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Secretary Rumsfeld News Briefing at the Foreign Press Center

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 21, 2002 10:30 AM EDT

(News Briefing at the Foreign Press Center)

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. I might make a few remarks before responding to questions.

First, good morning. I'm pleased to have a chance to meet with the representatives of the news media from so many countries, countries that are making important contributions to the global war on terrorism. Needless to say, September 11th was not simply an attack on the United States, it was -- citizens from dozens of countries lost their lives that day. And today, of course, the armed forces of a great many nations are participating in helping to deal with the problem of terrorism across the globe.

More than 180 nations have offered and provided assistance in the war on terrorism. Some 69 countries are contributing direct support to Operation Enduring Freedom. Thirty-three countries have representatives down at the combatant commander's headquarters, CENTCOM, General Tom Franks, in Tampa, Florida. Coalition forces have supplied a vast amount of humanitarian assistance and medical assistance, including more than a million pounds of wheat and assorted food, just to cite one example. More than 90 countries have arrested or detained some 2,400 individuals, terrorists and their supporters. In the United States in Yemen and in Georgia and in the Philippines are training people to help those countries do a better job in dealing with their terrorist problems.

I should note that earlier this morning, the armed forces of the Philippines intercepted and sank a 25-foot boat that was reported to be carrying an Abu Sayyaf leader and six other members of the extremist group. Four members are in Philippine custody. The remaining three are reported to have been killed, and the search is underway for their bodies. We commend the government of the Philippines for their continued battle against the terrorist problems.

Last week I went to visit U.S. and coalition forces around the world, in Europe, the Gulf and in South Asia. If there is a single thread that ran through those 10 countries, and the many more countries that we met leaders from, it is that all of those nations are very active in their support of the effort that President Bush has been leading in the global war on terrorism. In the process of fighting that war -- and let there be no doubt, it will be a long war - and because of the broad coalition support that we've received, relationships in the world are really being reshaped in ways that can, I believe, contribute to peace and stability over the coming decades.

In Brussels I met with our NATO allies. Two-thirds of the NATO countries have forces directly involved in the war. More than half have forces on the ground in Afghanistan. And at the NATO meeting, we provided our allies a detailed briefing of the efforts of terrorist networks to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The allies have agreed to pursue new capabilities that will be necessary to deal with the threats of the 21st century and this new security environment that we're in.

In Estonia we met with the defense ministers of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. All are making important contributions in the war on terror. I visited in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, in nations that are also being helpful in the war on terrorism.

And last, I stopped in India and Pakistan. The military situations on the ground and the respective levels of alert in India and Pakistan are improving modestly. Both nations have taken some initial steps that while not definitive and not fully tested as yet, are indeed having a positive effect. Both sides are aware that the risks of war discourages international investment, they discourage travel in the region, and as a result, it damages the economies of each of those two countries as well as the people of each of those two countries. During my trip, both India and Pakistan indicated a desire for continued U.S. involvement and expressed appreciation of the efforts of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and other world leaders on behalf of peace. The United States will continue to work with them to try to find additional ways to further reduce tensions.

Before turning to questions, let me say that while the soldiers and reporters have different jobs and different duties, many reporters indeed share the risk of war. In recent years, a number of journalists have been killed on assignment. So let me say that we appreciate the work you do, the responsibility you carry to bring the story to the people back home. Simply by doing your jobs professionally, objectively and without bias, you can help defeat the evil of terrorism because your job is, indeed, to spread the truth, the light of truth, and we're fighting an enemy whose greatest asset is darkness and lies.

And I'd be happy to respond to questions.

Yes, sir?

Q: This is -- (name inaudible) -- with Turkey's -- (inaudible) -- Television. Two brief questions. First, Turkey --

Rumsfeld: Where are you from?

Q: Turkey.

Rumsfeld: Turkey. Good.

Q: Turkey yesterday took over ISAF command. Do you think they will do fine? Will you be helping them? And there is a bill waiting congressional approval about assistance to a number of countries, including Turkey, for the help in the war against terrorism.

