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Photograph Opportunity with Secretary Cohen and Minister Sergeyev, Feb. 12, 1998

Presenters: Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Russian Federation Minister of Defense Marshall Igor Sergeyev
February 12, 1998

MINISTER SERGEYEV: (Inaudible) of many questions for which of these (inaudible) to clarify our (inaudible) which were always important in our relations. The most acute problem facing the (inaudible) include relations with the United Nations and the Arab world but today they may (inaudible) as the development of US - Russia relations. Unfortunately, this crisis is a matter of vital concern for Russia and other countries of the East.

As the Defense Minister, I have closely followed your work and that which and I clearly, clearly measure the amount of (inaudible) and effort you included in your preparation against Iraq. I fully understand how complicated his (inaudible) You may have informed your leaders on the certain degree of readiness of the region and about expected results as well. As a minister (inaudible) put on the uniform when I was 17 I fully understand that for a military man its bad to (inaudible). But (inaudible) of the situation is concerned.

The question of possible conflicts or strikes against Iraq is to (inaudible) only naturally. We analyzed the situation closely and we have our opinions, which I am ready to share with you. Is America ready for all the possible consequences? The uncompromising and tough stance of the United States on the issue of Iraq helped to strengthen (inaudible) security of the world. The remarkable (inaudible) Abraham Lincoln. The man whose life is closely connected to the victories of liberty, freedom and so on. And we remember his words that (inaudible) his whole country but his victories are shortly lived. I would like to relate to you our deep concerns over the possible (inaudible) Russian - US relations in the military field especially if military action takes place. We have a lot of problems to discuss. As you know, there are problems in the fear of nuclear security.

First of all, we (inaudible) different attitudes towards this (inaudible). Now that we (inaudible) have come to the ratification of START II Treaty, these problems connected with START I prevent unification. I'd like to thank you for the letter we received from the State Secretary of the US (inaudible) with your help, our experts are now analyzing the ideas of the letter. And as I promised, your doubts concerning the (inaudible) of the treaty (inaudible). I would like to discuss with you and Mister Secretary the (inaudible) of the joint (inaudible). Now I think all conditions have been created for open consultations, which are a matter of great concern to Russia. Especially the question in which we placed a lot of efforts, the settlement before the (inaudible). I hope our first meeting will help to enhance or to develop the bilateral relations we both wish and we hope the East will (inaudible). You're (inaudible), I'd like to ask if you are informed about the address of our president to the US president made in Rome on February 9th. If not, we would relay the main text of this address.

SECRETARY COHEN: I'd like to respond (inaudible) the press is still here.

First of all, let me agree with you that you are precisely right, that this is not a problem of Iraq against the United States. It's a problem of Iraq against the Untied Nations.

Let me also agree with you that one should always make haste slowly. And that is precisely what President Clinton has done for the past several months. In the face of Saddam Hussein's tactics of delay and deception and trickery, President Clinton has exercised great caution and care and not making haste quickly, but rather proceeding cautiously and with great prudence.

And you properly raised the question of what are the possible consequences of acting militarily. And that's an appropriate question to ask. It is equally appropriate to ask the question what if we fail to act and allow Saddam Hussein to continue to flaunt the UN resolutions and continue to play hide and seek with inspectors, to continue to frustrate their efforts to determine the volume and amounts of chemical weapons he has in his stocks and his capacity to deliver them.

It's not a question of the United States being uncompromising, but rather every country that I have traveled to in recent days, even here in Russia, in Germany, wherever I've traveled, every country has said precisely the same thing. That the UN inspectors, UNSCOM must be allowed back into the country to conduct their affairs without restriction and without condition. And that Saddam Hussein must fully comply with the UN resolutions. Otherwise, the UN resolutions really are words, but not calling for deeds.

And you reminded me of how important this day is by citing it as being Lincoln's birthday. Yesterday was my son's birthday, so I am well aware of the correspondence of Lincoln's birthday to that of my oldest son. But more importantly, you indicated that Lincoln said that victory is short-lived. Let me say with respect to Abraham Lincoln what he achieved through his efforts as president with a victory that has been long-living and continues to live today in the United States of America.

Let me also say for the benefit of all who are here this afternoon that we regard this relationship as being of critical importance to our two countries. Russia is a great power and the United States is a great power and it's in our mutual interests that we're able to sit down at a table like this, to communicate with each other face to face, to voice our respective opinions, to examine our analyses and rationale and options. This is in the best tradition of the United States and Russia cooperating in a partnership.