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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability In Qatar

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 12, 2002

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

(Media Availability after meetings with officials in Qatar. Also participating was Qatar Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani)

Rumsfeld: We have just had a meeting, and I thank the minister for the wonderful cooperation between our two countries in the global war on terrorism. It's a broad coalition of some 90 countries, and certainly Qatar has been significant in its contributions, and we value that.

The implementing agreement that we're -- have just signed is certainly an indication of what we consider to be an important and valued defense partner. There is no question but that the agreement will enable us to strengthen our long-term strategic cooperation and to engage in some upgrades here in the country that will work to our mutual benefit. And certainly General Franks, who is here with me, has worked long and hard on this subject with the officials of the government.

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Minister: Thank you. We will take a few questions.

Q: Can you give us some idea of what the agreement is that you signed? And secondly -- (audio break from source).

Rumsfeld: Well, the agreement that we signed is something that will improve our mutual readiness and military capabilities; it will permit a variety of upgrades, some of which are quality of life upgrades. Others will provide state-of-the-art capabilities for the forces here in the country.

With respect to the situation on the vessel, the situation is that a vessel was stopped by a multinational naval force. You're quite right; there were questions about its flag, questions about its cargo and questions about its destination. The operation was conducted peacefully; no one was injured. And it turns out that there -- the contents of the ship was not what was manifested on the cargo list.

I have been en route here, and I don't consider myself to be up to date, up to the minute in terms of the communications that may be taking place between various countries. And I think I'll leave it to the folks in Washington to handle the rest of the details.

Minister: Please --

Q: Do you object Yemen to have? This incident happened today. This is first question. Second question is, you said simply that Iraqi regime will disappear very soon through waging war against Iraq. This act --

Rumsfeld: Wait, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. You're -- you're going a little fast, and I'm having trouble following that portion of it.

Q: First part --

Rumsfeld: Let me answer the first part --

Q: Okay.

Rumsfeld: -- before we get into the other questions. It is a matter between many governments as to how various types of technologies are handled. And there are international understandings, international agreements. And those matters are handled by the Department of State.

Now, the next question.

Q: This question is -- you said recently the Iraqi regime --

Rumsfeld: Wait a second, I missed that first part. You said I said something recently?

Q: You said, yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: Are you sure you have an accurate --

Q: Some agencies -- some agencies reported --

Rumsfeld: Okay. Let's make sure you have an accurate quote.

Q: -- that you said it. I don't know if you deny it. You said that Iraq regime will disappear very soon. This -- this --

Rumsfeld: I did not say that.

Q: Okay. The other question. The U.S. is determined on waging war against Iraq regardless of the outcome of U.N. weapon inspectors' reports.

Rumsfeld: Who said that? I certainly didn't say that.

Q: This is -- just I want to complete the --

Rumsfeld: This is your statement.

Q: If -- if you please, I can complete the --

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: We can see that as the U.S. continues mobilizing and massing troops in the region. Don't you think that you are ignoring U.N. efforts and resolutions?

Rumsfeld: That's quite a question. I suppose the short answer is no. How could you even ask that question when it was the Iraqi regime that ignored 16 resolutions of the United Nations over a period of many, many years? Second, how could you even ask that question given the fact that it was the United States that went to the United Nations and received a unanimous vote in the Security Council? Not one vote opposing it. So a question that is premised that the United States is ignoring the United Nations is obviously misplaced.

Q: One last question, please. What are the details of your new bilateral agreement with the Qataris filed today? Can you tell us some of the details about it?

Rumsfeld: I think I answered that for the previous questioner.

Q: (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- between the visit of his excellency, the secretary of state -- for defense to Doha with the forthcoming summit of the Gulf leaders? That's the first question.

The second question is, do you think there is still -- there will soon be chairing the chairmanship of the GCC??

Minister: I will speak in English.

As a normal visit between friends, and it is just to continue the dialogue between the two countries.

Second thing is, the initiatives, I think now the United Nations said its word on this. And there is a Security Council resolution about Iraq. And we all wait to see the outcome and to try to solve this peacefully through the United Nations. And that's the policy of Qatar.

And mediation, I think the time is not for mediation now; the time is to try to let both United Nations and Iraq work in their resolution that has been done by the Security Council.

Thank you very much.

Q: (Through interpreter.) A two-tiered question. First of all, how do you justify the United States getting the copy of Iraq's declaration before the rest of the permanent members of the Security Council?

And the second part of the question is, how do you view Iraq's cooperation so far with the work of the inspectors? And is this enough to defuse the crisis or not?

Rumsfeld: Well, let me say this about that. My understanding is that the United Nations made a decision that they needed to reproduce the declaration, and they asked the United States to reproduce it. The United States did that. And then all of the five P-5 countries received the document at the same time, is my understanding.

So I don't think I have to justify a decision by the United Nations, because it was a decision by the United Nations as to how they wanted to have the documents reproduced. I believe I'm correct on that. These are matters that are not in the Department of Defense of the United States, they're matters that are handled by the United Nations.

