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Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Media Availability with Prince Sultan

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 29, 2003

(Joint media availability with High Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, second deputy prime minister, minister of defense and aviation and inspector-general of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al-Azzizia Palace, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.)


     Prince Sultan:  My brothers, my colleagues, my friends and the press corps, we all would like to welcome the U.S. secretary of defense and the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.  Please be brief in your questions because, as you all know, that we do not have any differences in our views between our two countries.  And let us not believe all that might be said in the world press; those who say that there are differences between the two countries contrary to what has been shaped by late King Abdulaziz and late President Roosevelt.  Thank you.


     Q:  Jaser Al-Jaser, Al-Jazirah newspaper.  Has there been any discussion about the presence of the American forces related to the U.N. resolution?  This question is for U.S. secretary of defense.


     Rumsfeld:  First let me just say that we have had a very good meeting.  We appreciate the hospitality of the prince, and we look forward to meeting the crown prince.  With respect to the forces, we did discuss the change that is taking place in the region.  This is now a safer region because of the change in the regime in Iraq.  With the end of the Operation Southern Watch, and the successful liberation of the Iraqi people, we have had discussions about our ability now to rearrange our forces in this part of the world.  By mutual agreement, the aircraft involved now, of course, will be able to leave.  They will leave with us grateful for the support throughout the operation that the Kingdom provided.


     Over time, we anticipate that our forces in the region will be able to be reduced.  We noted today that this will be done in a manner that reflects our close cooperation and friendship between our countries.


     Q:  Charles Aldinger, Reuters.  I would like to ask your Royal Highness, when you said that there are no differences between the two countries and yet don't you let --


     Prince Sultan:  First, let me explain, the forces that are here were basically implementing the Southern Watch Operation and have after the end of the Southern Watch Operation, there is obviously no need for those troops to remain.  This is does not mean that we requested them to leave or move from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But as long as their mission is over, so they will leave.


     Q:  Abdullah Al Oraifaj, Okaz Newspaper.  What is the future of the mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. in light of the new developments in the region?  Question is for Prince Sultan.


     Prince Sultan:  The cooperation between the two countries, even before the Desert Storm Operation, will continue even after the end of war in Iraq.  The USMTM was here in the Kingdom; there is technical cooperation about any new technology for the benefit of our armed forces.  And this of course reflects the mutual cooperation between the two countries.


     Q:  (Inaudible.), Canadian Broadcasting Corp.  To Secretary Rumsfeld.  During this month, the foreign minister said war changes the relationship between the United Sates and the Arab countries of the region, and whether that relationship is positive or negative depends on American conduct.  Could I ask you, Mr. Rumsfeld, to respond to that current skepticism?  And ask you both how you would describe the changes in the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia?


     Rumsfeld:  The question about the liberation of Iraq has changed the circumstances in the region.  The security environment here is different today from what it was six weeks ago.  The relationships between our two countries are multidimensional.  Diplomatic, economic, as well as military-to-military, and His Royal Highness has properly characterized this military relationship as one we look forward to when we exercise our various activities that are appropriate today.  Whereas the Operation Southern Watch was appropriate to the area 6 weeks ago.


     Prince Sultan:  I will have similar comments to Mr. Rumsfeld because we are going toward the same end.  Thank you very much.


     Q:  Abdulaziz al Hindi, Asharq Al-Awsat.  Your Excellency, why the United States doesn't deal with the prisoners of Guantanamo according to the Geneva Convention?  And did the American troops find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Thank you very much.


     Secretary Rumsfeld:  I think it is accurate to say that the United States' treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is consistent with Geneva Convention.  The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited there and has people there almost continuously and the many countries that visited and have representatives in Guantanamo come away agreeing that detainees are being treated in a most humane and proper manner.  The intelligence information that has been gained from them is helpful in the global war on terrorism.


     The United States is not detaining those people because it likes to detain them, but they were arrested on a battlefield and they have been detained so that the information they have enables us, and the rest of the world, to avoid future terrorism actions.


     With respect to weapons of mass destruction, the regime of Saddam Hussein was very successful in conducting themselves so that they could live with inspections by the United Nations for years and years and years, and they hid what they were doing, and buried what they were doing and it is likely that the inspectors found very little.  And my impression is that weapons of mass destruction may not be found through happenstance or discovery, instead they will be found when we find the people who know where they are, who were involved in the programs and were involved in hiding.  That's been the case so far.  (Inaudible) We have been consistently capturing and finding the senior leadership from that country.  Every day one or more turns up.  They are not being discovered.  What's happing is that the Iraqi people are coming to us saying, "Here they are," and "They are found in that house."  It is with the cooperation of the Iraqi people that we were able to do these things in a successful [way].


     Q:  Solaiman al Okaili, Alwatan Newspaper.  Question to Mr. Rumsfeld.  There are fears among public opinion, especially in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab world, about the hidden American agenda for the region.  Everybody has found the threat against Syria.  And there are also fears about the concept of  preventive strikes actually because they fear that it might lead to further wars in the region.  Can you Mr. Rumsfeld explain what is the defense policy of the United States regarding the region?


     Rumsfeld:  Yes.  I can.  And I shall.  First of all we don't have a defense policy.  We have national policy and the president's policy.


     Second we have no hidden agenda.  Indeed, the United States with our free press and for whatever reason we can't hide anything.  Even things we try to hide.  Our policy is straightforward.


     Next, I think it is a mischaracterization to say that we threatened Syria.  We are not in the business of threatening, but what the President said, what Secretary Powell said, and what I said is the truth.  And the truth was that Syria was permitting weapons to go into Iraq when we were in war with Iraq.  And we didn't like it and we said so.  Second, Syria was allowing senior Iraqis to go into 'Iraq' [Syria].  We didn't like it.  We don't like it, and we said so.  Third, Iraq, Syria was permitting busloads of people to move from Syria into Iraq with weapons and they were being given money to do it.  Now, when you are in a war, you don't like neighboring countries sending weapons or fighters into the country to try to kill Coalition forces.  It seems to be a perfectly reasonable position.  It is a fact, not a threat.  And that is all I have to say.


     Q:  Mansour Al Omari, Al Youm Newspaper.  To Prince Sultan:  How do you view, Your Royal Highness, about the return of Iraq to the atmosphere, the sphere of the surrounding region, the Gulf countries?


     Prince Sultan:  We are all too happy to have.  Saddam Hussein did among the Arab countries before he dragged (Inaudible.)


     Q:  Eric Schmidt, New York Times.  Your Highness, to what extent do you believe that Iran poses a threat to the emerging government, new civilian government in Iraq and to the security of the Gulf region itself?


     Prince Sultan:  I don't think that Iran has an animosity vision towards Iraq.  And also we don't think that Iran will be making any kind of problem for a government that really hasn't started.  I think Iraq will stay as a whole.

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