of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon MP:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I apologise for keeping you waiting.
We have 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 have 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.
Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld:
I have nothing to add, except to say that two days ago
I had the privilege of visiting the UK forces that are
in the Basra area and had a chance to thank them personally
for the superb job they have done in helping to liberate
the Iraqi people.
Mr Secretary, can you tell us the role now that you
expect Paul Bremer to fill in the reconstruction programme
for Iraq, and does this reflect some unhappiness on
the part of the administration with General Garner's
There are two things I would 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.
I could, but I won't.
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?
With respect to the question, the question assumes that
such a decision was made, and I think that 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.
It 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?
Your questions have about 8 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 stabilisation.
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. I am hopeful that
they do play a role.
Can I just add to that, Jon? What we are doing in Iraq
is entirely lawful, it is covered by The Hague and Geneva
Conventions and it is perfectly proper and perfectly
Mr Secretary, Mr Minister. Saddam has gone, the war
has gone on for 8 weeks now, you have found no chemical
or biological weapons. You both say 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?
We have 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 UN inspections of the determined efforts by the
regime to dismantle weapons, 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 programmes, that we can
anticipate that success, but it is an effort that is
continuing as we speak.
Mr Secretary, is it essential that you find such weapons
and prove that you had them, as you charged when the
I think the Minister responded correctly.
Can I ask about a stabilisation force in Iraq and how
many forces, US and/or British, will be in Iraq and
for how long?
I can respond for the United States' portion. We don't
know, indeed it is not knowable. What we do know is
we will 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
US forces, that one other variable is how many other
countries will be coming in to participate, and certainly
we hope that it is a very broad coalition. There were
some 65 nations involved in the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Minister Hoon had a meeting this week - how many came?
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.
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.
Do you believe Saddam Hussein is alive?
I do not know, but certainly we will continue our investigations
to either prove that he is dead or that he can be brought
If, as you have declared, the war fighting is over.
Major military combat activity is over.
However you want to phrase it.
Well that is how we did phrase it, that is how the President
phrased it also.
How do you move on from here? Is there anywhere else
that is next on your list in the international war against
terrorism, I am thinking perhaps Syria or other places?
You say however you want to phrase it, I think it is
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 is 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 I feel that the, I have 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 terrorist networks
has been increasingly successful. That does not mean
there won't be additional terrorist attacks, I am afraid
that the reality is there could very well be. But the
number of al Q'aida terrorist planners for example that
have been scooped up in recent months is growing and
it is making it more difficult, they are having more
difficulty raising money, they are having more difficulty
moving between countries, they are 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 is in front of us.
I wanted to ask a general question also to you and the
Minister, 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 what is next.
Well we have to continue our efforts to rebuild both
countries, they both have to be restored as co-operative
members of the international community. The effort has
to be continued in Afghanistan where it is 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 have 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, and we are
engaged in delivering that. There is 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.
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