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Secretary Cohen's Remarks Enroute to Incirlik, Turkey, April 18, 1998

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
April 18, 1998

Q: Well, we wanted to have a few words on Saddam and Iraq since you're going that way.

A: Because I'm going to Jordan?

Q: Well, no, I mean where we're going mentally. The whole business about the inspections.

A: First of all, the report hasn't been filed yet. I've read some speculation about what's going to be contained in the report, but to the extent that what I've read is accurate, it does not come as a surprise. Several weeks ago I spoke at the National Press Club, and one of the things I pointed out is that it's not enough to say that Saddam has opened his presidential palaces and therefore the inspectors have found nothing, therefore the sanctions should be removed. I have felt for some time that that was a focus on an issue which was not necessarily central to the resolution of the problem. Namely, he has an affirmative obligation to produce evidence of the destruction of his chemical and biological weapons, the destruction of those stocks which he admitted, after lying for so many years that they did not exist after admitting that they did exist. He has an obligation to show proof positive—of where, when, how and under what circumstances the materials were destroyed. Until he does that, there should be no relief from the sanctions. We expect full compliance. Until we get full compliance, then we cannot proceed to consider any relief for Saddam Hussein.

Q: Do you expect that the U.S. force in the Gulf will be reduced any time soon?

A: I don't know. A lot will depend upon the reaction of the Security Council and the members of the United Nations in terms of what they see--what they see in terms of his compliance with the memorandum of agreement that was negotiated between Saddam Hussein and Kofi Annan. A lot will depend upon what the reaction of the Security Council members are. And also the President of the United States is going to have to take this into account. As President Clinton comes back from his South America trip to review what's in the report and make a determination as to whether or not it would be appropriate for us to in any way significantly reduce the size of our forces there. It may be that there are a number of factors he has to take into account.

Q: If Iraq closes access to the presidential palaces again, will that raise the possibility of U.S. airstrikes?

A: I think it's too early to say what the reaction would be at this point. Obviously, we'd have to take into account what our allies would also want in this regard. We have to continue to remember it's not just the United States. This is a coalition of forces consisting of some 25 countries who felt that Saddam Hussein had an obligation to measure up to the Security Council resolutions. So it would take a lot of consultations with all of those allies who have in fact contributed forces to the region.

Q: Did you discuss Turkish-Israeli relations which are improving? Did you discuss that with the Turks, and also will you discuss that in Egypt and Jordan?

A: We touched it only in passing, noting that there was an increased positive relationship between Turkey and Israel, and we support that.

Q: Egypt and Jordan, however, are not enamored of…

A: Well, I'll let them express their own opinions, but this is a relationship which we think should be encouraged.

Q: Thank you.

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