Britain's Hoon Explains U.K. Support to America on Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2003 A senior official from America's staunchest ally joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon podium today and explained why the United Kingdom is so firmly behind the U.S. position on Iraq.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld takes a reporter's question during a joint press conference with British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon in the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2003. Rumsfeld and Hoon met earlier to discuss the war on terror and the situation in Iraq. DoD photo by R. D. Ward.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I certainly think we have understood the threat in Iraq for longer, in a more detailed way, than many of our European allies," British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon said in a press briefing.
He said the British government recognizes that "the appalling events" of Sept. 11, 2001, show that countries around the world need to concern themselves with the growing threat from international terror groups.
"We have been much more conscious that we cannot afford to turn our back on those kinds of threats," he said. "Otherwise, we risk a repetition of those events."
Rumsfeld said he and Hoon discussed Iraq and North Korea during their talks prior to the news conference. They also discussed the alleged Osama bin Laden audio recording released Feb. 11 by an Arab television station.
Rumsfeld said such messages purported to be from bin Laden have historically preceded terrorist attacks. "Whether there will be this time is not knowable," he said. "But I suppose what I would make of it is that it's clearly an effort to try to marshal support for the al Qaeda, to try to gain recruits and gain financial support. That's their life's blood."
Hoon said the taped message clearly shows a connection between Iraq and terrorists, which Iraq has steadfastly denied. "(Bin Laden) sets out in detail a connection between his activities and the activities of al Qaeda and Iraq," the minister said. "He said that, not us."
On the political situation in NATO, Hoon said his government is "disappointed" that Germany, France and Belgium are blocking plans to protect fellow NATO member Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq.
He also said the United Kingdom favors a second U.N. Security Council resolution before hostilities break out over Iraq's refusal to disarm, but he also indicated his government wouldn't shy away from action it feels is necessary.
"We've made it clear that if that second resolution were unreasonably blocked in the Security Council, then we would take the kind of action that we took in Kosovo, where we did not have a specific U.N. Security Council resolution," Hoon said.