Media Availability with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Spain's Minister of Defense Jose Antonio Alonso
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. We've just had a visit with a delegation with the minister from Spain. We have discussed a number of bilateral issues and a number of NATO issues, and issues where we're cooperating in various ways around the world. And I welcome the minister here. I'm very pleased to have him. And I wish we had a little nicer weather for him.
Now, this is the Spanish group, and this is -- you are mostly Americans? I recognize a few faces over here.
Why don't we let the minister say a few words, and then we can take a couple of questions from each side.
And do you want to speak in Spanish or English?
MIN. ALONSO: In Spanish, yeah.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Spanish. And you're going to translate for him --
INTERPRETER: You want me to?
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- okay, brilliantly.
INTERPRETER: I certainly hope so.
(NOTE: Minister Alonso's remarks are through interpreter unless otherwise indicated.)
MIN. ALONSO: (In English) (Off mike) -- interpreter, thank you.
(Through interpreter.) Very well. I've come to the United States and I've met with my colleague, Secretary Rumsfeld. We've talked about different issues regarding our bilateral relations as allies and friends. We also talked about international issues regarding our responsibilities in the international community.
I'm also going to be visiting the U.N. secretary-general the day after tomorrow, on Wednesday, to also take a look at the necessary discipline and how the organization has to be taken forward. It's a very complex and changing world we're in, and we have to see about that, about the different operations we're in, and so on.
Also, I wish to thank Secretary Rumsfeld for the excellent briefings we received this morning on strategy looking towards the future with the 20-year vision by DIA. In addition, we'll also be making visits to different facilities here in the United States such as at Norfolk tomorrow.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll take a couple of questions from the Spanish side.
Q Yeah. The Spanish returning from Iraq -- it's long away, almost more than two years. Spain is not anymore selling military material to Venezuela, like was the issue last year. What are the disagreements, if there are disagreements, in between the Spanish and American governments?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Why would you want to focus on disagreements instead of agreements? Mischief. (Laughs.) We have a, as I say, an important bilateral relationship. We have bases in Spain, we cooperate on a great many things, as we are, for example, in Afghanistan, and we are not as active but certainly interested in the outcome in Lebanon and have provided some assistance there. And Spain, of course, is very deeply involved.
And I think that what we are seeing is a relationship that is a -- like other relationships among NATO allies. One that -- where we don't always agree on everything, but that we have a good solid relationship and we value that.
Q (Off mike) -- there seems to be -- talking of agreements, have you requested the Spanish government on major cooperation in Afghanistan? And on the other hand, there seems to be some comments in Spanish media about the possible acquisition of Spanish planes by American defense of the Pentagon. Is there anything about it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We did discuss Afghanistan and our common interests. NATO is, of course, undertaking a major responsibility in Afghanistan, and all 26 countries are participating, along with a number of other countries. And I think there's a total of 42 countries participating now.
With respect to a weapons purchase, I was just told about a request for a proposal that's just a matter of business, where a couple of countries are bidding on some -- an opportunity that might exist in the United States, and I wouldn't have anything to say about it.
MIN. ALONSO: (In English.) Excuse me -- excuse me?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
MIN. ALONSO: I would like to
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure.
MIN. ALONSO: -- say something about the last question.
(Speaks in Spanish.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: (To interpreter.) Do you want to translate that?
MIN. ALONSO: Speaking about Afghanistan, I do wish to say -- and I think I have explained this very clearly, both that at NATO and at our national parliament -- I think I did myself -- out of 37 countries present in Afghanistan, we're the eighth contributor. In addition, in western Afghanistan, we're now generating the necessary troops. And I must say that up to now, all the work I've seen that has been done on the civilian reconstruction has been excellent.
One thing that I think is very clear to all our allies and friends in the international community is our commitment, which stands, as it has been in the future and will continue that way. I think our friends do understand the Spanish commitment, our contribution. And I must say that our parliament immediately understood it as well, because they immediately agreed to our request to increase our presence in Afghanistan by 150 soldiers to protect the roles of the provincial reconstruction teams.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good. Now, I'm getting cold -- and we took -- just a minute. Just a minute. Just a minute. Just a minute.
We took two questions from the Spanish side. We're now going to take two questions from the U.S. side, and hope that they're relatively brief.
Q Sir, on Friday, you said that General Casey was working on projections when -- that was your word; I looked it up -- when to turn things over to the Iraqis. Can you help us understand -- are you -- when you "when," are you talking timetables? Are you talking deadlines with penalties? What are you really talking about there? Has anyone been able to explain to you also why so many U.S. troops have died this month?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, one thing -- obviously it has been Ramadan period, and there's been a pattern that incidents have gone up during Ramadan in prior periods.
With respect to the first question, it's a matter that is being discussed, as I said, between U.S. Ambassador Zal Khalilzad and General Casey, with the Iraqi government. And what they're doing is just having a discussion about how they see the way ahead over the rest of this year and next year, and what kinds of projections might they have.
For example, they've passed over two provinces to the Iraqis' governance. They are planning to pass over the other 16. And the question is, well, when do you think that might happen? When do you think the Iraqis might be ready to do that, to assume those responsibilities? That's one category.
The Iraqi government has announced a reconciliation process, and they're now in the process of looking at that and saying, "Well, when will the various elements of that likely happen?"
And then that's -- those -- I would call that a projection. There's certainly no penalties. There's no -- nothing like you described. What it is, is a way ahead so that the parliament -- their parliament, their government can have a set of tasks that they need to do to get prepared to assume the responsibility for governing their country and providing security for their country. And those discussions have been going on now for a couple of months. They are -- ever since the government came in, there's -- I sense there's general agreement that that is a good approach. And at what point they will reach, oh, some sort of an understanding on these things -- I'm told that the Iraqi government presidential website has some of these already listed of things that they're looking at. And my guess is that you might find in no case would there be a specific date, very likely -- day, if you will. You might find a month, or you might find a spread of two or three months where -- a period where you -- they think they might be able to do it.
As I said earlier, it's also entirely possible that they will be able to do better, just as sovereignty was passed over some days ahead of time. Or they may not meet a target date or a projection date, in which case it would slide to the right.
I also indicated that if you, for example, have a plan to pass over this province on this period, this month, and it turns out you do that, and three months later it -- the situation deteriorates, then you might take it back and go in and help out, and then pass it back two or three months later.
So people ought not to look at this work that's been going on now with the United States, the coalition and the Iraqis as anything approximating the kind of precision and detail that you suggested in your questions, Barbara.
Jim is the second question, and the last question before the minister and I freeze.
Q Mr. Secretary, are you satisfied that the Iraqi government is moving quickly enough, particularly on the issues of militias, which seems to be at the center of the violence?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, this outfit's been in office less than a baseball season. They're dealing in a very tough environment. Would everyone wish that everything happened very rapidly? You bet. Everyone would wish that -- they would, we would, coalition countries would, the Iraqi people would. But I think people have to be realistic. And our hope is that we can assist them -- the coalition can assist them in assuming responsibility for their country, as I said the other day, sooner rather than later. And that's our -- we're encouraging that. That's our desire; that's their desire.
Do you have any final words for this distinguished gathering, Mr. Minister?
MIN. ALONSO: (In English.) Thank you very much. (Laughter.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
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