The second thing is, Turkey signed a $1 billion contract with Boeing recently for the sale of four AWACS aircraft to Turkey, and it's close to signing another contract for attack helicopters. Will you be supporting congressional approval for the sales? Thank you.

Rumsfeld: With respect with the last question, I would have to be better informed to respond.

With respect to the first questions, you're quite right, Turkey has taken over responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. We are very pleased that they are doing so. The British contingent did an excellent job during their period in the leadership and I'm confident that Turkey will do an excellent job during their period in the leadership. It's important -- the ISAF is an important stabilizing force in the Kabul area.

And in answer to your question as to whether or not we assist them, we do indeed. We have had a memorandum of understanding or a letter of agreement with the Brits, and we will certainly have one with the Turkish government with respect to ways that we can be of assistance to them in their responsibilities as the leader of the ISAF.

You're also correct that there is a bill pending in Congress with some assistance for various countries that have been helpful to us, and we're hopeful that that -- I believe it's the '02 supplemental bill, and I hope it will be passed soon. It's important that it be passed soon, both from the standpoint of other countries' assistance, but also from the standpoint of the funds that are needed to complete the fourth quarter of 2002 for the men and women in uniform.


Q: First of all, welcome back from South Asia.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

Q: Raghubir Goyal, from India Globe & Asia Today. Mr. Secretary, you said that your visit or the deputy secretary's visit did reduce tensions in the area, but --

Rumsfeld: I don't think I did. I think I said that the -- President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and the various international leaders who have been working with India and Pakistan, are working towards peace. Full stop. And that India and Pakistan have taken a series of preliminary steps that have had the effect of reducing tensions somewhat. I did not draw a direct tight linkage there. Above all, precision.

Q: Sir, do you agree that tension is still there and chances of war are still there? So, what kind of additional measures you are going to take that tension will be forever not on the border, but -- and that they will have some development in their country for their people? Now, what I'm asking you is that military is still on the border, and Pakistan is saying that we will not fight or we don't want to fight with India, but India is saying, I'm sure you've heard the same message from both sides, that the infiltration from the border, across the border, from Pakistan to India must stop. So, how can you stop this forever?

Rumsfeld: Well, it is a -- the problem between India and Pakistan is not a new one. It dates back, I think, to my recollection maybe 50 years. And it is deeply felt. There are armed forces on each side of that border, and that is always a situation that causes concern to the countries as well as to the rest of the world. And I think that what will need to be done is for each side to recognize the damage that is done, that the level of tension -- the damage that that causes to their respective economies and to their people, and keep looking, as they are, for opportunities to take steps that will reduce those tensions.

A number of things have been done by both sides. The Pakistani side has, by all reports, significantly reduced infiltration across the line. They can't probably know everything that's taking place, because it's very rugged land, just as the area between Afghanistan and Pakistan is very rugged terrain. But I think, from my knowledge of those two countries and my relationships with the leadership in each of those countries and the work that President Bush and Secretary Powell are doing, I'm hopeful that we'll see continued release -- easing of those tensions in the period ahead.


Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Good morning.

Q: Sir, there's a widespread perception in this town that when it comes to the Iraqis and the Palestinians, you are --

Rumsfeld: You're not going to identify yourself?

Q: Oh, I'm sorry. (Laughs.) (Laughter.) The Middle East --

Rumsfeld: Are you shy? Are you shy?

Q-- (inaudible) -- tried to hide. (Laughs.) Mohammed Alem (ph) with Abu Dhabi Television. Sir, there's a widespread perception in this town that when it comes to the Iraqis and the Palestinians, you are a hard-liner. Are you comfortable with that? (Laughter.) And --

Rumsfeld: Look at me! I'm sweet and lovable.

Q: (Laughing.) And sir, do you believe it is possible to widen the war to include Iraq while the Palestinian-Israeli issue is not resolved? Thanks.

Rumsfeld: Why did you have to begin your question with that preface? (Laughter.)

