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Rumsfeld Calls Pakistani Leader 'Moderate Voice'

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2004 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lauded Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a "moderate voice in the world" and called recent actions by Syria and Iran "unhelpful" during a broad-ranging question-and- answer session following a speech in New York Oct. 4.

While speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld said he would not judge Musharraf for not seriously punishing nuclear scientist A.Q. Kahn.

Kahn led Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and is widely viewed as a hero in heavily Muslim countries. Earlier this year he was found to also be managing a network that proliferated nuclear-weapons technology to such countries as North Korea and Libya. Musharraf's government shut down the network and put Kahn under house arrest but refused to punish him more severely.

In response to a question on the topic, Rumsfeld said Musharraf is in an impossible balancing act in his country and in his part of the world. The secretary refused to criticize him for not punishing Kahn more severely, particularly in light of the steps Pakistan has taken in the war on terrorism.

"(Musharraf) severed his relationship with the Taliban. He has been going into the tribal areas where no Pakistan government had ever gone previously. He is a moderate voice in the world, in the Muslim world -- for moderation, which is what's needed," Rumsfeld said.

He added that the people listening to his speech aren't going to be the ones to lead the Muslim people away from extremists. "It's going to be the (Afghan President Hamid) Karzais and the (Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad) Allawis and the Musharrafs of the world who are going to carve a path towards moderation," Rumsfeld said.

Regarding Syria, Rumsfeld said the country has been "notably unhelpful" in efforts to stabilize Iraq.

"They have refused to release the frozen Iraqi assets in Syria; they are continuing to cooperate with Iran and fund and support Hezbollah," Rumsfeld said of the Syrian government. "They are still occupying Lebanon for all practical purposes with troops and intelligence people. They have used their border with Iraq to facilitate terrorists moving back and forth, money moving back and forth, and they've been unhelpful."

The secretary said only time will tell whether recent meetings between representatives of the U.S., Iraqi and Syrian governments will prove fruitful in addressing these concerns. "It's too early to say there's been any progress at all, in my view," he said.

Rumsfeld made similar comments about Iran. He noted that Iran's population is predominantly Shiia Muslim, and the holiest Shiia shrines are in Iraq a situation that leads to millions of pilgrims and refugees crossing the porous border between the two countries.

"So it's the easiest thing in the world to make mischief," Rumsfeld said. "There's no way we could stop the flow of these pilgrims back and forth across that border. The border is reasonably porous."

He also said Iran has been "notably unhelpful" in resolving the situation and has been doing "a lot of meddling" in Iraq affairs. "They clearly want to affect the outcome of the election, and they are aggressively trying to do that," Rumsfeld said. "They're sending money in (and) they're sending weapons in."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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