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Secretary Cohen's Q and A Session after Joint Press Conf. with Gen. Tantawi

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
April 19, 1998

Q: (Inaudible question on Iraq). Where do you go from here, what's the strategy from here, and did you talk about that with President Mubarak?

A: We did raise the issue of compliance on the part of Saddam Hussein and he agreed it has to be a full compliance. Until that happens, there can be no relief on the sanctions. We'll have to wait and see exactly where Saddam goes from here – whether he'll be persuaded to comply – by furnishing the kind of documentation, evidence, talked about in the past, proving that he has in fact destroyed the stocks that he had declared were in Iraq's possession. And until that happens, of course, no relief on the sanctions. Beyond that, we'll have to determine in consultations with some of our allies what action if any should be taken. But I think the focus should be on keeping the sanctions in place.

Q: Does Egypt agree that Iraq is a threat to its neighbors?

A: I think that Egypt has always believed that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to the region and that's one reason they have been very helpful as far as our policies are concerned. They will continue to support the containment of both Iraq and Iran.

Q: There seems to be [a] little bit of a stalemate here in the sense that Iraq claimed that they have complied and the U.N. says they're not in compliance. What is the strategy at this point to compel Iraqi compliance?

A: Well, we have to have, obviously, support within the United Nations. I assume that the U.N. is serious about its resolutions. I assume that the U.N. will listen to its own inspectors and place the appropriate validity upon their reports. It's one thing that the Iraqis have in the past persistently and consistently lied about their possession of weapons of mass destruction. The UNSCOM inspectors have yet to be persuaded that any credible evidence has been presented to them that would satisfy them that the Iraqi Government has done what it claims it has done, mainly to have destroyed the chemical and biological and nuclear materials. So until that takes place, my assumption is, my belief is that the U.S. will continue to insist that the sanctions remain in place if their resolutions are to have credibility.

Q: Just very briefly since I asked General Tantawi, did you assure President Mubarak that the United States was not playing favorites or using a dual standard in the peace process?

A: I assured President Mubarak that President Clinton is eager to energize the Middle East Peace Process and that's the reason his envoy is coming to the region next week. And President Mubarak agreed that that needed to be done and, hopefully, it will prove productive.

Thank you.