You know, anything anyone says on this subject ends up getting hyped. I have no interest or desire to have anything I say on this subject get hyped. Therefore, I don't think I'll say anything about this subject. (Laughter.)

Next question.

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Yes? Standing up in the back. That's impressive. (Laughter.) Everyone else is seated.

QAlfa Husseinin, Middle East Radio Network. In fact, it's the new Voice of America Arabic. Sir, this morning in the local media -- may I refer you to USA Today -- more than 59 percent of Americans are in favor to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. What are you feeling now? Are you going ahead with this now that there is support for the action, if any action in the future? And also --

Rumsfeld: I don't think you heard my answer to the last question. (Laughter.)

QBut sir, that's the subject of the day for the area. We are trying to cover those subjects, that matters too much in the Middle East.

Rumsfeld: I see. Yeah. Those kinds of -- that subject is something that -- it's a matter for presidents and countries to decide those things. I don't decide those things. I'm --

Q: (Off mike) --

Q: (Off mike) -- the back?

Rumsfeld: Wave your hand.

Q: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Yes? You have the floor.

Q: Thank you, sir. It's an honor to finally be here. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: You (are/aren't ?) here. You're back there. (Laughs.) (Laughter.)

Q: Finally. My name is Matta Farid and I work for Voice of America in the Farsi section. We cover mostly Iran and the region around Iran. There's been a lot of, you know, media lately like how they are sponsors of terrorism, they're giving refuge to al Qaeda, acquiring weapons of mass destruction and Karine A ships. What is exactly United States doing to combat against this country with the terrorism?

Rumsfeld: It is correct that Iran has served as a haven for some terrorists leaving Afghanistan. And it is also true that it has permitted transit of terrorists and supporters of terrorists through Iran out of -- to the south. It is also true that Iran has been involved in working with Syria and moving materials and people down into Damascus and then down through the Beirut road, through the Bekaa Valley and involved with terrorist activities in Lebanon and Israel.

It is also true that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction and increasingly longer-range ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Iran is an important country. It has a population that's educated and industrious and, in many respects, repressed by the leadership of that country. And it's unfortunate that that's the case, it seems to me, which is, of course, why the president attempted to point a spotlight on the difficult situation in that country for those people, and expressed the hope that people would fare better than they're currently being served by the government that's engaging in those kinds of activities which are harmful to peace and stability in the world.

Q: Sir?

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: The young lady back there. She's got a terrific smile! (Laughs; laughter.)

Q: Thank you.

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: You do too! You're next! (Laughter.)

Q: This is -- (name and affiliation inaudible) -- Azerbaijan. Mr. Secretary, after waiver of Section 907, Azerbaijan got a chance to be more involved in anti-terrorism coalition. I believe you paid a visit to Azerbaijan several months ago. The question to you is, Section 907 has been waived by not cancelled. Considering this, how do you see the future cooperation with this country in this long-term war?

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the section -- the waiving of the section, that's really things that are involved with the State Department and not the Department of Defense, so I'll set that aside.

The United States, of course, has been developing relationships with a number of the former Soviet Republics. And Secretary Powell and the president and I, and Vice President Cheney have all had meetings here and in my case, in the region, as in the case of Colin Powell. And these are important countries that we value those relationships. Any -- a number of them have developed a relationship with NATO in what's called Partnership for Peace. And so, that linkage between the United States and the NATO allies and a number of the former Soviet republics has been, I think, a helpful thing, a stabilizing factor in the region. And as to how we see those relationships evolving, we see them becoming stronger and valuable and mutually beneficial.


Q: Andrei -- (last name and affiliation inaudible). Staying in the region, we are interested in your ideas on the future negotiations on cutting nuclear weapons, maybe not only strategic, but also tactical, what are the prospects for that, do you think?

Rumsfeld: On doing what to nuclear weapons?

Q: Cutting.

Rumsfeld: Catching?

Q: Cutting. Cutting down.

Rumsfeld: Cutting down.

