Secretary Rumsfeld Press Availability with French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie
( Minister Alliot-Marie’s remarks through interpreter)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to have with me the minister of defense of France, and to welcome you back to Washington. We certainly appreciated the hospitality that the French government and the minister provided when we were in Nice recently for a NATO meeting.
And if I may, Madame Minister, take a moment to extend my sympathy to the family of Mr. Nicola Calipari and to the Italians that were wounded in the most unfortunate incident that took place in Iraq last Friday.
I assured the defense minister of Italy, last week and again this morning in our conversation, the tragic event is being investigated and will be investigated fully, in very close cooperation with the Italian government.
I should add that the -- a -- apparently a friendly fire incident took place also with respect to a Bulgarian soldier very recently, and I expressed our condolences to their family again, and that investigation is underway.
Before asking the minister to say a few words and then respond to a couple of questions, let me say that our coalition certainly appreciates the close cooperation of France in Afghanistan. Over the years our countries have cooperated and our militaries have cooperated in -- not only in Central Asia, but also in the Horn of Africa, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti -- on the Proliferation Security Initiative, and of course most recently with respect to our common interest to have the Syrian forces leave Lebanon.
Madame Minister, we're pleased to have you here. Thank you.
MIN. ALLIOT-MARIE: I would like in turn to thank you all for being here today and thank Mr. Rumsfeld for his hospitality and for those most pleasant moments that we just spent together around a good table.
Indeed, I feel it is important for us to meet on a regular basis in order to share our analysis of common risks facing us, be it in the context of the war against terror, the proliferation, and the many crises where our soldiers are standing next to one another and fighting for us. Sometimes we do work together in the context of such institutions and organizations as NATO, and other times we work in a bilateral context, as is the case right now on the southern part of Afghanistan. What is extremely important is that together we continue to work to find the best possible solution to allow people to live in democracy and in peace and security.
We do share a lot of things and agree on many elements. Then again, that doesn't mean we agree on everything, but that is the spice of life, isn't it. And in the event that we sometimes have little agreements, the best part of it is that then we can reconcile with one another. This being said, it doesn't mean I do not enjoy those more quiet moments, such as the period since Nice.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have a strange practice in the United States that we always call on Charlie first.
And then we'll alternate and call on someone from the French press. Charlie.
Q Mr. Secretary, Madame Minister, might I ask if the differences between the two countries over the planned EU -- lifting of the EU arms embargo on sales to Beijing? Is that a potential major problem for bilateral relations between the two countries? And, Madame Minister, what if the arms sales are -- if the embargo is lifted and these countries do not tighten controls over such moves?
MIN. ALLOT-MARIE: (Through interpreter.) Well, Charlie, let me tell you that the notion of the lifting of the embargo by the European Union as far as the sale of weapons to China will be explained next week. Indeed, there will be a discussion with a delegation from the European Union that will be coming to Washington, D.C. to meet with main personalities in the government as well as in Congress.
I sincerely hope that during this meeting we will be able to appease the concerns expressed by some.
As far as France and the sales of weapons is concerned, you must know that France has the strictest, most stringent rules applying to the sales of weapons of the European Union and probably in the world. And regardless, France shall continue to maintain these very stringent rules regarding the sales of weapons, as it has been doing until now.
Q (Off mike) –
SEC. RUMSFELD: You got a couple in there.
Q -- because that's a major problem in bilateral relations.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's a problem that was discussed, obviously, between President Chirac and President Bush when they met together. They both have commented on the matter, and I would characterize it exactly it the way they characterized it.
Q (Through interpreter.) A question to Madame Minister. What are the steps that France is considering, should Syria and Lebanon refuse to implement fully the provisions of Resolution 1559?
(In English.) Mr. Rumsfeld, has the United States accepted the French view that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group? Are you ready to deal politically with Hezbollah in a new Lebanon?
MIN. ALLIOT-MARIE: (In French.)
INTERPRETER: (Interpreting for the defense minister.) As far as Syria is concerned, if there is no implementation of the provisions of Resolution 1559, I believe that France -- and it will not be France alone, certainly –
MIN. ALLIOT-MARIE: (In English.) I don't believe; I (assure ?) France that I believe she will not be alone.
INTERPRETER: And France, I believe, will not be alone. We'll present the issue to the Security Council of the United Nations, which will then make the necessary decisions.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The United States, of course, has had Hezbollah on the terrorist lists for many, many years.
I guess we never translated his question.
I just gave the answer.
Q My question was are you ready in the future to deal with the Hezbollah politically?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The president has commented on this, and Hezbollah has been on the terrorist list from the standpoint of the United States for many years.
We'll take two more questions. And I'd prefer if people would only ask one question when they ask a question, rather than asking a double-barreled shotgun. Apparently got it started off badly, and then it was continued. Yes?
Q Mr. Secretary, the Church Report obviously is out. The admiral made several statements in there he said are essentially exculpatory of your office. I believe one headline -- and the admiral did not disagree with this -- said you're exonerated -- senior officials are exonerated. Wouldn't it have been extremely difficult for a vice admiral several levels down from you to come up with any other conclusion?
And your overall reaction to the report as you've seen it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I have not read the report, and I think I'll leave it there. And I have been quite busy this morning, and I wasn't able to see any of the testimony. So I'm afraid I'll just have to –
Q Mr. Secretary –
SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll make this the last question.
Q Okay. The U.S. strongly criticized the EU plan to lift the arms embargo to China. But at the same time your administration has just cleared the idea and the sale of a personal that a computer business to a Chinese group. So what is the rationale for the two positions, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: These are questions that you're asking that are not within the purview of the Department of Defense. We have a complicated set of laws and procedures with the Department of State, the White House, the Department of Commerce, the -- and the -- whatever sale you're referring to clearly went through all of the hoops and hurdles that were required for that to be announced.
Thank you very much, folks.
Q Just one follow-up on the Church Report, on the criticism of Congress that no senior leaders are being held accountable? (No response as secretary leaves room.)
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