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Secretary Cohen's Press Conference in Amman, Jordan

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
March 15, 1999

Subject: Press Conference in Amman, Jordan

Cohen: Good afternoon. I stopped briefly by to pay my respects to King Abdullah; to express my shared grief over the loss of King Hussein, who was a great leader. It's a loss not only to his family here and to the people of Jordan, but to the world community. The very presence of all of the world leaders who came to the funeral ceremonies is an indication of how much respect he enjoyed throughout the world.

I also indicated to King Abdullah that the United States stands firmly behind Jordan, and that we moving forward with an economic package going through the Congress for some three hundred million dollars and we hope that will be beneficial to the people of Jordan.

But I also, on my visits through all of the Gulf states, expressed my our support for Jordan and expressed the hope that other countries in the region-throughout the Gulf-would be able to also contribute to the economic support of Jordan. We believe that economic stability and progress in Jordan is key to stability throughout the region, and so we are very hopeful that Jordan will now enjoy the support of all of the Gulf states.

I have been very encouraged with the response that I received by the Gulf states. They seem to have a great deal of affection and admiration for the new King, and have indicated that they also share the belief that stability and economic progress here in Jordan is going to be important for the entire region.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, did your talks touch on the Middle East peace process and Jordan's continuing support for it?

A: Indeed, we touched on the Middle East peace process as something that the United States feels very committed to, and the Jordanians are also very interested in.

I also made clear to the King and to his associates, members of his government, that the stories about the United States supporting the breakup of Iraq are false, without any foundation. That we are not supporting any concept of a federation, that we support the continued territorial integrity of Iraq. And so those reports that have surfaced here in Jordan and elsewhere are in fact without any substance or foundation.

Q: Mr. Secretary, did the King give you any message to take back to Washington? And did he summarize or discuss with you Jordan's security situation? Can you tell us a little bit about what he had to say?

A: We had a very extended conversation over lunch about the security of the region. We cooperate very closely with Jordan, we feel it's an important security relationship. Jordan also will be an important part of security throughout the region. So the King was very encouraged by the packages moving through Congress, and our relationship is going to be much more progressive and strengthened in the coming weeks and months. And so, yes, we did discuss the security.

Q: Did you discuss the change in regime in Iraq, and what did King Abdullah have to say?

A: Well, you'll have to ask King Abdullah. But I was very clear that we believe that the Iraqi people will not endure the benefits and fruits of peace and prosperity until such time as there is a change in regime. And it is up to each country to express its own opinion, but that is our belief, that as long as Saddam Hussein remains in office and in power, the Iraqi people will not be able to enjoy the benefits of peace and stability.

I would point out that-as I have in other countries-that perhaps many people are not aware of this, but the United Nations just filed a report, and in that report they indicated that Iraq now has 275 million dollars worth of medical supplies and medicines that are stored in warehouses and that are not being distributed to the Iraqi people. And so, the suffering that now is being visited upon the Iraqi people is due to the fact that Saddam Hussein has the ability to distribute these medicines, and has refused to do so. We want to remind people, that the suffering of Iraqi people we have identified with, we have supported the oil for food program, enlarging it to make sure that the revenues that go into Iraq go for humanitarian purposes, for medical purposes, and not for making weapons of mass destruction.

Thank you.