Q: Reducing, yes. And staying with the region, have you found any evidence in the war on Afghanistan of the link between al Qaeda and the Chechens? And can you share with us the nature of that evidence?

Rumsfeld: The -- as you know, the United States and Russia, because of the leadership of President Bush and President Putin, have fashioned an agreement which is pending before our respective legislative bodies, to make deep, deep reductions in strategic offensive weapons, down from many thousands down to the 1,700 to 2,200 level over a period of a decade. The -- which is a good thing. It is a healthy thing. It reflects a significant adjustment in that relationship.

The subject of theater nuclear weapons, which I believe you raised, is an interesting one and one that gets raised in the discussions on a fairly regular basis. There -- it gets raised, not from the standpoint so much of control or reductions, but from two standpoints. One is transparency, the value that would accrue to each of our countries to have a better understanding of our respective capabilities with respect to theater nuclear weapons, non-strategic nuclear weapons. And the second way it comes up, of course, is through the issue of safety.

And we worry greatly about the proliferation of these technologies, whether it's chemical or biological or nuclear strategic or nuclear theater, and the ability to deliver those weapons. The -- if you think about it, the world has had a lot of conflicts in my 70 years. I suspect we're going to be fated as members of the human race to see additional conflicts in the period ahead. People seem to be prone towards conflict from time to time.

But what's gone before, for the most part, has been of a conventional nature, and we're now moving into a period where the lethality of the weapons, whether biological or chemical or nuclear or radiation, is distinctly different, of a different order than in earlier periods. And what that means is that our margin for error as people, as human beings living on this Earth, has declined. It is a much smaller margin for error than was the case in earlier -- for earlier generations. That is not to say that whoever is killed has not suffered greatly and died, but we've in the past been talking about numbers that conventional capabilities can kill. And going forward, we as a people have to recognize that we're not talking about conventional, we're talking about unconventional. And it's not going to be thousands, it could be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.

Now that imposes an enormous responsibility on all of us, it seems to me, to recognize that and to recognize that because of that smaller margin for error, we have to be wiser, we have to be -- have better foresight as to what might take place, we have to be willing to think with a sense of urgency that we did not have to have in an earlier period. A mistake in an earlier period was of this order. A mistake because of a failure of a sense of urgency during this period could lead to a mistake of enormous -- multiples of the previous period.

So our work about --

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: -- with respect to nonproliferation is enormously important.

With respect to Chechnya -- and thank you for the prompting -- (soft laughter) -- what the -- intelligence is imperfect. It tends to be scraps of information that then gets pieced together into a picture that one man develops some degree of confidence about. There is no question but that there have been some connections between terrorists in Afghanistan coming from a variety of different countries. We have -- we've seen weapons and Chinese Uighurs. We've seen intelligence information about Chechens, as you mentioned. We've seen people from -- I don't know -- 15, 20, 25 different countries that have been involved in one way or another in terrorist activities in Afghanistan or connected to Afghanistan.

And in -- but in terms of direct, hard information, I do not have anything that I could cite that would draw a direct connection between the -- with respect to the question you posed.

(Cross talk.) Yes?

Q: Wei Jing, Phoenix TV of Hong Kong. Mr. Rodman is going to China, and you are also viewed -- sorry -- as a hard-liner of the administration in China. (Laughter.) What --

Rumsfeld: I hope my grandchildren aren't watching. (Laughter.)

Q: Well, you have the opportunity to change that. (Laughter.)

But what methods he is going to bring and to what extent you want the military-military exchange to resume within China? And are you -- do you have any plan to go visit China at all?

Rumsfeld: I do not currently have any plans to visit China. I did meet with the -- Vice President Hu when he was here. We had a discussion. I've been to China a number of times, dating back to 1974 -- was my first trip there. After President Ford met with Secretary- General Brezhnev in Vladivostok, Henry Kissinger and I went into Beijing and met with Deng Xiaoping and some other folks.

