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Media Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld Enroute to Tunisia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 10, 2006

Media Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld Enroute to Tunisia

     SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Good morning.  We are off to Tunisia and then Algeria and then Morocco.  Morocco and Tunisia have been longstanding friends and constructive partners in these efforts against terrorism.  I think Morocco, our relationship dates back to something like 1787, the Treaty of Friendship.

     We're now I think in something like the 20th bilateral meetings with Tunisia.

     Algeria has of course been very active in a non-aligned group for many years and they've had a long battle with terrorism and has been a very good partner and friend in the war on terror.

     I've been to all these countries before over the years and I think I went to Morocco back in 1970 for the first time, and Algeria when I was Ambassador to NATO.  Tunisia back in the '90s.  In and out over the years as Middle East Envoy for President Reagan. 

     They are, each country has in its way been providing moderate leadership and been constructive in the problems of the world and the struggle against violent extremism. 

     One of the things in Tunisia that will be particularly interesting, if you've never seen it, is the US military cemetery in Carthage.  It is really an impressive place.  I just stumbled on it one day by accident with Joyce, and we must have spent three hours there.

     QUESTION:  Do you perceive building closer military relations with Tunisia as part of this partnership?

     SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Two of the countries, Algeria and Morocco, I think both are in the Active Endeavor Maritime Security exercise this summer, and all three are in the Mediterranean Dialogue with NATO.  We are continuing to participate with each one of these three countries in one way or another on a military to military relationship.  It's something that we value and want to strengthen.

     QUESTION:  Sir, how concerned are you about the possibility of al-Qaida putting down roots in this part of the world or other extremist groups?

     SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  There are certain places in the world that are attractive for terrorists and terrorist networks.  They tend not to be countries like these three.  They tend to be areas that have large ungoverned spaces and where the governments attitudinally are more tolerant towards extremism, and that would not be the case in any one of these three nations.

     QUESTION:  You said counterterrorism will be the top agenda item?

     SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, no, we've got a multi-faceted relationship with each of these countries, and it would certainly be part of the discussions.  We've worked with each of the countries in a variety of different things.

     VOICE:  We're getting the high sign from the crew.

     QUESTION:  Thank you, sir.