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Rumsfeld Not in Middle East to Negotiate

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 3, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not visiting the Middle East to negotiate basing or fly-over rights for U.S. troops in the war on terrorism, but to "solidify relationships."

The secretary is on the first leg of a three-day trip that includes Oman, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.

"These are relationships of long standing with the exception of Uzbekistan, and that's a situation that it's important for us to get to know them and establish a relationship," Rumsfeld told reporters on the plane Oct. 2 en route from Washington to Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

Even before this stint as defense secretary Rumsfeld was no stranger to the region. He served as Middle East envoy under President Reagan.

Rumsfeld didn't say what sort of relationship the administration hoped to forge with Uzbekistan. He said he believes that given political sensitivities in the region it would be best for Uzbekistan to quantify its relationship with the United States.

"I'm understanding of the fact that each country has a different situation,," he said.

The Bush administration wants different countries to cooperate in its war on terrorism in different ways, Rumsfeld said. "We want countries around the globe to recognize the seriousness of this threat," he said. "We want them to understand the damage that was done to our country and the threat that exists to countries across the globe. And we want them to cooperate in a lot of ways."

One of the most important forms of cooperation is providing intelligence on terrorist networks. "The countries on the periphery of Afghanistan, in this case, have a lot more information than countries that are not on the periphery," Rumsfeld said. "They've seen the flow of people back and forth across those borders."

The secretary said he believes it won't be a bomb or missile that will ultimately make the most difference in fighting terrorism; it'll be "a scrap of information from some person in some country that's been repressed by a dictatorial regime that's sponsoring a terrorist organization who's going to put out the kind of information that's going to enable us to pull this network up by its roots."

However, he stressed, a war on terrorism is a far cry from a war on the Afghan people. "It is a mistake for anybody to characterize the concern we have about terrorism and the concern we have about the enormous loss of life in the United States (Sept. 11) ... as having anything to do with the people of Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said. "It doesn't."

Rumsfeld said he also hopes to visit troops participating in the Bright Star exercise in Egypt, where his main message to those in uniform will be "how grateful we are to them."

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DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Saudi Arabia, Oct. 2, 2001

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