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Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Prague, Czech Republic

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 19, 2002

(En Route to Prague, Czech Republic)

Q: Mr. Secretary, Reuters has a story, they quote Kofi Annon as saying in Pristina, something and I think I quote it fairly closely that he didn't think that the counsel would agree that the firings were in contravention of the most recent resolution?

Rumsfeld: I haven't seen it. My recollection is the current resolution incorporates prior resolutions.

Q: Prior resolutions actually justify the no fly zone.

Rumsfeld: Oh, is that a question?

Q: In that story, some countries didn't agree with the legitimacy of the no fly zone.

Rumsfeld: Whenever resolutions are fashioned, there tend to be compromises and there tend to be calculated ambiguities written into them to gain votes. So it's not surprising any time a resolution passes or even a piece of legislation in the congress that people have differing views about it, so it does not come as a surprise to me.

Q: Because he said that does it carry a lot of weight?

Rumsfeld: I have no idea what the reaction of the members of the council will be, I have been careful to say that it's not for me to make those judgments, it's up to the security council and individual members to come to conclusions.

[Q: Not getting into a material breach or legal debate. When will the UN be willing to take a much stronger stance?]

Rumsfeld: I think that two things that are open and unknown and not knowable at the present time. One is how Saddam Hussein will react to the U.N resolution and whether or not he will come to a conclusion that it's all over I'll just go ahead and disarm or whether he'll come to the conclusion it's all over I'll leave the country and just go somewhere else. Or I'm not going to disarm, I'm going to stay here and I'm going to fight it.

So that's one category of questions that are open, the other is how the United Nations will behave. The United Nations sat there for years with 16 resolutions being violated. Just as we've seen a pattern of behavior on the part of Saddam Hussein we've also seen a pattern of behavior on the part of the United Nations and only time will tell what it, that is to say, the membership will conclude and I have no idea what they will conclude.

[Q: Despite language, Iraq is still firing on coalition aircraft.]

Rumsfeld: I don't know if that necessarily reflects the UN the center of gravity of the Security Council on any particular issue at any particular time. He certainly is the Secretary General and he certainly has a voice and a role on the other hand until President Bush went to the UN the UN was quite happy the way things were.

It seems and once he went and they voted unanimously that marked a considerable point of departure for the United Nations that had not been there prior to President Bush's presentation.

Expecting a continuum; a straight-line projection out of the United Nations given the sharp turn they've recently done may not be the wisest thing to do.

Q: No matter what the UN does on the no fly zones will the US and Britain continue to take a measured response against being fired upon, do you plan to increase the response?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm not going to talk about what we might or might not do. You can be absolutely certain we'll not allow our aircraft to continue to be shot at with impunity we intend to respond.

[Q: Iraq has called UN inspectors of being basically spies and stooges for the US, this time around US and British will there be a two way intelligence flow? This time will the US be getting information back directly from the inspectors?]

Rumsfeld: Not to my knowledge. With respect to the first part of your comment, I saw Mr. Butler on television, the former head of the inspections stating that there was in fact spying and throughout the entire time the Iraqis were spying on the inspectors and determining what they were going to do next so they could take steps to avoid having anything found. It seems to me that that's an interesting footnote in history.

[Q: Mr. Secretary you said you'd been getting offers every day from other countries to help disarm Iraq by force could you talk at all about the details of those offers? Do you expect further such offers at the NATO summit]?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I've said we're getting offers everyday. I may have, if I did, I think we're getting more accurately to say we're getting responses every day. And they fit into a variety of categories, one category is That we would like to be helpful and start planning now in the event that force is used with or without the UN resolution. Another category is we would like to be helpful and begin planning now but only if there is a UN resolution indicating that it's appropriate for member states to use appropriate force. Still others are saying we are not in a position to cooperate with Iraq but on the other hand we would be willing to provide assistance in other ways. That might be force protection in a host country. It might be back-fill and support for some of the things we're doing elsewhere in the world where as they don't feel they'd like to be involved in the event force is used in Iraq but they could be helpful to us and free up some of our capabilities.

A forth category would be we don't want to help. A fifth category would be in the event force is used and the regime is changed we would like to cooperate with a coalition of the willing after the fact to assist Iraq from a humanitarian standpoint, and that type of thing, like so many countries are doing in Afghanistan. So they're these various baskets and a large number of countries have responded to those and a recently some additional inquiries have gone out and there are a number of countries that are in the planning process.

I think one of the reason so many countries are currently involved with planning that they recognize that there would not have been a UN resolution absent the potential of the use of force. That the build up that's taken place and the cooperative arrangements that are being fashioned among a coalition or the willing reinforces the diplomacy and creates a much better environment for the united nations because it ought to persuade the Iraqi's that the united nations and the coalition countries are serious.

[Q: Without resolution basket and with resolution basket and those numbers? Have they expanded since the resolution passed?]

Rumsfeld: My recollection is not perfect. I see something almost every day where they're clustered. And I just would have to go back and think what the resolution passed, but the numbers tend to grow, offering assistance.

