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Secretary Cohen's Remarks at the Presidential Palace, Abu Dhabi

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
March 15, 1999

Subject: Secretary Cohen's Remarks at the Presidential Palace, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Secretary Cohen: Well, we just concluded a very good meeting with His Highness (Sheik Zayid, President of UAE) on a number issues including Iran and Iraq. I pointed out that press report that the United States is trying to organize or orchestrate a breakup of Iraq is completely false. There have been a number of stories and rumors that have circulated locally, that that is the objective and goal of the United States. There is no basis to that. In fact, we have said, time and time again, that Iraq's integrity must be maintained, and our goal is to one day help bring about a change in regime, so that the people of Iraq can, in fact, join the international community as a full fledged member.

So we did discuss Iraq; we discussed the threat that Iran poses in terms of its foreign policy support for acts of terrorism and the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. In that connection, we talked about the United States cooperating with the UAE to have a shared early warning system so that we can share information about ballistic missile testing that takes place in the region. We also offered to set up a secure line of communications between my office, myself and Sheik Mohammed and other officials, if necessary.

So these were the items we discussed and it was an opportunity for me to really sit and listen to a very wise man who is a philosopher as well as a great leader of UAE, and I always look forward to coming and sharing a few moments with him.

Q: Did you discuss the controversy between Iran and the UAE over the islands at the mouth of the Gulf?

A: Not specifically. I know that His Highness has been in the lead in calling attention to the GCC states about these naval exercises, and it's consistent with his own belief that Iran must be closely watched in terms of their activities and that there should not be any sort of fig leaf excuses or justifications to hide any secret objective; and, so, he has called attention to it to make sure it is not something other than what it purports to be, and he has been successful in having the GCC issue a statement to the Iranian government.

So that was implicit in our conversation about Iran that on the one hand, there are some changes taking place within Iranian society, but as far as the foreign policies of Iran, they have not changed. It is our hope, certainly, that there can be changes in the future, but we intend to remain very vigilant, and that is consistent with Sheik Zayid own perception of Iran.

Q: Did he raise any concerns about the air strikes in Iraq?

A: No, we discussed Saddam Hussein in terms of his own actions as such, and the need to see a new leadership in Iraq so that the suffering of the Iraq people can be alleviated. I did point out the existence of the UN report that disclosed that there are some 275 million dollars in medicines that are in warehouses right now, and not being distributed by Saddam Hussein, and that he is seeking to exploit the shortage of medicine, to try to stir up propaganda that the shortages are being caused by the West, when, in fact, they're sitting in his own warehouses going undistributed by his direction. And so we discussed that at some length.

Q: Did you discuss the sale of fighter jets and missiles to the UAE?

A: We did not discuss that specifically, but I have carried on conversations with Sheik Mohammed in the past and also during this visit.

Q: Have problems been ironed out on that? I know there were some problems...

A: I think we're moving ahead with the proposal; we hope to make continued progress on it.

Q: The shared early warning proposal-how would that work? Would you be stationing anything here to monitor missile tests in Iran?

A: We would do this with all of the gulf states, to have a direct link between what our sensors are able to pick up and then communicate that to the gulf states to keep them apprised of ballistic missile testing taking place in the region. I think that's a welcome development. To the extent that it occurs, we think it's beneficial to all of the states, and we're hopeful that each state will see it as being in its interest to have that information.

Q: Thank you.