You're right; Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman is going to be going to the People's Republic of China next week. He will be discussing the military-to-military relationships between our two countries, and he undoubtedly will be discussing things that I've discussed which we feel are interesting and important and potentially mutually beneficial -- such things as transparency and consistency and reciprocity with respect to the military-to-military relationship, things that I discussed with the vice president.

Now who -- yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Nope, nope, the lady right here with her hand up, on the right. Good. And then I'll go back over there in a minute. There you go.

Q: (First name inaudible) -- Kasserin (sp). I'm from Georgia 24 Hours. So, Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us about the train- and-equip program in Georgia? And it's -- I know it's too early to make some kinds of evaluations, but still -- and what kind of backlash this program can have?

And also --

Rumsfeld: What kind of what? Benefit?

Q: Backlash. Backlash.

Q: Backlash.

Q: Backlash.

Rumsfeld: Backlash.

Q: Yes.

Rumsfeld: What kind of backlash? From where?

Q: From this program. I mean problems with Russia and so on.

Rumsfeld: No. (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah, that's a real problem for Russia to --

Rumsfeld: Nooo. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

Q: And also, duration of this program is six months. And what kind of relationship can be formed after this program between -- military relationship between the United States and Georgia? And also, the last question, what about the same program in Azerbaijan and Armenia? Is Washington planning to help these countries to train and equip their armed forces in terms of the strength of -- (inaudible) -- security?

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: We have no other plans for training programs at the moment.

With respect to the situation in Georgia, the presidents -- two presidents have discussed it. I've discussed it with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. They have no problem with it at all. They've said so. We are involved in a relatively short period of time, period of months, helping to train a number of people in Georgia so that they can do a better job with respect to their police work and their border work and their anti-terrorist work. That is in everybody's interest. It's in Georgia's interest; it's in Russia's interest that the border area not be a haven for terrorists. So it has not been a problem, not withstanding the fact that some people would wish that it were.

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: Right here, yes.

Q: This is Tilling Dado from Turkey's Star TV. I know you don't want to answer any questions about Iraq, but recently, there has been some news reports referring to some anonymous Iraqi-Kurdish opposition groups, that during their visit in Washington, they have discussed the future of Kirkuk, the oil-rich town, with the Bush administration. And reports do say that in case if they do give support to the United States, when and how the President Bush decides to push the button to topple Saddam Hussein, they want Kirkuk in return for this support. Has Pentagon --

Rumsfeld: They want what as support --

Q: Kirkuk, the oil-rich town -- Kirkuk.

Rumsfeld: Oh, I see. I see.

Q: Okay. Has Pentagon, under your authority, been involved in such negotiations?

Rumsfeld: Wow! (Laughter.) Any time we begin a question with "anonymous reports say," then I ask myself, "Goodness, anything's fair game if we begin with 'anonymous reports say.' I know nothing of that. I've heard nothing of that. To my knowledge, Pentagon people have not met with folks. I know -- have heard that some folks were here from -- Kurdish people were in the United States meeting with some people from the government, probably the State Department. That's been going on for a long time. And -- but the -- that kind of a question I am sure totally unintentionally can be enormously mischievous. You realize that. (Laughter.) She nods -- for the record, she's nodding she does recognize that. (Laughter.) I knew you did.

The only things that have ever been considered -- first of all, it has been, as you know, a policy of the United States, including the Congress, that the world would be a safer, better place if the regime in Iraq were not there. So, immediately, questions like that come up, well, what's that mean, if they were not there? And the only things I've ever heard about what that would mean if they were not there, is that there seems to be an interest that if they were not there, that a regime that was there would be a regime that would not develop weapons of mass destruction, that would not invade its neighbors, that would not threaten and try to undermine the governments of the neighboring countries, that would be a single country, and that would behave as a responsible citizen in the world. But this speculation that anonymous reports say, I think, is inaccurate and unhelpful.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Rumsfeld: Well, of course.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Who's got the microphone? Would you please give it to somebody? (Laughter.)

Q: Hi! Priscilla Hough, Channel News Asia.

Q: (He's ignoring hands up ?).

Rumsfeld: Are they?

