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U.S. Briefs NATO On Iraq's Relationship With Terrorism

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 24, 2002 – There's a connection between Iraq, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters here today.

Speaking with reporters after a day of bilateral and informal ministerial meetings with NATO officials, Rumsfeld was asked if there is a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

He answered, "Oh, certainly, there is."

Rumsfeld rated the meetings as "very good," and noted events had included a classified briefing on Iraq provided by a senior U.S. Central Intelligence Agency official. He said the briefing was excellent, thorough and featured "the best, shared intelligence information that exists on the subject of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."

Saddam Hussein still refuses to disarm and discard his weapons of mass destruction, as he promised to do under U.N. resolutions signed at the end of the Gulf War. U.N. inspectors who were searching for Iraq's stockpiles of WMDs and other outlawed weaponry, were kicked out of the country in 1998. Fed up with Saddam, President Bush wants change of regime in Baghdad; he has not yet decided on the best way to accomplish it.

Rumsfeld remarked there'd been "quite a bit" of discussion among the NATO ministers during the brief about possible Iraqi government connections to Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. He declined to provide more information, saying it "was unhelpful" to U.S. and allied interests to go into more detail on the subject.

Instead, he directed reporters to an unclassified white paper on the subject provided by British Prime Minister Anthony Blair's government. Today, Rumsfeld noted, Blair had addressed Parliament on the subjects of Iraq, terrorism and WMDs.

He said other topics included the Balkans, Afghanistan, NATO military and command-structure transformation, and the creation of a NATO rapid response force.

The United States has urged NATO to upgrade its military capabilities to become more agile to better manage envisioned threats of the 21st century, such as terrorists using weapons of mass destruction.

In his welcoming remarks this morning at the start of the meetings, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson supported Rumsfeld's proposal for NATO transformation. Rumsfeld characterized the ministers' response to the U.S. proposal for increased capabilities "uniformly excellent."

Since the terrorist attacks on America a year ago, Rumsfeld noted that NATO "has accepted, fully, the risks that exist in the world with respect to weapons of mass destruction and the dangers of terrorist states, and terrorist networks and countries that are havens for terrorists."

Alliance members, the secretary added, have taken steps to see that their countries are better prepared to cope with, deal with, deter and defend against the potential use of WMDs and to mitigate damage.

Going back to today's situation with Iraq, Rumsfeld pointed out that the coalition that was formed to oust the Iraqis from Kuwait during the Gulf War a decade ago wasn't formed overnight.

Today, the secretary pointed out, about 90 nations are united in the global war on terrorism. He repeated that the president has not yet decided what to do about Iraq.

"Therefore, it's not surprising there's no coalition with respect to Iraq," he said.

Today's meetings did not require decision-making in regard to improvement of NATO military capabilities, Rumsfeld noted. This and other topics, he continued, will be discussed in detail in November at NATO's summit in Prague, Czech Republic.

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Related Sites:
NATO Responds Positively to Capabilities Initiatives, Sept. 24, 2002
Poland To Take Advisory Role With New NATO Members, Sept. 24, 2002
NATO Must Plan For Future Role, Robertson Tells Ministers, Sept. 24, 2002
Rumsfeld: U.S.-Polish Relationship Is 'Strong and Healthy', Sept. 23, 2002
Rumsfeld: NATO, Like U.S., Needs to Transform Its Military, Sept. 22, 2002
Warsaw Meetings May Presage Rumsfeld's Agenda at Prague NATO Summit (Revised), Sept. 20, 2002

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld briefs traveling reporters in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 24, 2002, following a day of meetings with other NATO defense ministers. Activities included a classified brief on Iraq provided by a senior U.S. Central Intelligence Agency official. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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