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02 May 2003

Transcript: Rumsfeld in London, Says Iraq Still a "Dangerous" Place

(May 2 with UK Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon at Heathrow Airport)
(2370)


Major military combat activity in Iraq is over, but that does not mean
the war is over, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters
during a press availability with British Defense Minister Geoffrey
Hoon at Heathrow Airport outside London May 2.

"It would be a terrible mistake to think that Iraq is a fully secure,
fully pacified environment," Rumsfeld said. "It is not. It is
dangerous.... And it's not finished."

Rumsfeld also said it is still not known exactly how many U.S.
military forces would remain in Iraq, because the numbers "depend on
so many variables that have yet to be determined," including "how many
other countries will be coming in to participate."

"What we do know," he said, "is that we'll have as many forces in the
country as is necessary to see that it is a sufficiently secure and
permissive environment so that the humanitarian and reconstruction
work can go forward, and so that the Iraqi people can fashion some
sort of an interim governmental authority and then, ultimately, a
final authority."

Hoon replied to a question about the so far unsuccessful search for
chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, which was a major
justification for coalition military operations against the regime of
Saddam Hussein.

"We've always made clear that the effort to locate and precisely
identify weapons of mass destruction would take some time," he said.
"We were well aware in the course of the U.N. inspections of the
determined efforts by the regime to dismantle a weapon, to scatter
them around Iraq, to hide them. And obviously, it will take time, not
least now that we have the cooperation of certain individuals involved
in those programs, that we can anticipate that success. But it's an
effort that is continuing as we speak."

Following is a transcript from the Defense Department Web site:

(begin transcript)

United States Department of Defense 

News Transcript 



PRESENTER: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD H. RUMSFELD 

Friday, May 2, 2003 - 9:03 a.m. EDT 



Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Media Availability with British Secretary of
State for Defense

(Joint media availability with Geoffrey Hoon, secretary of state for
defence, United Kingdom.)



Hoon: I apologize for keeping you waiting.

We had extremely good discussions earlier, with the prime minister,
and again today covering, obviously, the situation in Iraq,
particularly the need for reconstruction and rebuilding there and the
close cooperation that exists between our armed forces. We've also
touched upon Afghanistan and the need for a continuing effort there,
as well as, obviously, the wider political situation in the region.
Obviously, Donald has recently returned; I was there the week before.

Rumsfeld: I have nothing to add, except that -- to say that two days
ago I had the privilege of visiting the U.K. forces that are in the
Basra area and had a chance to thank them personally for the superb
job they've done in helping to liberate the Iraqi people.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us the role now that you expect Paul
Bremer to fill in the reconstruction program for Iraq? And does this
reflect some unhappiness on the part of the administration with
General Garner's efforts?

Rumsfeld: There are two things I'd say. One is, there is not only no
unhappiness with respect to General Jay Garner, there is a great deal
of pleasure in the fact that this man has undertaken and performed
superbly for our country and for the coalition.

And with respect to Mr. Bremer, there have been no announcements made
by the White House on that subject, to my knowledge.

Q: Do you -- (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: I could, but I won't.

Hoon: John?

Q: Mr. Secretary, given the intimacy of your own involvement in the
planning of this war, what role did you have in the decision to
protect the Oil Ministry but not the hospitals and not the national
museum of Baghdad? And could I also ask you, given that the --

Rumsfeld: Let's do them one at a time.

Q: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: With respect to the question, the question assumes that such
a decision was made. And I think that premise is very likely
inaccurate.

The reality is that the commanders on the ground -- in this case, the
land component commander -- has the responsibility for making those
kinds of judgments. The air component commanders took great care to
protect important sites, including museums and various other areas,
hospitals, and innocent civilians. And I suspect there has never been
a more precise campaign than the one that was just executed in Iraq.

The people on the ground have the responsibility for making judgments
about force protection. Their first responsibility is to win in the
conflict. And they went about their business, in my view, in an
excellent manner.

Q: But Mr. Secretary, it really does seem curious, then, that the oil
ministry was so successfully protected and the hospitals so
unsuccessfully.

But the main -- other question I wanted to ask you was about the
president's declaration that combat is over. Given that, would it not
be now the right time to go for some semblance of legality and involve
the United Nations in the very necessary nation-building that now has
to take place?

Rumsfeld: Your questions have about eight or 10 opinions wrapped in
them, I notice. The president did not say what you said he said. The
president said that we have moved from a period of major military
conflict to a period of stabilization. It is never this way or that
way completely. There will continue to be pockets of resistance, there
will continue to be people killed, as there have been killed and
wounded in recent days, unfortunately. The activities of the coalition
forces, despite your question, were, in fact, legal. And your
contention that it requires something else to have some semblance of
legality is incorrect. The coalition forces have been in contact
through the foreign ministries with the United Nations and the
secretary-general. And I suspect that there will be, over the coming
period, intensive discussions as to what role the United Nations may
or may not wish to play. Personally, I'm hopeful that they do play a
role.

Hoon: Can I just answer that, John? What we're doing in Iraq is
entirely lawful. It's covered by The Hague and Geneva Conventions, and
it's perfectly proper and perfectly lawful.

Charlie?

Q: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Minister, Charlie Aldinger with Reuters. Saddam
is gone, the war has gone on for eight weeks now. You've found no
chemical or biological weapons. You both said that this could be a
long task to do so. Having said that, is it essential that you find
such weapons and prove that he, in fact, had them when the war
started, as you charged?

