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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Lord Robertson

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 20, 2001

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

(Joint media availability at the Pentagon with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. Lord Robertson the Secretary General of NATO and I have just been having a discussion. He's in the United States to attend a NATO meeting down in Norfolk at SACLANT [Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic], and I guess you're meeting with Secretary Powell tomorrow morning, and he has had some meetings on the Hill. We've just been discussing a variety of issues as well as the president's recent visit to Europe and to NATO.

We'd be happy to respond to some questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, might I ask, peacekeeping operations in the Balkans in the past five or six years have been virtually predicated on U.S. military cooperation. Will the United States supply troops to any operation in Macedonia? NATO operation in Macedonia?

Rumsfeld: The president and the secretary of state have both commented on this very recently and I don't know that I could add anything to it.

The United States has not made a commitment to include troops in the activities that are currently being discussed. They've not reached that stage, as you may know, the -- What's the technical phrase? The force --

Robertson: Generation.

Rumsfeld: -- generation sessions have not been held. The United States currently has, oh, it fluctuates between 500 and 700 U.S. military in Macedonia doing a range of things, some supporting the Kosovo activities, some involved with air missions as you have seen, unmanned aerial vehicles.

The process is in kind of a mid-stage, as I would characterize it.

Robertson: We have to do the operational side. The procedure now is following the North Atlantic Council today. When the concept of operations was agreed to move to an operational plan, the op plan which is then followed by a force generation conference organized by the deputy supreme allied commander, Europe. And that is the point where we consider what troops are available and have been offered, what troops are required and how we put together the force that will be put in place -- provided that the political environment is right and the political agreements have been reached and a ceasefire has been agreed.

Q: Would you approve the use of U.S. troops under those provisions?

Rumsfeld: It is not for me to do that. It is for the president of the United States to make those decisions and Secretary Powell responded at great length. And as the secretary general says, we are not at that stage.

Q: Lord Robertson, how essential do you believe it is to have U.S. participation in a Macedonia peacekeeping mission?

Robertson: We're not at that stage yet. The United States is involved in KFOR Rear inside Macedonia at the present moment, and sizeable numbers of American troops are involved in Kosovo as a whole, and they are invaluable, and in the difficult territory of the Kosovo/Macedonia border, so they're extremely valued there.

Can I just make another point as well, which I've been making to President Trajkovski of Macedonia just this evening in a letter that I sent him. There are no circumstances, no circumstances where NATO troops are going to go to Macedonia to police any demarcation line, any internal demarcation line that might exist there or any partition of Macedonia at all. This seems to have surfaced as an idea inside the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but I've made it clear in a letter to the president, under no circumstances will NATO be involved in demarcation or partition policing.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Just to underline, what he's saying is that to the extent that the NATO process ends up deciding that some forces from some NATO nations go into Macedonia, it would be in a permissive environment, simply for the purpose of receiving weapons after an agreement had been made.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, can we get your reaction to the claim by Iraq that as a result of air strikes in the northern no-fly zone 23 civilians were killed who were playing in a soccer game?

Rumsfeld: Yes, you may.

The situation as I understand it is this. Some coalition aircraft in Operation Northern Watch saw some fire from AAA [anti-aircraft artillery] and either one or two missiles, as I recall. They were not anywhere near our airplanes. The coalition air CAP [combat air patrol] did not fire in response. And in the event anyone was killed it undoubtedly was a result of misdirected ground fire that ended up in a location that was not intended.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I get your reaction to that of President Putin's claim a couple of days ago that if the U.S. unilaterally deployed a missile defense system, he may decide to MIRV his single warhead SS-27s. Was that a major threat to (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I'd have to see the context of that statement. He has said a good many things and has had very good discussions with President Bush.

I think that it's probably a mistake to take pieces of the broader framework that exists and is evolving and will evolve over time and try to examine them in isolation because they do need to be looked at in total.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I ask you one question about Iran and the upcoming anniversary of the Khobar Towers bombing next week?

Now that the grand jury is about to return indictments on the Khobar Towers bombing is it your feeling that the potential for any military retaliation for Khobar is off the table? Is that no longer even feasible?

Rumsfeld: I do not know if the Justice Department has made an announcement. Have they? They have not. Then I think I'll leave it to the Department of Justice.

Q: Is military retaliation off the table now?

Rumsfeld: I'm going to leave the legal question as to that entire issue to the Department of Justice.

Press: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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