Q: Yes.

Rumsfeld: Life's like that. (Laughter.)

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, I'd like to ask about Philippines. With President Arroyo announcing that the U.S. will leave on time and the possibility that the Abu Sayyaf leader has been killed, is this enough for the war on terrorism? Will the U.S. military continue its Balikatan exercises past the July deadline?

Rumsfeld: I'm sorry. I was distracted. What is this?

Q: He's running out of blank pages.

Rumsfeld: Oh, okay. (Laughter.) I thought he was giving me the cut. (Laughter.)

Q: Not yet.

Rumsfeld: Try me again.

Q: I'm Priscilla Hough (sp). I'm with Channel News Asia. I'm asking about the Philippines, the Balikatan exercises. President Arroyo today promised the U.S. military is going to leave on time. Is this enough? Does the U.S. military need to spend more time to continue its work on the war on terrorism?

Rumsfeld: The -- I've not seen the announcement by the president of the Philippines, but her position and our position have been identical from the outset, and that was that we would go in, do a discrete task and end that task. At that stage, we would discuss a phase two and determine, A, ought there be a phase two, and if so, what ought it to include.

There have been two things that have been outside of the -- what I've just said. One was some assistance we're providing with respect to roads and water and various things on Basilan Island. A second thing that went on was an exercise in a different part of the island, and they tended to be disconnected from what you're discussing.

My guess is that some point in the days ahead, the Philippines government will announce whatever it is they've decided and we've decided ought to follow on, in the event that we and they decide anything ought to follow on. And I think it's really a judgment for the Philippine armed forces to make as to whether or not and when they feel they have the kind of training and assistance that would enable them to do their task.

You're right, the reports indicate that a leader, one of the leaders, one of the senior leaders of the Abu Sayyaf group, is reported to be killed early this morning. There are other leaders and there are other members of the group, and terrorism is terrorism. And what the president of the Philippines will decide with respect to that is really for her to say.

(Cross talk.)

Now -- no! I've got to have a man! I've got to have a man! (Laughter.) I'd rather not --

(Cross talk.)

Oh, here's a mike. You've got one. Go.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: We're going to come right back to you.

Q: Frank Caller from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Why is it so important for the Bush administration that American troops involved with peacekeeping be granted immunity from the International War Crimes Tribunal?

Rumsfeld: There is a thing called the International Criminal Court, and there was a treaty, and it was signed by a number of nations, and it's going into effect later this month or the 1st of July, I believe. It is an unusual court in this sense. Historically, international courts have been for a discrete purpose for a discrete period of time, and often under the umbrella of the U.N. or some other organization that created it. For example, there's been one in the Balkans, which we all know about.

The International Criminal Court is distinctive in several respects. Number one, it is not limited by time. It is not limited by subject or focus. It is not under the umbrella of any organization that could manage it from the standpoint of responsibility and behavior.

Another thing about it that's distinctive is that it attempts to take jurisdiction over the people of countries that have not signed it, which is a difference in how this has usually been handled. The U.S. position on it was that this administration -- that President Clinton signed it and said he would not send it to the Congress for ratification, which is kind of an unusual technique. The president looked at it and decided that it should be unsigned, if there were such a technique or a process, and it appears there isn't, so instead, notification was given to the appropriate people that the United States did not consider it effective for the United States.

Now, why would we care? The reason we would care is that if you think about it, it is very easy to make a charge or an allegation of wrongdoing, and the defense against that then falls to the person accused and you then have to spend a pile of money and a pile of time defending yourself against a politicized allegation or charge of wrongdoing which never happened.

We have looked at this and made a judgment that it would cause the United States pause to be willing to participate and put U.S. forces in countries where they could become subject to the international court and you could end up with a politicized prosecutor or people making allegations or charges, and then people would -- U.S. military forces would be subject to those kinds of allegations.

