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Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Press Conference with German MoD Peter Struck

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 08, 2002 6:30 PM EDT

(Joint Media Availability with German Defense Minister Peter Struck Following Their Meeting.)

Rumsfeld: Good evening. Minister Struck and I have had a good discussion. Germany is a long-standing ally of the United States in NATO, and needless to say, we value that relationship and the friendship of the German people.

We discussed a good many issues, including the agenda for the Prague summit. We talked about various activities within NATO, such as the NATO response force proposal, which will be considered at Prague. And we talked about the missile defense feasibility study, and spent a good deal of time talking about the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands decision to take the baton from Turkey sometime early next year with respect to the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force. As you'll recall, the British had the first lead, the Turkish the second, and it looks as though the Germans and the Netherlands will take the third lead.

We also discussed the way ahead on the global war on terrorism. I thanked the minister for the Federal Republic's contributions to the global war. And we certainly look forward to working with him in the period ahead.

I'd like to make some other remarks, separate from that, because of the passage this morning of the U.N. resolution. It is the result of a good deal of hard work over the past several weeks. President Bush has rallied our country and the world to address the dangers that are posed by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Until President Bush spoke out on this subject, the world was drifting along and Iraq was hard at work on developing weapons of mass destruction, having thrown out the U.N. inspectors.

The president took his case to the Congress first, and the American people, and the Congress responded.

He then took his case to the United Nations, and the Security Council has now responded.

The world's attention is now turning to Baghdad. The Iraqi regime has a choice to make. He can give up his weapons of mass destruction or, as the president has said, he will lose power. The burden of proof is not on the United States or the United Nations to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and destroy them. The burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein to prove to the world that he is in fact disarming, as he agreed to do a decade ago and as is now required by some 17 U.N. resolutions.

As the president made clear this morning, inspections can be effective only if the target nation has made a choice to disarm and the country wants to prove to the world that it's in fact doing so. Inspections cannot be effective in uncovering deceptions and violations if the target country is determined not to cooperate. The task the international community now faces is to determine what choice Saddam Hussein will make. Has he accepted, finally, that he has no choice left but to disarm, or as before, has he simply made a tactical retreat in the hope of keeping his weapons of mass destruction aspirations alive?

We know this much: the only thing that has brought us to this point is the growing threat of pressure on the Iraqi regime, and the only way to finish the job facing the U.N. today is that Iraq be disarmed. And to do that, it's necessary to keep the pressure up.

Since 1998, the Iraqi regime has refused to allow any inspectors into the country. They're reversing course in this period only when they began to realize they had little choice. And the minute that Saddam Hussein and his small ruling clique sense that they're out of danger, I suspect that they'll have no further incentive to cooperate, and any U.N. inspection and disarmament efforts could then fail.

There will be a number of opportunities in the coming weeks to discover their intentions. Needless to say, Iraq ought not to take or threaten hostile action against inspectors or coalition aircraft upholding U.N. inspections.

Within seven days, the -- Iraq is required to confirm an intention to comply. Within 30 days Iraq is -- must fully and truthfully declare all of its weapons of mass destruction capabilities, its programs and stockpiles. They need to comply with demands to inspect any site and interview any individual that inspectors see fit, including interviews outside of Iraq.

As the president said this morning, any act of delay or defiance will be considered an additional breach of Iraq's international obligations, and "if Iraq fails to comply fully, the U.S. and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein," unquote.

During this period, the United States will continue to patrol the skies over Iraq. We'll continue working with our friends and allies to keep the pressure on them to respond favorably to the U.N. resolution, and we'll continue working with the Iraqi opposition to prepare in the event that they fail to cooperate. Continuing -- we will also continue developing humanitarian relief and reconstruction plans for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

Saddam Hussein needs to understand that this is his regime's chance to come into compliance with all U.N. Security Council resolutions. The choice does not rest in Washington. It does not rest in New York. It rests in Baghdad. For the sake of peace, let's hope that the Iraqi regime chooses wisely.