Hoon: Well, we've always made clear that the effort to locate and
precisely identify weapons of mass destruction would take some time.
We were well aware in the course of the U.N. inspections of the
determined efforts by the regime to dismantle a weapon, to scatter
them around Iraq, to hide them. And obviously, it will take time, not
least now that we have the cooperation of certain individuals involved
in those programs, that we can anticipate that success. But it's an
effort that is continuing as we speak.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is it essential that you find such weapons and prove
that he had them, as you charge, when the war started?

Rumsfeld: I think the minister responded correctly.

Q: Mr. Secretary, and Prime Minister, may I ask a general question of
what's next now --

Rumsfeld: Why don't we do them to one or the other, rather than
multiple questions to each? And then we can adjourn and let everyone
go back.

Hoon: Richard?

Q: Can I ask both Defense secretaries about a stabilization --

Rumsfeld: Both, you said?

Q: Both.

Rumsfeld: Why don't we try one or the other and do one question, and
then we can let a few other people answer questions.

Q: (Inaudible.) -- about a stabilization force in Iraq and how many
forces, U.S. and/or British, will be in Iraq and for how long?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I can respond for the United States portion. We don't
know. Indeed, it's not knowable. What we do know is we'll have as many
forces in the country as is necessary to see that it is a sufficiently
secure and permissive environment so that the humanitarian and
reconstruction work can go forward, and so that the Iraqi people can
fashion some sort of an interim governmental authority and then,
ultimately, a final authority.

The numbers that it will require would depend on so many variables
that have yet to be determined. In terms of the number of U.S. forces,
that one other variable is how many other countries will be coming in
to participate. And certainly we hope that it's a very broad
coalition. There were some 65 nations involved in the Operation Iraqi
Freedom. Minister Hoon had a meeting this week where -- I don't know,
how many came?

Hoon: Sixteen.

Rumsfeld: Sixteen countries came and discussed what role they might
play. Other meetings of that type are going to be held. And, of
course, the larger number of countries that participate, the fewer
number of forces from the United States will be necessary.

Q: Mr. Minister, what are your thoughts on the fate of Saddam Hussein?

Hoon: We are continuing to look for all of those who were engaged in
what we judged to be criminal activities on behalf of the regime.
Determined efforts are being made right across Iraq to bring them to
account, and those efforts will go on until we locate each and every
one of them.

Q Do you believe Saddam Hussein is alive?

Hoon: I do not know. But certainly we will continue our investigations
to either prove that he is dead or that he can be brought to account.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, if --

Rumsfeld: I'll tell you what I'm going to do, folks. I'll take one
more question, and then I'm going to pack up this group and head back
to the United States after being gone for a week.

Q: (Off mike.) --

Rumsfeld: -- after being gone for a week. Wait a minute. Wait a
minute. Let me get two more questions. You, and the lady in front of
you.

Q: If, as you have declared, the war-fighting is over in Iraq --

Rumsfeld: Major military combat activity is over.

Q: However you want to phrase it.

Rumsfeld: Well, that's how we did phrase it. And that's how the
president phrased it, also.

Q: Absolutely. How do you move on from here? Is there anywhere else
that is next on your list in the international war against terrorism?
I'm thinking perhaps Syria or other places?

Rumsfeld: You say "however you want to phrase it." I think it's
important how it is phrased. And the reason I say that is because it
would be a terrible mistake to think that Iraq is a fully secure,
fully pacified environment. It is not. It is dangerous. There are
people who are rolling hand grenades into compounds. There are people
that are shooting people. And it's not finished. So we ought not to
leave the world with the impression that it is.

With respect to your other question, the global war on terrorism is a
serious battle that the free people of the world have to face. And
there is no question but that there are terrorist networks. And I must
say that I feel that the -- I've forgotten how many countries it is
now that are participating in the global war on terrorism, but the
sharing of intelligence and the pressure that has been put on
terrorism networks has been increasingly successful. That does not
mean there won't be additional terrorist attacks. I'm afraid that the
reality is there could very well be. But the number of terrorist -- al
Qaeda terrorist planners, for example, that have been scooped up in
recent months is growing, and it's making it more difficult -- they're
having more difficulty raising money. They're having more difficulty
moving between countries. They're having more difficulty attracting
and retaining terrorists. So I think that the task for free people is
to keep working the problem, and that clearly is what's in front of
us.

Thank you very much.

Q Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Last question.

Q: I wanted to ask a general question also to you and both the prime
minister. Now that --

Rumsfeld: I'll let you (have it?).

Q: I wanted to get a sense of what is next. What do you see ahead now,
both in Iraq and Afghanistan? A general just setting the stage for the
what's next.

Hoon: Well, we have to continue our efforts to rebuild both countries.
They both have to be restored as cooperative members of the
international community. The effort has to be continued in
Afghanistan, where it's more advanced. But obviously, we are
optimistic, as well, with our efforts, speaking on behalf of the
United Kingdom, in the south of Iraq; that we can see a way forward.
We've got a significant presence on the ground, British troops working
closely with local members of each of the communities that we are
responsible for. We have joint meetings between the military and local
leaders. They are saying what kind of changes, what kind of
improvements in their physical infrastructure they want to see. We're
engaged in delivering that. There's great progress there, and from
what I saw when I was in Umm Qasr and Basra, we are right to be
optimistic about the way forward.

Q: Mr. Secretary, also --

Rumsfeld: (Wait, wait?). We had two final questions. We really do have
to --

Hoon: Thank you all very much, indeed.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Hoon: Thank  you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)