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DoD News Briefing - Norwegian Minister of Defense Kristin Krohn Devold

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 02, 2002 11:30 AM EDT

(Media availability with Norwegian Minister of Defense Kristin Krohn Devold)

Rumsfeld: Let me just say a quick word here. Good morning. We've just had a good visit and discussed the very strong and healthy relationship between the United States and Norway. We have a relationship, of course, that goes back a great many years. And I was delighted to be able to welcome the minister here. She's going to be going back in and meeting with a good number of our folks on a variety of subjects that are of interest to both of our countries. And we discussed our relationship in NATO and how important that is -- the Atlantic relationship.

We also discussed the wonderful cooperation and support that Norway has been giving to Operation Enduring Freedom. As you well know from our briefings, the Norwegians have had special forces there and have participated in a variety of other ways.

So we're happy you're here, and I'll turn the mike over for you to make any comments you'd like.

Devold: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

First of all, I'm very happy to be here. The main purpose of my visit is to express the strong support that Norway has for the Operation Enduring Freedom and the fight against terrorism. We have been backing United States, and we will continue to back United States. It's very important for us, because, as I explained to Mr. Secretary here, there are actually more Norwegians living in the United States than there are in Norway. So we have long and good tradition for actually being related to each other as we are.

At the same time, I also wanted to mention that in Norway we are in favor of changing the NATO. We are in favor of modernizing NATO, and we think that Norway actually can play a role there and that we want to cooperate very closely with the United States in the job that is ahead of us.

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

Now we have a tradition that Charlie, being not the oldest but the senior member of the Pentagon press corps, ask the first question.

Charlie.

Q: Mr. Secretary, might I add: The White House confirmed today that you believe you are holding Abu Zubaydah. What does this mean for the war on terrorism? And do you plan, perhaps, to question him in a third country other than Afghanistan or Pakistan before you move him to Guantanamo?

Rumsfeld: Well, first, as President Musharraf indicated today and as the White House indicated, he is, in fact, in custody. And being a very senior al Qaeda official who has been intimately involved in a range of activities for the al Qaeda, there's no question but that having an opportunity to visit with him is helpful. Sometimes I understate for emphasis. He --

(Audio break.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, just a brief follow-up. Apparently he was wounded rather seriously in trying to escape. Is he in a hospital now? Is he --

Rumsfeld: He's being given exactly the excellent medical care one would want if they wanted to make sure he was around a good, long time to visit with us. And he's getting very good medical care. His wounds are several. They seem not to be life-threatening.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you have --

Rumsfeld: We -- I thought we were going to alternate between the U.S. and the Norwegian press.

Q: (Off mike) -- the Norwegian press corps, sir.

Rumsfeld: The whole corps? (Laughter.)

Q: The whole country. (Laughter.)

Mr. Secretary, did you discuss today a widening role for Norway's support on the war on terrorism in or outside Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: We have -- we did discuss the Operation Enduring Freedom and the war -- global war against terrorism as a subject. We discussed specifically the very fine role that Norway has been playing with respect to the Afghanistan activity, and also the fact that NATO and Norway have assisted with respect to the AWACS here in the United States for U.S. homeland defense, which, of course, is a very important thing given the scarcity of a number of the assets, including AWACS capabilities.

Q: A quick follow-up, sir. There has been some talk about Norwegian F-16 fighters taking part in the effort?

Rumsfeld: I have a -- I have a practice. I let any country cooperating characterize their own participation, and that way, I won't ever say anything that would be awkward for other countries.

You have the floor.

Devold: Yes. And we have offered F-16s to the United States and to Operation Enduring Freedom. And the signal is that they might be needed. So Norway plans to be able to go together with Denmark and Netherlands with a deployment of F-16s if we are needed later on this year.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: (Off mike)Question for the minister.

Rumsfeld: Good.

Q: You're mulling over participation in the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program. There are reports, you're aware, that the U.S. Navy wants to cut back about 400 of the planes. Has that complicated or made your decision more problematic?

And Mr. Rumsfeld, can you comment about your view on whether the Navy should in fact cut the program?

Rumsfeld: Well, I'll go first, if you want.

Devold: (Laughs.)

Rumsfeld: There always is discussion about the size of a buy on an aircraft, and there has been a discussion within the Department of the Navy, with the Marines. No final proposals have been made. No final proposals have been decided. And obviously it's a matter that is of interest to other people who -- allies and friends who conceivably are interested in the Joint Strike Fighter, as well as to the United States Air Force. So it's a subject that would get discussed quite broadly before being concluded.

Q: Madame Minister?

Devold: Yes. And the situation concerning how many planes actually United States needs does not affect the Norwegian decisions. We want to take part of their development programs, and we think that somewhere between 2015, 2020, we need new aircraft. But it's a long way to that year. But still we hope that within this year, 2002, we will be able to make a decision whether development programs to join.

Q: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Good. Thank --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: The Middle East --

Q: Mr. Secretary, could I have my question, please?

Rumsfeld: Wait. Shall we let the Norwegian press corps --

(Cross talk.)

Q: Barbara. Barbara!

Rumsfeld: Barbara -- by popular demand, Barbara, over the Norwegian press corps.

Q: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Barbara?

Q: Well, my question could you review for us today your thinking about exactly how unhelpful you believe Iran is right now in the war on terrorism? In fact, do you now believe that al Qaeda has moved in and out of Iran, has operated in Iran? Do you believe that Iran in the current situation in Israel is continuing to back some of the unrest beyond this shipment of the arms you have spoken about? Just how unhelpful is Iran at the moment, in your mind?

Rumsfeld: There is no question but that Iran was involved with the Karine A shipment headed for the Palestinian Authority. There is no question but that al Qaeda have moved in and found sanctuary in Iran. And there is no question but that al Qaeda have moved into Iran and out of Iran to the south and dispersed to some other countries. To my knowledge, they are not operating out of Iran in the sense that they were out of Afghanistan, so there's that distinction. But I can't think of a thing I've said that anyone, by the wildest stretch of their imagination could characterize as "helpful"; they're all harmful and contributing to the problems with respect to the global terrorists.

Q: Can I just follow up on two points? When you say they have found sanctuary in Iran, does that mean that you believe that al Qaeda is currently in Iran? And secondly, given what you have laid out, how do you begin to touch the problem inside Iran?

Rumsfeld: Maybe the word "sanctuary" was not a perfect word because I don't think of it as a permanent sanctuary, I think of it as transit and -- and -- as opposed to operating out of the country. But it certainly would be helpful if they were more cooperative, and they have not been particularly. There are a couple of instances where they have characterized what they're doing as being helpful, as I recall.

I should also add that the border is a very difficult border. It's a porous border, as it is with Pakistan and as it is to the north. So it's -- I'm not suggesting that it's possible for a country to know with perfect certainty exactly everything that's moving either way across the border.

Q: How do you touch them inside?

Rumsfeld: I think that Iran is a country where ultimately the people are going to change their circumstance. I think that there is a -- it's a country with an important history, it's got a well- educated population. The people are being repressed, they are being denied rights that most the people around the world seem to find a way to get for themselves. And I suspect that the leadership in Iran will find itself with difficulties over time.

Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you.

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