Secretary Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I have just had the privilege of meeting with His Majesty and we’ve had an excellent trip to Morocco. We met with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Defense Minister, and other officials of the government. We’ve had a long-standing treaty of friendship with Morocco, since I believe 1787. It is a very long-standing relationship, a very constructive and positive one. I have told our friends here how much we appreciate the cooperation in counter-terrorism. It is important; it is a danger to the world that can only be dealt with by very close cooperation among a great many countries. The thoughtfulness and energy that they put into these activities makes a big difference to our success and to their success.
I would be happy to respond to a question or two.
Q: Is there any coordination between Maghreb Arab countries on the war against terrorism?
Secretary Rumsfeld: There is cooperation among the countries of North Africa and it is a constructive one. In fact each of the countries that we visited, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, have all commented on the fact that they have very positive relationships and share concerns about some of the problems in this part of the world and recognize that it is to all of their advantage to work very closely together. Each of those countries are part of the NATO Mediterranean dialogue countries. Each of those countries are involved in exercises with the United States such as an exercise called Active Endeavor. They are cooperating in the trans-Sahara counter-terrorism activities and it is to all of our advantage that we have that degree of cooperation. Thank you.
Q: Based on your extensive conversations with the leaders of these three countries; what risk do you see now that Al Qaeda or other extremist groups could get a foothold in this region?
Secretary Rumsfeld: I think that each of those three countries is managing their affairs, their internal affairs, in a way that makes that an extremely low possibility. There are so many parts of the world where there are large ungoverned spaces where the governments have not taken the kinds of steps that we’ve seen in these countries to work with the people and to recognize the importance of security activity -- but equally important, political progress, economic progress and bringing all of the dimensions of society together in a way that creates an environment that is inhospitable to terrorism. I think each of these three countries certainly stands out as examples of countries where they’ve taken a lot of steps to show that they can live at peace and successfully deal with the problem of extremism.
Q: How do you respond to critics who say that the U.S. should not improve bilateral or multi-lateral relations with these three countries until there are more political reforms?
Secretary Rumsfeld: Obviously, I respond by visiting them and working with them and recognizing the progress they have made and cooperating with them.
Q: How about the important areas in the trans-Sahara? Is that a source of concern?
Secretary Rumsfeld: There are, in my view, other areas more likely; on the other hand, we have to be attentive.
Q: What did you discuss during the audience with the King?
Secretary Rumsfeld: His Majesty talked about a number of subjects…certainly, the region and the relationship between the United States and Morocco; but also the region and North Africa. In addition we talked about the circumstances in several other countries which obviously are very much in the news. I would prefer to let him describe our conversations rather than me characterizing them.
Thank you very much folks.