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Rumsfeld to Visit Italy, Germany

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will leave today for Europe to consult with allies and meet American troops, DoD officials announced Feb. 6.

The secretary will stop in Rome and Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Munich, Germany. He's scheduled to return Feb. 9.

"Italy has been a key ally in the global war on terrorism and has also been a strong supporter of U.S. efforts more broadly -- including taking a leadership role in the recent letter in support of the U.S. position on Iraq," a senior defense official said on background. "The Italian government understands the need to keep up the pressure on Iraq in the context of where we are today."

The secretary will meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Defense Minister Antonio Martino. "In addition to Iraq, they will focus on Italian contributions to the global war on terrorism," the official said. Italy is scheduled to deploy a 1,000-man brigade to Afghanistan in March.

After Rome, the secretary will travel to Aviano to hold a town hall meeting at Aviano, home of the 31st Fighter Wing. He will speak to service members, family members and Italian allies.

The last stop is Munich, where Rumsfeld will be the lead speaker at Europe's premier security conference, the Munich Conference on Security Policy, also called the Wehrkunde Conference. He is to speak on the role of NATO in the security environment, and also weapons of mass destruction and the problem of Iraq.

The Wehrkunde Conference attracts wide ranges of senior officials from Europe, North America, the Indian subcontinent and Asia. Rumsfeld will use the conference to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and with German Defense Minister Peter Struck. Other bilateral meetings are possible.

The senior official said the Wehrkunde meetings will emphasize Iraq and the next steps the world must take to ensure Saddam Hussein is disarmed of weapons of mass destruction.

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DoD News Transcript: Background Briefing on Secretary Rumsfeld's Trip to Europe

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