[Q: You are critical to the UN record on Iraq but not the UN record on Israel, what do you have to say about that?]

Rumsfeld: Well there were a lot of resolutions passed in the UN equating Zionism with racism. Is that not right? Is that what you're talking about?

Q: No, about the settlements and withdrawal from the occupied territory.

Rumsfeld: I'm not knowledgeable enough to respond, except that, you're quite right there have been a number of resolutions passed by the united nations, not just on Israel and not just on Iraq but on a lot of subjects that have been ignored.

Q: Would it be a tragedy that this whole thing played out and Saddam Hussein was still in power?

Rumsfeld: These are issues for people other than me. I think the focus clearly has been that Saddam Hussein is determined to have weapons of mass destruction, and he's been unwilling to have inspectors in and he's been unwilling to disarm.

Now if the goal is to disarm him, the Saddam Hussein regime, and you have a long record of people believing that he is willing to forego billions and billions and billions of dollars because of his unwillingness to forego weapons of mass destruction, then it's not surprising that a lot of people take that next step and they say the only way to disarm is to have the regime change.

And second the congress' policy has been regime change; the prior administration's policy was regime change. This administrations policy has been regime change.

So the fact that it has not been competing - it has not been a part of the UN resolution therefore it ought not be surprising that it's more discussed by the united states than by the united nations as a resolution.

Q: The fact that we're factoring in the UN now Would you still like Saddam to go?

Rumsfeld: There are an awful lot of people who would think, as I said that it is so unlikely that you would get disarmament with out the pair that I think the answer to your question is probably yes. Congress has to change their policy.

Q: Could the inspection process last a year or longer, how long do you think the process will last and how long will the US be willing to wait?

Rumsfeld: I have no idea. It's a call for the President and it depends on how the fact pattern evolves.

Q: You mentioned on the way down here a report you were on page one of a report, of Al Qaeda, how many pages was that, did you finish it and how does it square with what the Chilean Defense Minister told us late yesterday afternoon.

Rumsfeld: I don't know what the Chilean Defense Minister told you.

Q: She said there was no real Al Qaeda presence in Chile but they wanted to continue surveillance to make sure.

Rumsfeld: I didn't see anything in the report inconsistent with her comment. I have finished the report. I don't recall the number of pages and I've said all I care to say about it.

Q: How would you summarize your time in Chile, do you think it went well? Do you think you accomplished what you set out to do?

Rumsfeld: Sure, I'm very pleased I went, it's an important set of relationships with the united states within our hemisphere. I would not have flown all the way down there with the schedule I've got if I didn't think it wasn't important. I had a good chance to meet a lot of my colleagues and visit with them on a bilateral basis and others on an informal basis at the edges of the meeting. I was particularly pleased to have a good visit with the president. He's a thoughtful person and I thought his remarks today were right on the mark.

We have suggested a couple of initiatives for them to discuss and some for our respective countries to discuss together. One involving peacekeeping. Which we have some real leadership in some of those countries in peacekeeping and I'm of the view that the world is going to need more of it not less of it.

Q: (inaudible]

Rumsfeld: Maritime cooperation we believe is important and something that makes a lot of good sense for the hemisphere.

Q: Has there been developments with the rapid response force?

Rumsfeld: No, I haven't gotten an update but there's been a very good response by the ministers of defense and I made that proposal at the last ministerial meeting.

It was an informal meeting so actions weren't taken. Informally reactions were almost uniformly positive and I wouldn't be surprised to see some movement. I think that it's an indication that the United States believes NATO can be an important institution. It's an indication that we think that to be able to be effective and relevant in the 21st century NATO is going to have to migrate from being a cold war institution organized and trained and equipped to deter and dissuade and defend a Soviet Union tank battle across the West German plain. And migrate into an organization that's capable of responding quickly to trouble spots in the world and certainly a NATO response force would be a very clear, visible indication that that important concept has registered and then acted on.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: That's not for me to say that's for NATO countries to decide where they would want to use force.

Q: Would you see it as a NATO force operating under NATO command or acting under different ways?

Rumsfeld: I suppose both. It certainly ought to have the ability to go into action- as a NATO entity. On the other hand NATO might decide that it wants to use parts because of distinct or unique situations. Those would be all the kinds of things NATO would have to think through and talk through.

[Q: Do you expect further discussions with NATO partners?]

Rumsfeld: For support for Iraq?

Q: Any potential military operation.

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't know. It's late, it was a short meeting. We've all had lots of discussions. In the discussions and planning and interaction and responding all going simultaneously.

At the CENTCOM level, at the OSD level at various meetings all of the bilaterals all of that is what's part of what's taking place in the world today, and whether I will or not I just don't know.

Q: Have you heard about a Press Report about the U.S. establishing a base in Argentina?

Rumsfeld: I hate to appear ignorant but I have no knowledge of it. I'm not even inclined to speculation, but that doesn't mean someone might not be visiting somebody about a port call or something, you know who knows? Not that I know of.

Q: Do you think you will be in doing meetings with President and Secretary Powell together at NATO?

Rumsfeld: We may be in a couple of bilaterals together.

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