SLUG: 2-285855 Rumsfeld / Terror (L-O)
TITLE= RUMSFELD / TERROR (L ONLY)
BYLINE= ALEX BELIDA
INTRO: The Pentagon is playing down suggestions that the U-S war on terrorism may soon be expanded, following President Bush's State of the Union condemnation of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil." But V-O-A Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida reports the three countries have clearly been put on notice.
TEXT: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States will be watching closely to see what Iran, Iraq and North Korea do following the President's warning.
Mr. Rumsfeld says it should be clear to the three countries that Mr. Bush considers them a threat because of their involvement in terrorism.
I think if I were in Iran or North Korea or Iraq and I heard the President of the United States say what he said last night about weapons of mass destruction and about terrorism and about terrorist networks and about nations that harbor terrorists, I don't think there'd be a lot of ambiguity as to the view he [Bush] holds of those problems and their behavior. Now, what will they do about that is something we'll find out.
Mr. Rumsfeld did however appear to indicate particular concern about Iranian activity in western Afghanistan, where reports say Iran may be arming and training factions opposed to the new interim government.
Mr. Rumsfeld declines direct comment on such reports. But he says Iran has a demonstrated interest in western Afghanistan and he suggests Iran's activities are not helpful.
We do not believe that it is helpful to have countries -- neighboring countries or other countries -- supplying individual elements of Afghan forces in that country. The chairman of the interim government has announced and the acting defense minister has announced that they would like to see a national government begin to be formed. And those things that contribute to a centrifugal effect as opposed to greater coherence and cohesion are notably unhelpful. And there is every reason to believe that Iran fits in the latter category not the former.
But does that mean Iran is a likely next target in the war against terrorism?
Mr. Rumsfeld will not say. (Signed)
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