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Rumsfeld Answers Questions in Qatar

Aired December 11, 2002 - 14:47   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, I am told just moments ago, we were able to get some comments from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Qatar. Let's listen in.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Before we get into the other questions. It is a matter between many governments as to how various types of technologies are handled, and there are international understandings, international agreements. And those matters are handled by the Department of State.

Now, the next question.

QUESTION: This question is -- you said recently the Iraqi regime...

RUMSFELD: Wait a second. I missed the first part. You said I said something recently?

QUESTION: You said, yes, sir.

RUMSFELD: Are you sure...


QUESTION: You said some agencies reported...

RUMSFELD: OK. Just make sure you have an accurate quote.

QUESTION: I don't know if you deny it. You said that Iraq regime will disappear very soon.

RUMSFELD: I did not say that.

QUESTION: OK. Other question. The U.S. is determined on waging war against Iraq regardless of the outcome of U.N. weapon inspectors reports.

RUMSFELD: Who said that? I certainly didn't say that.

QUESTION: This is just I want to complete the question.

RUMSFELD: This is your statement.

QUESTION: If you please, I can complete the...


QUESTION: We can see that as the U.S. continues mobilizing and massing troops in the region. Don't you think that you are ignoring U.N. efforts and resolutions?

RUMSFELD: That's quite a question. I supposed the short answer is no. How could you even ask that question when it was the Iraqi regime that ignored 16 resolutions of the United Nations over a period of many, many years.

Second, how could you even ask that question, given the fact that it was the United States that went to the United Nations and received a unanimous vote in the Security Council? Not one vote opposing it.

So a question that is premised that the United States is ignoring the United Nations is obviously misplaced.

QUESTION: One last question please. What are the details of your new bilateral agreement with the Qatari side today? Can you tell us some of the details about it?

RUMSFELD: I think I answered that for the previous questioner.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): (OFF-MIKE) between the visit of His Excellency, the secretary of state for defense to Doha with the forthcoming summit of the gulf leaders. That's the first question.

The second question is, do you think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will soon be chairing the chairmanship of the GCC (ph)? The summit meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I will speak in English. As a normal visit between a friend, and it is just to continue the dialogue between the two countries.

Second things, the initiatives, I think now the United Nations said its word in this, and there is a Security Council resolution about Iraq, and we all wait to see the outcome and to try to solve this peacefully, through the United Nations, and that's the policy of Qatar.

And mediation, I think the time is not for mediation now, the time is to try to let both United Nations and Iraq work in the resolution, which has been done by the Security Council.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Two questions. First of all, how do you justify the United States getting the copy of Iraq's declaration before the rest of the permanent members of the Security Council?

And the second part of the question is, how do you view Iraq's cooperation so far with the work of the inspectors? And is this enough to defuse the crisis? RUMSFELD: Well, let me say this about that. My understanding is that the United Nations made a decision that they needed to reproduce the declaration and they asked the United States to reproduce it. The United States did that, and then all of the five P-5 countries received the document at the same time, is my understanding. So I don't think I have to justify a decision by the United Nations, because it was a decision by the United Nations as to how they wanted to have the documents reproduced. I believe I'm correct on that.

These are matters that are not in the Department of Defense of the United States, they're matters that are handled by the United Nations.

The second question is, how do we view the cooperation by Iraq thus far? The resolution, the unanimous resolution of the United Nations stated that Iraq was in material breach of the United Nations resolutions. It then stated a series of additional things that Iraq ought to do and ought not to do.

One of the things that they asked Iraq to do was to supply this declaration, which was to have been full and complete. It is, I think, 20,000 pages long. People are just beginning to read it and to study it and to analyze it. And we won't know the extent to which Iraq has or has not complied with the unanimous U.N. resolution until all the various countries take the time and have the patience to read it and consider it and analyze it. The only other indication -- there are two other indications of cooperation or the lack thereof. One is that inspectors have been allowed into Iraq, as the United Nations requested. A second is that the resolution suggests that it's not appropriate for Iraq to interfere with inspectors or to interfere with member states. And Iraq has continued to fire on coalition aircraft that are conducting Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the foreign minister. It's been rumored lately that Qatar has opened the door for members of the Iraqi opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This is entirely untrue. There is no basis for such rumors. There is no contact whatsoever between the state of Qatar and the Iraqi opposition. We are a small country here, we have no wish of interfering, and our declared policy is on the basis of non-interference in the internal affairs of other country. If there is going to be any such contacts, they will be declared like any else we do and will be made known in the public domain. And we know the source of such rumors and where they come from. There's no such a thing, absolutely.

QUESTION: Second question, to defense minister. How do you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against Iraq?