The second question is how do we view the cooperation by Iraq thus far. The resolution, the unanimous resolution of the United Nations stated that Iraq was in material breach of the United Nations' resolutions. It then stated a series of additional things that Iraq ought to do and ought not to do. One of the things that they asked Iraq to do was to supply this declaration, which was to have been full and complete. It is, I think, 20,000 pages long. People are just beginning to read it and to study it and to analyze it, and we won't know the extent to which Iraq has or has not complied with the unanimous U.N. resolution until all the various countries take the time and have the patience to read it and consider it and analyze it.

The only other indication -- there are two other indications of cooperation or the lack thereof. One is that inspectors have been allowed into Iraq, as the United Nations requested. A second is that the resolution suggests that it's not appropriate for Iraq to interfere with inspectors or to interfere with member states. And Iraq has continued to fire on coalition aircraft that are conducting Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch.

Q: (Through interpreter) Your Excellency, Foreign Minister, it's been rumored lately that Qatar has also -- (inaudible) -- members of the Iraqi opposition.

Minister: (In Arabic) --

(Audio break.)

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Sorry, I didn't follow that. How do I what?

Q: How do you rate the importance? Elaborate.

Rumsfeld: How do I elaborate?

Q: Yeah, the importance of this agreement for the American military campaign against Iraq.

Rumsfeld: The agreement that we have signed today is not connected to Iraq, it is an agreement that has been under discussion for a -- many, many weeks and months.

It is a -- simply the latest element in a defense cooperation between our two countries, and it is a good one and one that we're very pleased with. So -- but I think it would be a mistake to connect it to Iraq.

One thing I should say about the Iraq situation; the inspectors have not been in there for years. The reason they're in there now is because of the unanimous resolution of the United Nations; all -- every single country voted in favor of resolving that Iraq should permit inspectors back in that country. It was that impetus that has improved the situation and led to the possibility, at least, that we will learn more about the capabilities in weapons of mass destruction of that country.

Q: A question for Mr. Rumsfeld. Sir -- (brief audio break) -- the nuclear option, should President Saddam Hussein use weapons of mass destruction. How does this differ from what the former secretary of defense, now Vice President Dick Cheney, said about a dozen years ago when he said all options were on the table? And why has this come out at this particular point in time?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's very interesting to me when I get asked a question like that. It begins by saying, "It's been reported," and then the question is, well, why did it come out at this time?

To my knowledge, that subject's not been raised by people in the United States government. If you have information to the contrary, I'd be curious to hear it.

Q: In this morning's Washington Post, for example, sir.

Rumsfeld: But by whom? By some person? Some anonymous person saying something? Some reporter asking another reporter what they think? Who in the United States government was quoted?

Q: It escapes me at this moment, sir.

Rumsfeld: Sorry.

Q: But does that policy differ from what Dick Cheney said 12 years ago, when he said all options would be on the table?

Rumsfeld: You know, I would have to go back and read what Defense Minister Cheney said a decade ago.

But the policy of the United States has been, generally, to not rule things out.

Whatever that might mean in a given situation, I don't know. But to my knowledge, the president of the United States, the vice president, the secretary of defense or secretary of state, not one of us have commented on the subject you're raising.

Yes?

Q: (In English.) Thank you. (Through interpreter.) He has been told, the press corps has been told, why a member of the Iraqi opposition, actively engaged in helping Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war; now, you're probably the most proactive person within the administration who is calling for not only the disarmament of Iraq, but the change of regime. How do you justify this change in your position between then and now?

Rumsfeld: And the question is to me, and it's to me because of my personal activities over the years? Is that --

Q: (Through interpreter.) No, when you were a member of the administration during the '80s.

Rumsfeld: Right, okay. I'd be happy to respond to that. In the early 1980s, Iran and Iraq were in a war. President Reagan was president, and I was a private citizen. 241 marines were killed in Beirut, Lebanon, in a terrorist attack. President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz asked me if I would take a leave of absence from my business and come in and assist them for a period of months with respect to the problems in the Middle East.

I met with Saddam Hussein during that period. And the purpose was to attempt to see if the Iraqi regime could be at all helpful in our efforts in the Middle East with respect to terrorism. In fact, I had nothing to do with helping Saddam Hussein and his regime against Iran. We had, I think, one or two meetings. The United States then did provide intelligence information, as I understand it -- but I was back in private business at the time -- to that regime. So that's the first part of the question.

You say how do you justify that. I justify it because 241 Marines were killed and the president of the United States asked me to do that. And I did it. And it was a perfectly responsible and appropriate thing for us to do.

Second. You say now the United States is active, or I am active, against the Saddam Hussein regime, and how do I justify that. First of all, I work for the president of the United States. I don't make these decisions, I serve the president. He has gone to the Congress of the United States, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of the president's position with respect to Iraq, namely that they represent a danger to the region and a danger to the world because it has long been listed as a terrorist state and it has relationships with terrorist networks. Indeed, I don't even need to enumerate them.

The president then decided to go to the United Nations. And I keep hearing this about war with Iraq and all of this, but the fact is the president has not made a decision with respect to that. People are poring over this declaration to see what it says, what they've acknowledged, and the extent to which they have decided to cooperate with the United Nations. And at some point, nations -- this nation, other nations -- will be able to make a judgment as to whether or not they believe Iraq is being cooperative with the United Nations.

Minister: Thank you very much.

Do you want to take any more questions?

Rumsfeld: No, I'm fine.

Minister: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.