(Joint Press Conference with Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Mukhtar Altynbayev of Kazakhstan. Minister Altynbayev's remarks are through interpreter, unless otherwise noted.)
Rumsfeld: Good morning.
Altynbayev: (In English) Good morning.
Q: Good morning.
Rumsfeld: I welcome Minister Altynbayev, the minister of defense of Kazakhstan, to Washington. We've just had some good meetings. This is the third time we've been together in the past couple of years. We visited in Kazakhstan and then we visited again on the edge of the ministerial meeting in Brussels. And it's been a pleasure to welcome him to the United States.
Kazakhstan is an important country and a strong supporter of the coalition efforts on the global war on terrorism. I thanked the minister for his country's significant contributions to the global war on terrorism and Operation Enduring Freedom, and for the humanitarian assistance they have provided to Afghanistan. The assistance is appreciated. We look forward to continued cooperation and -- as we try to make sure that Afghanistan does not again become a haven for terrorists.
Today we discussed ways to expand our growing military-to-military relationship. I assured the minister of President Bush's commitment to the long-term relationship with Kazakhstan and the Central Asian region. We also discussed the upcoming Prague summit. And I encouraged Kazakhstan's continued participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which has been working well both for Kazakhstan and for NATO.
Altynbayev: Well thank you very much, Mr. Rumsfeld, for this opportunity to come here on an official visit. And in the conversations with you, we've talked about the work we have done in the year 2002. We also talked about the fact that the level of our cooperation is quite satisfactory, and we also talked about the prospects for the future in our cooperation.
Also, Kazakhstan was the first country to support the U.S. initiative with respect to the Afghan problem. And as far as the policies of our president, Mr. Nazarbayev, they demonstrate that he is the leader as far as the initiatives in the area of security, and this applies not only to the region but to the whole continent of Asia.
So this visit is extremely important. And also I wanted to say that right now the Kazakh military is undergoing reforms, and specifically we're trying to bring our military closer to the Western standards.
Rumsfeld: Good. We'd be happy to take a couple of questions. Yes, Charlie?
Q: Mr. Secretary, Iraq says it will comply with the U.N. resolution and allow inspectors unfettered access. And yet Iraq's U.N. ambassador says the country has no weapons of mass destruction. What's your response to that comment?
And since Iraq has until December the 8th to formally declare whether or not they have -- if they say they have no weapons of mass destruction, are they then in violation of the U.N. resolution?
Rumsfeld: The minister and I guessed the first question might be on Iraq.
There undoubtedly will, during this period, be any number of statements by any number of people on this subject. I've received a copy of a letter that went to the United Nations from Iraq, and I've simply not had a chance to read it completely or carefully. I understand there may be some differences in the version that's in Arabic from the version that's in English. And I don't read Arabic, so I'm going to let the dust settle over it and see if we can figure out precisely what was said. And rather than reacting to any statements that may or may not have been made by any of these folks, I'll just simply say they do have weapons of mass destruction. And the purpose of the U.N. resolution, of course, is to -- for them to agree to allow inspectors in and allow inspectors to make some conclusions.
Is there someone from the Kazakh side? Yes?
Q: I'm actually from Russia, from the Russian News Agency, but --(inaudible) -- Kazakhi colleague. I have a question for both secretaries. Can you give us specific examples of what you do together and what you plan to do together? And for Secretary Rumsfeld also: What is your opinion, sir, of the role of Kazakhstan in the regional security in Central Asia, and maybe of some security statutes that exist, regional security statutes that exist?
(The question is translated.)
Rumsfeld: Did you just repeat the question?
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: I see. So we don't need a translator; you can do it both ways.
The ways we cooperate, just for my part, of course, is through the IMET, the educational relationship, through assisting with mobility of their force. And we talked today about a non-commissioned officers academy and possibilities there, and, as I mentioned, NATO's Partnership for Peace relationship with Kazakhstan, which we think is a healthy thing for NATO and for Kazakhstan. With respect to their regional relationships, that's for Kazakhstan to determine and speak on.
Altynbayev: I would like to add a few words about our cooperation.
First of all, we sometimes conduct joint exercises. And also, we're trying to learn from the United States in terms of their experience in building up their military forces. Now, as far as the military forces of Kazakhstan, they are gradually becoming professional volunteer forces. And we could use the U.S. experience in that respect as well.
Also, as far as training, some of our people train in the United States, and also some U.S. professionals come to Kazakhstan and deliver lectures and seminars there in leading military academies and other institutions of learning in Kazakhstan. Also, there are some sergeants, who are professional instructors, who come to Kazakhstan from the United States and who share their experience related to actual combat.
Q: A follow-up. Mr. Secretary, would you like the Kazakhs to -- for instance, what would you like them to do to help you in the war on terror, both in Afghanistan and maybe even in the operation against Iraq? Any bases, supply routes, whatever?
Rumsfeld: I was due across town seven minutes ago, so I'm going to abbreviate this.
I have a policy that works well for me, and that is to let other countries characterize what it is they'd like to do in cooperating with the war on terrorism or with a bilateral relationship. And it is -- what we value is the military-to-military relationship with Kazakhstan, and have found it to be helpful to both of our countries.
(Cross talk.) I'm leaving. I'm leaving. I have to go. (Laughs.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, is bin Laden alive or dead apparently now? And if he is alive, is the United States winning the war on terrorism?
Rumsfeld: Charlie, the answer to the question "Is he alive or dead" -- the answer is yes, he is alive or dead. (Laughter.)
Thank you very much!
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