Thursday, December 12, 2002
(Interview on NBC "Today" with Dana Lewis)
Matt Lauer: First, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The secretary is on a multi-nation tour, where he's been meeting with U.S. troops who would be used in a possible war against Iraq. This morning he sat down with NBC's Dana Lewis in the Gulf country of Qatar, where he discussed the link between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Dana, good morning to you.
Lewis: Good morning, Matt. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, at the end of a four-day, four-nation tour; as you say, I had the chance to sit down with him this morning, and he had this warning for any nation, including Iraq, that might threaten the United States with biological or chemical weapons.
Rumsfeld: Let there be no doubt that I and the president and others have let it be known, publicly and privately, to the Saddam Hussein regime that anyone who is involved in using weapons of mass destruction will wish they hadn't.
Lewis: And reports now suggest the U.S. has information Iraq may have supplied extremists connected to al Qaeda with chemical weapons.
Rumsfeld: I think what I can say publicly is that, as has been said by the Central Intelligence Agency and the president, there are al Qaeda connected to Iraq who have used that country, just as there are al Qaeda in Iran and Pakistan and the United States and other countries. And we also know that the al Qaeda and other terrorist networks have actively sought to gain access to chemical and biological and radiation weapons.
Lewis: No decision yet on war, says the Defense secretary. But the buildup of forces continues in the Gulf. In Qatar, a major war exercise to test Central Command's new mobile headquarters manned by a thousand troops normally stationed in Florida, today in one of 33 air-conditioned hangars to meet the Defense secretary and General Tommy Franks.
Washington says more and more Arab nations welcoming an American military presence.
Rumsfeld: We have been going out to countries believing that the credible use of force or the potential use of force would be a way to encourage the Iraqi regime to behave and to cooperate with the inspectors. We have gone out to countries across the globe and asked for their support in the event that it becomes necessary to have a coalition of countries disarm Iraq. And the response has been excellent. The numbers of countries coming in and offering assistance is very encouraging.
Lewis: Exercise Internal Look is expected to last another four or five days. The 1,000 soldiers involved in this exercise are then expected to go home in time for Christmas, but the mobile headquarters will remain behind in Qatar in case of war.
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