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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
February 26, 1997 1:00 PM EDT
--This media activity occurs during a Full Honors Arrival Ceremony welcoming Second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to the Pentagon.

Secretary Cohen: It's an honor for me to welcome Prince Sultan to the Pentagon, a building that he has visited on many occasions.

I'm the twelfth Secretary of Defense that he has dealt with during his 35 years that he has served as Defense Minister as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been strong allies for a much longer period of time than that. Our countries have been good friends since President Roosevelt first met King Abdul Aziz on the U.S.S. Quincy back in 1945. Since then our countries have worked together for peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.

Prince Sultan and I today are going continue that work. We will discuss threats to stability from both Iran and Iraq, and we will explore ways that we can work more closely together in the face of those threats. And to improve communication during times of crisis, we will discuss the establishment of direct telephone link between our offices.

Six years ago this week, our forces defeated Iraqi aggression in the Gulf. At the invitation of Saudi Arabia and other nations, we continue to maintain strong forces in the region to protect our friends from aggression. The United States will keep military forces in the region as long as they are needed to defend our national interests and as long they are wanted by our host countries.

I look forward to working Prince Sultan as productively as my 11 predecessors have done. Thank you.

Prince Sultan [through interpreter]: My friends, Mr. Secretary, I extend my best wishes to the great nation of the United States of America and to the leadership of President Clinton. I have extended on behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd, his congratulations to the President for winning the trust of the American people by being re-elected, and I extended to him and to the Secretary our assurance that the relationship between our two countries is long and solid.

My friend, I am not a stranger to this building. I have been here a few times before. Every time I leave, I leave with more confidence and assurance of friendship between our two nations for one objective; which is stability and peace in our region and worldwide.

When justice was miscarried and aggression was taken, even though it was between an Arab country against an Arab country, the American people and the American leadership showed its caliber by standing with what was just and right against aggression only a few years ago. When we asked for assistance from our friends in the United States of America and from other allies and friends from the Arab and Muslim worlds, our intention was not to go to war. Our intention was to resist aggression, and to achieve justice that was violated by the Iraqi leadership.

We tried consistently, from August 1990 to February 1991, to avoid conflict and war and to get Saddam Hussein to retreat form Kuwait and withdraw and save blood. And superpowers and all countries -- allied countries both Arab and Muslims -- all failed to convince Saddam to preserve the blood of the Iraqi people and all the coalition partners. Events took place, as you all know, the way they did and we achieved the objective which was the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi aggression. Justice prevailed and aggression was defeated.

The United States and Saudi Arabia cooperation [between the] armed forces has always been for defensive purposes, not a coalition for aggression. We always cooperate to defend our rights and our countries. Thank you very much.

Q: Prince Sultan, might I ask, has Saudi Arabia yet determined responsibility for the Khobar Towers bombing including possible outside state-sponsored terrorism, and if not, are you making good progress?

A: We have not finished the investigation. We are not pointing fingers yet at anybody. Our cooperation with our friends is going in an excellent way, and as soon as all the investigation is complete we plan to reveal all the details.

Q: When do you expect that the investigation might end? Are you making good progress?

A: We are trying to make sure justice is seen to be done. Therefore, we don't want to rush the investigation unnecessarily, but there is progress, yes.

Q&A: (Both through interpreter) The question was "How does he find the new Secretary since you met him yesterday and today; and how does he view Saudi-American relations?" His Royal Highness says, "First, the confidence the President placed in the Secretary in itself is proof of his high caliber."

Q: Mr. Secretary? Thank you very much.

While you're here do plan to buy a hundred or more F-16s Your Highness; and the AMRAAM missile you would like for your Air Force? And Mr. Secretary, if he answers yes would you endorse such a request?

A: At the moment there is no request pending on this issue, and there is discussions between the Royal Saudi Air Force and manufacturers of a different weapons system. This is not new. They've been doing this for awhile and they probably will continue until they come to a final conclusion.

Q: Mr. Secretary I'd like to ask you about your reaction to the report that's just out regarding "Don't ask, Don't tell" as being a dismal failure. And a second part to that, more personal is, have you had any conversation with your brother recently, regarding what happened in Maine?

A: Well on the first question, I have not had a chance to fully review the report. My understanding is that there are fluctuations up and down during the course of any given year dealing with this policy. There has been some gyration on this, but it does not exceed roughly one percent of those who enlist, so it's a problem that we're looking at, but is not of such a gravity that it would warrant any change of policy from that perspective at this point. But we're always going to enforce the policy. If I find that the policy is being violated, that there is active pursuit in prosecution, then I will do whatever I can to see it's stopped.


On the second...

Q: But if the numbers are -- I'm sorry sir -- if the numbers are going up...

A: If they go up this time, they may down the next. I think we have to look in the long term to see whether or not.


Q: Does that not demonstrate a failure in the policy's intention?

A: I don't think you can call it a dismal failure, no.



On the second question, I think as you well know from the wire reports, my brother, last night, experienced a rather unusual event -- an intruder. My understanding is an intruder entered his home while armed with a knife and proceeded to attack him and he defended himself. Beyond that, I think you'll have to talk to the local police.

Q: How's your brother doing?

A: My brother's doing fine.

Q: Have you offered him any assistance?

A: It was a very long night last night, or I should say a short night.

Q: Thank you very much.

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