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Secretary Rumsfeld's Press Availability in Tunisia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 11, 2006

Secretary Rumsfeld's Press Availability in Tunisia

Carthage, Tunisia


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  We have had a very good visit here.  As you know, the Minister of Defense was in Sicily at the meetings there as part of the Mediterranean Dialogue and he was our host here.  We met with the Minister and his senior military officials and discussed our military to military relationships, and had a very good meeting with the Foreign Minister and the President.


            The President, as you may know, visited the United States some time back and met with President Bush, and I was happy to be able to be here and have a visit with him.


            We have a very long relationship with Tunisia.  Tunisia is a moderate Muslim nation that has been and is today providing very constructive leadership in the world.


            The struggle that's taking place within their faith is a serious one and an important one.  There are a very small number of violent extremists on the one side against a broad, overwhelming majority of people who are moderate.  The leadership here in this country, certainly in the presidency and in the other senior ministries are all people who have had the courage to stand up and speak on behalf of moderation and against violence and against extremism.  They have demonstrated, if one looks at the successful country, the ability to create an environment that's hospitable to investment and to enterprise and to opportunity for their people.


            We will be continuing to work with them from a military standpoint, but our country also of course has very close political and economic ties as well.


            MEDIA:  Did you discuss any additional activities on the military side that you might pursue with the Tunisian military?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  We discussed the basis of the relationship.  One of the things that they're working on, I don't know if I want to put it in the press, but they're working is a Status of Forces Agreement, a SOFA, and that's moving along.  That would create a situation where we would be able to do more things, exercises, and that type of thing.


            MEDIA:  Did you urge them to make political reforms, social reforms domestically?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  That is a subject, of course, that the two Presidents discussed and we discussed it here.  But they are, I'm trying to think how to characterize it.  What they have done, it seems to me, is to move from a colony about 50 years ago, that's a relatively short period of time, to a democratic country which is in different areas moving at different paces.  It is a subject that is discussed between our two countries from time to time.  I mentioned it in my remarks in the press briefing with the Minister of Defense.


            MEDIA:  Did you solicit or receive any insights on Hamas, the rise of Hamas and/or the Iranian nuclear situation?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  We talked about both.  I don't know that I want to -- I'm kind of old fashioned.  I don't like to particularly discuss private conversations, but both subjects were discussed.  I think it's proper to say that they have a very clear public position with respect to Iran and that is that they do not favor nuclear weapons and the development of nuclear weapons.


            MEDIA:  What is their view of the terrorism situation or trends in this region?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  They have been attacked by terrorists in this country.  They have felt the sting of that type of violence.  They have had policies, historically, against violence and against terrorism and have been I would say quite successful in doing the kinds of things with their population so that it will be a peaceful and constructive approach as the norm here, as opposed to violence.


            MEDIA:  Do they feel they have under control then?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I can't characterize it.  I don't think it's for me to say that.


            MEDIA:  Thank you, sir.

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