Mr. Minister.

Struck: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Welcome.

Struck: Thank you very much.

(Note: The defense minister's further remarks are provided through interpreter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, first I would like to confirm the view of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that today we had a very open discussion of various topics in a very pleasant atmosphere.

We talked, among other things, about tasks to be discussed during the Prague NATO summit. The NATO capabilities will have to be enhanced. We talked about the accession of East European states. And we agreed that an important and a significant contribution in the war on terrorism will have to be made. And we furthermore talked about the taking over of Germany and the Netherlands of the lead function in Afghanistan, of the ISAF mission. And I am of the opinion that as far as ISAF is concerned, NATO should take over a higher responsibility.

And I would now like to read a short statement on the decision taken by the U.N. Security Council today. I welcome the unanimous decision taken by the Security Council of the United Nations. In doing so, the Security Council has lived up to its responsibility for international peace and security. And I'd like to add explicitly, with today's decision in New York, the line and the approach of President Bush to cooperate with -- to go through the United Nations, to choose the way of multilateral approach, has proven to be correct.

Today, the international community has given Saddam Hussein a very last chance to fulfill his international obligations. The inspectors must return to Iraq as quickly as possible. It must be made possible for them to return as quickly as they can.

And the Federal Republic of Germany will support the work of the inspectors by offering personnel and equipment.

Moreover, the unanimous decision of the Security Council is a strong and clear signal towards Iraq. Now we do have a real chance that we can urge Iraq to really disarm in accordance with international law and the U.N. Charter.

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: The hour is late. The minister has some additional meetings. I thought what we might try -- (laughter) -- just try! -- is to have maybe four questions; a couple from the U.S. side, a couple from the Federal Republic of Germany side, and maybe try to share them across with each of us.

And we'll start with our friend Charlie.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that --

Rumsfeld: And no follow ups! How's that? (Laughter.)

Q: All right. Only if you give complete answers! (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Ah! (Laughs.)

Q: I think you said that needless to say, coalition aircraft must not -- that the Iraqis must not challenge coalition aircraft, as you said, upholding inspections. Do you mean by that the aircraft that are policing the northern and southern no-fly zones? Or is the United States going to provide additional aircraft, such as attack helicopters, in order to protect the inspectors?

Rumsfeld: The issue -- those issues are being worked out. And I'm not quite sure who is doing it, but someone in this building and someone in the State Department are beginning the process of working with the -- Mr. Blix and the U.N. to determine exactly how all of that is going to work and be deconflicted.

Q: Well, but, if we can talk about the --

Rumsfeld: Oh!

Q: -- the no-fly zones. Would those planes policing the no- fly zones be considered part of the inspections?

Rumsfeld: I can't speak for the United Nations on something like that. I mean, clearly, they are there to enforce U.N. resolutions, and that's why the coalition forces fly them. And we have various types of activities that go on. It's not for me to give you a legal definition of what somebody else would say.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Is this from the German side?

Q: Yes.

Rumsfeld: Good.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, in Warsaw you characterized the relations between the Bush administration and the German government as poisoned. Would you still characterize relations as such?

Rumsfeld: I think that you're possibly incorrect. Did I really? I thought that someone from our White House said that. (Laughter.) And I smiled and said, "Not bad" or something like that. (Laughter.) But --

Q: (Off mike) -- how would you characterize relations now?

Rumsfeld: Unpoisoned. (Laughter.)

Struck: (In English.) (Laughs.) That's very good. That's a very good answer. Very good answer.

Rumsfeld: Well, you keep asking me. Ask the minister! Who's going to have a question for the minister? Pam?

Q: Has Germany decided to back the U.S. in a use of force if the inspections do fall apart?

Struck: You know Germany's position on that question you raised. I can only say that we support the U.N. resolution. And today Chancellor Schroeder and President Bush had a conversation and they also talked about the relations between Germany and the U.S. And let me add that Germany makes a contribution to the Operation Enduring Freedom.

