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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Availability En Route to Okinawa

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 16, 2003
Rumsfeld:  We had a chance to visit last night, I met with (inaudible) I guess.  The meetings in Japan went well in my view.  I was please with them and had a very good discussion with the foreign minister and with the minister of state (inaudible) on a lot of important issues in a very important relationship.


            And I guess I’ll just take your questions,  if you have a few.


            Q:  Do you know any details about the helicopter crashes in Iraq and what you think that means?


            Rumsfeld:  The folks on the ground there have been sending out early reports and they are sketchy and we’ll know more in a day or two very likely or we may never know, it’s awfully hard to know precisely what they’re plan is.


            Q:  The announcement by the council about the change and they’ve set some milestones.  Does that mean the United States might pull troops out a little earlier or this has nothing to do with the US?


            Rumsfeld:  This has nothing to do with US troops and coalition troops in Iraq it has to do with discussions Ambassador Bremer had with the governing council over the proceeding several weeks and then his discussions back in Washington about his discussions with the governing council.  And the timetable, or the way ahead that the governing council has been describing relates to the governance aspects of the country and not to the security aspects and that’s on a separate track.


            Q:  Quoting a DoD memo which says that they are detailing contacts between al-Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein?


            Rumsfeld:  Haven’t seen the article.


            Q: Can you comment on your view of Iraq Saddam contacts with al-Qaeda?


            Rumsfeld:  Nothing to add.  My understanding from Larry (Larry Di Rita, acting assistant Secretary of Defense for public affairs) is that the article is just the article that it may have a reference – be a reference to some testimony that DoD representatives had before Congressional Committees many, many weeks and months ago.  And that some questions were asked and they require that their responses be submitted for the record and that those responses may have just gone in recently but there is nothing new there.


            Q:  Secretary on the council, while you say there’s no direct link?


            Rumsfeld:  I haven’t seen the article so I shouldn’t say there’s nothing new.  I don’t know of anything.


            Q:  Why do you think there’s no direct link between what the council said, that’s governance as opposed to how long the military might stay if the move toward turning over power to Iraq more quickly might that create more stability in Iraq and perhaps allow a faster US troop pullout?


            Rumsfeld:  There are several things need to go forward together one is the role of the Iraqis and their own governance, the role of the Iraqis in their own security and the development of the central services.  And that we need to make progress in all three and that (inaudible) saying there’s not change there.


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  I don’t have a particular message no I’m in a listening mode and a looking mode.  I’ve wanted to have a chance to look at the (information) and get (briefed) by the military people on the island, and develop a first-hand opinion about what’s taking place there and how we’re arranged.   And needless to say if you’re here you’ll see the governor and (inaudible).


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  June pull out of what?


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  No, no there’s no announcements on that, there’s no changes on the security situation, we’re on the same path we were on last week, last month nothing.


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  We’ve said everything we can say about that and what we do is we are on a path of developing, working to train and equip and organize and deploy Iraqi security forces at a good clip.  We’re working to bring in additional coalition forces, we’re making plans for the rotation of our forces out and new US coalition forces in and the announcements with respect to Iraqi governance don’t have a relationship with that.


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  Raised questions about the (inaudible).


            Q:  On Jim’s question about Okinawa what is that you want to hear?  Why do you want to have a first hand look to assess what in terms of the arrangements here?  What are you looking for?


            Rumsfeld:  Oh, I just need to see the bases, I need to see the circumstance, I need to talk to the people who are there and I also need to listen to the governor of Okinawa and the people there about their situation.


            Q:  General Abizaid (inaudible) to Iraqi governance?


            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  From where?  Why do you say apparently?


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  No, I don’t I’ve seen nothing like that.


            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  You don’t believe what you read in the newspaper.  {Laughter}.


            That was off the record.




            Q:  (Inaudible) in Qatar and some people have been terribly (inaudible) commands back to Qatar.


            Rumsfeld:  (Inaudible)?


            Q:  The headquarters.


            Rumsfeld:  But the implication of it is that the CENTCOM headquarters is moving there, that’s not correct.  I would know that.  Look to me (inaudible) is funny word.  I’d have to see (inaudible).


            He’s going to continue to be both places and also in Baghdad.


            Q:  (Inaudible)?




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