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U.S. not Interested in Iraqi Oil, Rumsfeld Tells Arab World

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed as "utter nonsense" the notion that the United States is after Iraqi oil.

"The only idea we have for the region is that it not be producing weapons of mass destruction and it not be invading its neighbors and that it be peaceful," Rumsfeld said. He added that the United States also wants to see an Iraq where the citizens can "figure out how they want to run their country free of a dictator like Saddam Hussein."

Rumsfeld's comments came during an interview with the Arab TV network Al Jazeera. The Defense Department is increasingly trying to get its message to people outside the United States.

During an interview this morning, Rumsfeld's assistant secretary for public affairs, Victoria Clarke, noted it's important not to ignore media outlets such as Al Jazeera, because the Qatar-based network reaches upward of 30 million people a day in a region that often misunderstands U.S. intentions.

"That's a pretty significant outlet," she said. Besides the strategic value, Clarke opined, "It's the right thing to do."

In his Al Jazeera interview, Rumsfeld directly addressed a number of misperceptions spreading on Arab streets. He told the interviewer the United States has no intention to act as a colonial power in the Middle East.

"We don't take our forces and go around the world and try to take other people's real estate or other people's resources, their oil. That's just not what the United States does," he said. "We never have, and we never will. That's not how democracies behave."

He cited any number of countries the United States has helped militarily in the past 60 years or so: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, most of Western Europe, and Japan.

"We are interested in having our forces go home," Rumsfeld said, but acknowledged a military coalition might be necessary to maintain security in the short term.

Such a coalition would provide food and other humanitarian aid, search for and destroy weapons of mass destruction, and assist the Iraqis in forming a representative government. "Our choice would be to stay as long as we needed to do that, but not one minute longer," he said.

The secretary reminded that even before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States was the single largest donor of food aid to Afghanistan. "Before we were ever attacked, it was the United States -- not a Muslim country -- but a country that cared enough about the people of Afghanistan that we provided food for them," he said.

He also said aid would flow to the people of Iraq if Saddam Hussein were out of the picture. "If Saddam Hussein were gone, the sanctions would be gone," Rumsfeld said. "The people there would be better off."

He downplayed the policy rift over Iraq that has appeared in the United Nations and NATO, recalling that 18 different countries have signed letters in major newspapers supporting the U.S. position.

And on anti-war demonstrations in the United States and other countries, Rumsfeld said that people in democracies are free to organize and take to the streets.

"You don't see people demonstrating in Iraq," he said. "You don't see people demonstrating against the government in Iraq because they'll be killed."

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