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Media Availability - USS BATAAN, Hangar Bay

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
November 12, 1998

Secretary Cohen: ...to express through them our gratitude for the sacrifices they and their families make day in and day out. To indicate to them that we're listening, to hear some of the problems that they have to contend with, some of the challenges they face on a personal level, and what we need to do to keep our forces ready as it needs to be. That's the purpose of my trip. Unfortunately, I have to cut it somewhat short today in view of some of the other activities taking place in the world. But it gives me an opportunity nonetheless to put a lot of faces in my own mind as I sign deployment orders each and every week, to understand how bright they are, how patriotic and dedicated they are, and it always gives me a joy to meet them on a personal basis. And with that let me...

Q: Why did you change your schedule today and the second part is when do you expect the additional planes to arrive in the theater of the Mid East?

A: I changed my schedule somewhat today to shorten it up so that I could return to Washington to conduct a series of meetings that will take place. We have other meetings at the White House today on other subjects, as a matter of fact, other than Iraq. And also to meet with various Congressional personnel that I need to talk to. So it is just a question of trying to squeeze in a lot of activities in a short time. Some of the aircraft will be deploying on Saturday but will be arriving next week.

Q: You just said (inaudible) that the United States (inaudible) Saddam Hussein (inaudible) if he backs down this time and promises...

A: I think clearly Saddam Hussein has to realize that he cannot continue to play this game with the United Nations, with the Security Council, or the United States and our friends. We expect full compliance and that means full compliance. He can't continue to indulge in the kind of cat and mouse game that he plays with barring inspectors from going to places, holding them up, denying them access -- there has to be full compliance. He is obviously interested in getting a comprehensive review of the sanctions. That can come about once there is full compliance. That's the message that Kofi Annan has given to him; that is the message that all of us have given. Once there is full compliance, then obviously there will be a comprehensive review of the sanctions. So I think that there's an opportunity for him to get this comprehensive review. Mr. Butler laid this out as far as a blue print is concerned some time ago, and Mr. Butler continues to point to a way for Saddam and his people to have relief from the sanctions, [which] means full compliance.

Q: (inaudible)

A: Nothing is precluded should a strike ever become necessary. We are hoping that won't be the case. We continue to hope, and as the President said yesterday, [to] pray, that it would not be necessary to take military action. Should it become necessary, then we will carry it out with all of the effectiveness that we can marshal. What takes place after that remains for Saddam to determine. We would seek to degrade his capability to threaten his neighbors through use of weapons of mass destruction and to pose a threat to the region. But what takes place after that will remain to be determined in terms of whether the inspections can go forward. We would hope that they would continue to go forward. But in any event, we would continue to contain him in terms of his ability to reconstitute his military in the future.

Q: What about the (inaudible) of diplomacy?

A: I've indicated that diplomacy should be given that opportunity to work, and we have engaged in diplomatic action for quite some time in dealing with Saddam Hussein. As I said before, every dance must have a beginning and an ending, every song has a beginning and ending. How long this will (inaudible) out, is still to be determined. But I would say that we have to have a resolution fairly soon, and I think that he has every opportunity to resolve it very quickly. The timeframe has not been determined in terms of how long the diplomacy will last.

Q: The EISENHOWER battle (inaudible) is scheduled to come back (inaudible). Will they still be returning on schedule and the airmen returning to Langley next week?

A: Well, as far as the EISENHOWER, my hope that they will be returning on schedule. Much will be determined in the next few weeks, whether that can take place, but it is my hope that the EISENHOWER will return. One of the purposes of course of the rotation and the deployment that recently took place, is to relieve the EISENHOWER, and it's my hope that that can take place. We will have to wait and see in the next couple of weeks.

Q: Will the U.S. (inaudible) support over there in Iraq? A: I'm not going to get into any discussion of targets or what the strikes might entail.

Q: They would be significant should they be carried out?

Q: The fact that the inspectors had been pulled out by the U.N. is that symbolic of (inaudible)?

A: I think it's a precautionary move. That it's a wise precaution to take that they should not be in the region. They are not being utilized at present, so they're not serving the function that they are there for. So for their own safety I think it is a wise precaution.

Q: Do you see any evidence that Saddam Hussein has begun to (inaudible) down at all any movement at all?

A: I have not seen anything coming out of Baghdad that would indicate that he is interested in complying with Security Council resolutions.

Q: ...have you seen any movement on Saddam Hussein's in Iraqi (inaudible)?

A: I really wouldn't want to comment on what he is doing or is prepared to do. I think that is something that I wouldn't want to comment on.

Q: How do you ensure that Iraq is not (inaudible) that a power vacuum is not created (inaudible)?

A: We have no intention by design or hope that Iraq would be split up. We think that to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq continues to be important. We have taken all of that into account in terms of any military options that we have to exercise.

Q: If military action is used, would one of the purposes be to compel a resumption of inspections?

A: We would like to have inspections take place. We would like to have them without the use of military power should it be exercised. We would hope that inspections would continue in the future. There's no guarantee of that. Obviously the sanctions would remain in place.

Q: What's the administration's end game for Iraq?

A: The end game for Iraq is to comply with the Security Council resolutions. That's the way for Saddam to get relief from the sanctions. To the extent that he is not in compliance and will not comply then we have to give considerations the President is doing to exercising other options including the military one. The end game is full compliance with the Security Council resolutions.

Q: Will you wait for the deployment of the troops over there before striking or could it come at any time?

A: I am not going to answer that question about time. But we have in place adequate forces. We will have additional forces underway and the timing of any action will depend upon whether the President decides that diplomacy can no longer be pursued and whether the military options should be exercised. The timing of that will be up to the President.

Press: Thank you.