues and they're issues that are not simple, and they cannot be answered on a bumper sticker. They need to be carefully thought through by the publics, and in my view that's what's taking place.