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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
April 21, 1997 9:00 AM EDT
[This media activity occurs during a Honor Cordon to welcome Minister of Defense Miloslav Vyborny, of the Czech Republic, to the Pentagon.]

Secretary Cohen: It is my pleasure to welcome the Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic. We're looking forward to discussing ways in which the Republic can move toward consideration for NATO enlargement. Other issues would be to discuss, obviously, ways in which we can cooperate on a military- to-military basis well into the future, so with that we would entertain your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, could you give us an update on the A- 10? Do you believe they've actually found the plane?

A: The Air Force believes that they have discovered what they believe to be the wreckage. That has not been confirmed. We have another helicopter, weather permitting, that will try to make a survey of the area today and make a more definitive determination, but at this point they at least believe that may be part of the wreckage, so we'll have to wait for further examination. There's no definitive conclusion of that yet.

Q: Do you have any indication about what the mystery behind this disappearance is yet? Why the plane --

A: A mystery inside of an enigma wrapped around a riddle, I guess, to paraphrase Winston Churchill. But we don't know. We have not made any kind of examination of what factors may have been involved, whether in fact the plane has crashed, whether it might have safely landed. We really don't know at this point and we have no basis to conclude anything about the motivation behind the pilot's breaking away from formation.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the Iraqis say that they will defy the no-fly zone restrictions by moving some religious pilgrims across the zone. Is that something that concerns you?

A: Well, the Iraqis are in no position to give any kind of dictates to the American people or to NATO or the United Nations. I think that obviously when there are humanitarian issues involved that we would be most receptive, the United Nations would be receptive, there are rules that have to be complied with, there are requests for permission for exemptions, this may be one of them, but there is to be no flaunting of the rules as such.

There are rules established that would take into account the need to accommodate any sort of humanitarian gesture. This may be one of them, provided that the Iraqis pursue the appropriate measures, but they're not in any position to be simply flaunting rules on their terms.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Do you expect any agreements about cooperation in the investigation of Gulf Syndrome or in the case of soldiers in Vietnam?

A: About Vietnam?

Q: Yes. About soldiers missing in Vietnam. Do you expect any agreement about investigation in this case.

A: I don't believe we're going to be discussing that. If it comes up during the course of our discussions this morning, we will pursue that, but right now we're looking at examining ways in which the Czech Republic might comply with the needs to upgrade its capabilities for qualifying for NATO membership, the level of defense spending that is now going to be required to achieve that and other factors that would hopefully enhance the ability of the Czech Republic to qualify for NATO participation in the future.

Q: Do you have any evidence linking Iran with the bombing of Khobar Towers?

A: The evidence concerning the Khobar Towers bombing thus far is fragmentary, incomplete and very circumstantial. We do not have any concrete evidence of any country being directly linked to the bombing and so the investigation is still underway. The FBI has not completed its investigation. More evidence is to be gathered and it would be premature and speculative to try and lay the responsibility at the feet of any country or any particular group. So at this point, the investigation is not yet complete.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.