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U.S., Bahraini Defense Officials Discuss Gulf, Terror Situations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2003 – Terrorists are the enemy of free people everywhere, and Bahrain welcomes U.S. leadership in the struggle against global terrorism, Bahraini Defense Minister Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa said following a meeting at the Pentagon today.

During a short question-and-answer period after a session with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the shaikh told reporters that Bahrain is committed to working against terror cells in the Persian Gulf region and around the world.

He addressed threats allegedly made by al Qaeda operative Ayman Zawahiri about launching terror operations against U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf. "I think these guys are the enemy of free people anywhere, and we must work together with all of the coalition in the war against terror to ensure that their capability to finance, to transport and to execute acts of terror are significantly diminished," he said.

"There's always a risk, but the war on terror is ongoing," he continued. "I see no relenting in the efforts of anyone involved, and that is largely due to the leadership provided here in the United States by President Bush, and it's a leadership that we support and are proud to be a part of."

Bahrain, which is host to U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters, has participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people. "We continue to work very closely with the United States to make sure that the effort to liberate the Iraqi people is successful and it's concluded in a manner that is good for them and for the region as a whole," the shaikh said.

Rumsfeld thanked the minister who is also the crown prince for Bahrain's help. "They're assisting in Iraq with assistance in Umm Qasr; they're assisting with respect to offered assistance on hospitals," he said. "And we are very grateful for their friendship and their support in so many different ways."

Rumsfeld would not address charges in the press that al Qaeda operatives inside Iran masterminded the terror attacks in Riyadh last week. "I'll leave the analysis to others, but just from a factual standpoint, there's no question but that there have been and are today senior al Qaeda leaders in Iran," he said. "And they're busy."

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