RUMSFELD: I'm sorry, I didn't follow it. How do I what?

QUESTION: How do you elaborate the importance (UNINTELLIGIBLE) elaborate?

RUMSFELD: How do I elaborate?

QUESTION: Yes. The importance of this agreement for the American military campaign against Iraq?

RUMSFELD: The agreement that we have signed today is not connected to Iraq, it is an agreement that has been under discussion for many, many weeks and months. It is simply the latest element in a defense cooperation between our two countries, and it is a good one and one that we're very pleased with. But I think it would be mistake to connect it to Iraq.

One thing I should say about the Iraq situation, the inspectors have not been in there for years. The reason they're in there now is because of the unanimous resolution of the United Nations. Every single country voted in favor of resolving that Iraq should permit inspectors back in that country. It was that impetus that has improved the situation and led to the possibility at least that we will learn more about the capabilities in weapons of mass destruction of that country.

QUESTION: A question for Mr. Rumsfeld. The option of the nuclear option should President Saddam Hussein use weapons of mass destruction. How does this differ from what the former secretary of defense, now vice president, Dick Cheney, said about a dozen years ago, when he said all options were on the table? And why has this come out at this particular point in time?

RUMSFELD: Well, it's very interesting to me, when I get asked a question like that, it begins by saying, "It's been reported." And then the question is, "Well, why does it come out at this time?" To my knowledge, that subject's not been raised by people in the United States government. If you have information to the contrary, I'd be curious to hear it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) this morning's Washington Post, for example, sir.

RUMSFELD: But by whom? By some person, some anonymous person saying something? Some reporter asking another reporter what they think? Who in the United States government was quoted?

QUESTION: Escapes me at this moment, sir.


QUESTION: Well, does that policy differ from what Dick Cheney stated 12 years ago, when he said all options would be on the table?

RUMSFELD: You know, I would have to go back and read what Defense Minister Cheney said a decade ago, but the policy of the United States has been generally to not rule things out. Whatever that might mean in a given situation, I don't know. But to my knowledge the president of the United States, the vice president, the secretary of defense or the secretary of state, not one of us have commented on the subject you're raising.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) play an active role in any military operations if we came to the question of waging war against Iraq.


QUESTION: He has been told, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has been told by a member of the Iraqi opposition, actively engaged in helping Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, now you're probably the most proactive person within the administration who is calling for not only the disarmament of Iraq, but a change of regime there. How do you justify this change in your position between then and now?

RUMSFELD: And the question is to me, and it's to me because of my personal activities over the years, is that...

QUESTION: No, when you were a member of the administration during the '80s.

RUMSFELD: Right. OK. I'd be happy to respond to that. In the early 1980s, Iran and Iraq were in a war. President Reagan was president and I was a private citizen. Two hundred and forty-one Marines were killed in Beirut, Lebanon, in a terrorist attack. President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz asked me if I would take a leave of absence from my business and come in and assist them for a period of months with respect to the problems in the Middle East.

I met with Saddam Hussein during that period, and the purpose was to attempt to see if the Iraqi regime could be at all helpful in our efforts in the Middle East with respect to terrorism.

In fact, I had nothing to do with helping Saddam Hussein and his regime against Iran. We had, I think, one or two meetings. The United States then did provide intelligence information, as I understand it, but I was back in private business at the time, to that regime.

So that's the first part of the question. You say: How do you justify that? I justify it because 241 Marines were killed and the president of the United States asked me to do that, and I did it, and it was a perfectly responsible and appropriate thing for us to do.

Second, you say now the United States is active, or I am active against the Saddam Hussein regime, and how do I justify that.

First of all, I work for the president of the United States. I don't make these decisions, I serve the president. He has gone to the Congress of the United States, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of the president's position with respect to Iraq; namely, that they represent a danger to the region and a danger to the world because it has long been listed as a terrorist state and it has relationships with terrorist networks. Indeed, I don't even need to enumerate them.

The president then decided to go to the United Nations. And I keep hearing this about war with Iraq and all of this. But the fact is, the president has not made a decision with respect to that. People are poring over this declaration to see what it says, what they've acknowledged, and the extent to which they've decided to cooperate with the United Nations. And at some point nations -- this nation, other nations -- will be able to make a judgment as to whether or not they believe Iraq is being cooperative with the United Nations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Do you want to take anymore questions?

RUMSFELD: No, I'm fine.


PHILLIPS: Comments just moment -- moments ago, rather, out of Doha, Qatar, where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressing reporters there in Qatar, talking about a landmark agreement that he's made with that country, the U.S. now having access to a crucial base in the Persian Gulf. If, in the event a war with Iraq does occur, Qatar is now on board, officially, supporting and adding to the U.S. arsenal.


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