Rumsfeld: And this would be from the German side, and we'll make it the last question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, could you imagine that Germany, given the position of the German government they wouldn't take an active role in a possible war in Iraq, could support the United States somehow else, in a different way, in a more -- in a passive role -- let's put it like this -- by giving some different support for a possible war in Iraq?

And the same question to the German minister.

Rumsfeld: I thought we agreed that we wouldn't be followed up -- that we wouldn't ask the same question of two people. Or maybe we didn't agree.

Q: Yeah.

Q: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: We didn't agree? Okay. (Laughter.)

All right, we'll let both of us answer that.

I've always believed that the United States is best off getting the maximum amount of help we can. And the way to do that is to let other countries decide what they want to do and characterize what it is they may want to do.

I have no idea what the circumstance will be as to how the inspections will play out. I have no idea how the -- in the event that he does not cooperate, in what way the U.N. would then make a judgment. Therefore, it's next to impossible for me to know how any given country is going to react, since you don't know how things play out. And each country will do that in their own way, in a way that's consistent with their constitutions, that's consistent with their political circumstance. And as far as I'm concerned, that's just fine. I think each country ought to do whatever it is they believe is right and best for them.

Struck: Yes, that's a very decisive point. And Saddam Hussein, he has to realize what a great responsibility he bears on his shoulders. It is up to him to prevent any further action, and it's up to him to accept the U.N. decision that's been taken today. And this question you raise on a more theoretical level will be answered if he does not accept and live up to this U.N. vote.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is Iraq firing at U.S. planes an act of defiance? Because you said that the U.S. wouldn't tolerate any acts of -- any defiance by Iraq.

Rumsfeld: Is that what I said?

Q: In your opening statement -- according to my notes. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: I don't think so.

Q: Well --

Q: And so I wanted to know if Iraq firing at U.S. or coalition planes is --

Rumsfeld: Oh, that was the president who said that. I read a quote. (Laughter.) No, no!

Q: Supposing we consider the president's statement --

Q: Always the White House!

(Cross talk, laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Exactly! (Laughter.)

Q: What we're trying to find out is --

Rumsfeld: Listen, when the White House speaks, I repeat it. (Laughter.)

Q: Would that be defiance of the new resolution? Would that be defiance of the new resolution for them to fire --

Q: On the no-fly zone?

Q: -- fire at planes in the no-fly zones?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's for the United Nations and the president of the United States to make judgments like that as to what -- at what point does Saddam Hussein's behavior reflect compliance and cooperation, and at what point does it reflect something other than that. And it is not for me or any one person to decide. It's clearly something that under the U.N. resolution, the U.N. would look at, and the president of the United States would look at.

Q: Well --

Rumsfeld: Any -- as I understand the resolution, any country has the right, opportunity and privilege in the Security Council to take a matter to the Security Council. Which means that the Security Council itself can decide to seize an issue. I believe Mr. Blix can recommend that it seize an issue, or any country can decide that they want to seize an issue and take it to the Security Council. Who, or when, somebody might do that is just not knowable at the present time.

Q: But how can you say Iraq was being cooperative if it was firing at U.S. and coalition planes?

Rumsfeld: Well, I wouldn't. But -- nor did I.

Q: To follow up on his question --

Rumsfeld: Right.

Q: -- they are firing at U.S. and coalition planes.

Rumsfeld: Yes, they are. And I did not say they're being cooperative. In fact, I've indicated from time to time from this podium that they've been something other than that.

Q: Do they need to stop firing at those planes in order to be cooperative?

Rumsfeld: I really like the way I answered the question originally. (Laughter.) There are various ways an issue can be seized by the United Nations. I described all three of them that I could think of; there may be others. Possibly the secretary-general could -- is a fourth possible way to have it brought back to the Security Council. But at what point one or more of those different avenues would be taken in the event that this hypothetical example of yours occurred, that Saddam Hussein was not cooperative and did not decide to disarm and open up his country to the inspectors, only time will tell.

Thank you.

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