If you think back to what happened during the Afghan conflict, there were a number of instances where the Taliban and the al Qaeda -- their training books tell them how to do this, how to lie, how to misinform people, how to claim that civilians have been killed, innocent men, women and children, when in fact it was al Qaeda and Taliban being killed or bombed. And they have put their -- they systematically put their command headquarters and their radars and their artillery and their command centers in close proximity to mosques and to hospitals and to schools and in civilian areas.

Now, the United States believes that its role in the world, along with other like-thinking countries, in contributing to peace and stability is important, and I believe it's important and the president believes it's important. And we argued against the treaty on the basis that, to the extent it puts people that we would put at risk for their lives also at risk legally, in a process that's not controlled by any organization, that is assuming jurisdiction over people that had not participated in the treaty, that has no time limit and no supervision whatsoever, it seemed to us a bad idea. And I worried that we -- the United States, if that happened, we could become cautious, more limited, some would say isolationist, unwilling to participate in things to the extent I believe it's useful to the world to have -- for us to participate.

So there is a portion of the treaty that says that a country can exempt a nation from the treaty. So, for example, in the case of East Timor, we have a very few number of people there. We want to be there because we're working with the Australians, we're working with the Indonesians, we think that's a -- with the East Timor people -- it's been a good thing. And it's been working so far. They've had an election. And --- but when the subject comes up for renewal and we look at it and we see that -- what we'd like to get is their agreement that we would be exempted. Now, the same thing is coming up in the U.N. very recently with respect to one of the countries in the Balkans, as I recall. And we have forces there.

And -- but all we would say is that we would like that government to say that our people would be exempt from this court which, I believe, we ought to be exempt from so that there isn't that kind of political harassment that can take place unfairly, particularly when you know you're fighting the global war on terror and you know the terrorist training books are encouraging people to make those kinds of charges and allegations, and you know the press prints them instantaneously. They are right there in the press; the minute the charge is made, it's out there. And then the world says, "Aha!" And six weeks later when you finally get on the ground and look what happened, it did not happen that way at all, and that story is not very newsworthy. And that's a shame.

And all -- if you think about, Dr. Kissinger recently was -- they attempted to serve a subpoena on him for something that happened 25 years before in Chile, and something he was not aware of or knowledgeable about. And the effect of it could be that people wouldn't want to travel, they wouldn't want to go into another country. The United States and other countries wouldn't want to put their people on the ground where they could be subject to irresponsible and inaccurate challenges and lies.

So it is -- it is -- I'm trying to make the case that it is not a good versus bad. It is -- the motive is certainly appropriate, and other international tribunals are certainly appropriate. But I personally think they ought to be for a purpose, with a time frame, with some supervision over them by responsible, accountable nations, as opposed to free of that accountability.

(Cross talk.)

Staff: One more, sir.

Rumsfeld: I'm told I can take one more question, and you're it.

Q: Mr. Secretary, it has been told in the recent papers, some East European countries, despite the difficult periods they are in, makes a lot of effort -- I am -- (name inaudible) -- from Radio Romania. Romania, for an example, took some decisions and made some efforts in helping the international forces in Afghanistan. Can you make some comments about that?

Rumsfeld: Well, there's no question but that a number of Eastern European countries have been enormously helpful. They've been helpful with, in some cases, troops; in some cases medical assistance, in some cases sharing intelligence, in some cases helping to block bank accounts of terrorists. There are a host of ways that these countries have stepped forward and said, "We want to participate in this; this is a serious problem in the world."

And if you were going to -- as I say, if you dropped a plumb line through all the countries I went through and all the countries I met with, a number of them being NATO aspirants, the one thing that was common -- in the Gulf, in South Asia, in Europe, in Estonia, in Germany -- was the fact that they are sensitive to the threat of terrorism, they appreciate the fact that a single country alone can't deal with it, that we have to cooperate together. And there's no question but that we are deeply appreciative and grateful for the wonderful support and cooperation we've received.

Now, I am going to excuse myself, and I want to say that it's been a delight being with you -- (laughter) -- even though -- even though a couple of you folks -- (laughter, cross talk) --

Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And thank you, friends of the Foreign Press Center.


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