11 March 2002
Cheney, Blair Warn of Terrorist, Iraqi Desire for Weapons of Mass Destruction
(Discuss Israeli-Arab violence, Iraq, Afghanistan in London) (3340)
Vice President Dick Cheney said March 11 that the purpose of his visit
to 11 Middle Eastern countries is to discuss both the current actions
of the international anti-terror coalition and future threats from
weapons of mass destruction, including "the important choices that
await us in the days ahead."
In a press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in
London, Cheney said, "In these matters America is not announcing
decisions, I will be there to conduct frank discussions and to solicit
the views of important friends and allies."
He said concern over the possible use of weapons of mass destruction
"is very real" based on what the coalition has learned in Afghanistan,
namely that the al Qaeda terrorist network was "aggressively seeking
to acquire" nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons and would have
used them if they had them.
"We have to be concerned about the potential marriage, if you will,
between the terrorist organisation like al Qaeda and those who hold or
are proliferating knowledge about weapons of mass destruction," Cheney
said, adding that ways must be found "to make certain" that terrorists
never acquire that capability. He refused, however, to speculate about
a prospective military response.
Prime Minister Blair spoke pointedly about Iraq and the proliferation
"Let's be under no doubt whatever," Blair said, "Saddam Hussein has
acquired weapons of mass destruction over a long period of time. He is
the only leader in the world that has actually used chemical weapons
against his own people. He is in breach of at least 9 UN Security
Council Resolutions about weapons of mass destruction."
And while he said "no decisions have been taken on how we deal with
this threat," Blair said the threat from Saddam Hussein and the
weapons of mass destruction he has acquired "is not in doubt at all."
The two also discussed the situation in the Middle East, Blair said.
He welcomed the vice president's trip and said Britain would do
everything it could "to restart a proper process that can lead to
lasting peace in that region."
The press conference took place exactly six months after the September
11 terrorist attacks in the United States. On behalf of President Bush
and the American people, Vice President Cheney thanked the prime
minister for his "clarity and conviction in this time of testing." He
also noted the "significant contribution" made by British troops to
coalition forces operating in Afghanistan, and the assistance provided
by the United Kingdom in freezing assets used to finance terrorism.
Following is a transcript of the press conference, from the Web site
of the United Kingdom government's 10 Downing Street
PRESS CONFERENCE -- BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR AND U.S. VICE
PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY, LONDON, 11 MARCH 2002
PRIME MINISTER: I am very pleased indeed to welcome Vice President
Cheney to London this morning, his first overseas trip as Vice
President, and today is a significant day.
It is six months to the day since the worst terrorist outrage in
history and it is as well that we just recognise what has been
achieved since that day. Inside Afghanistan the Taliban have gone, the
al Qu'eda terrorist network is being dismantled.
Thanks to the International Security Assistance Force something
approaching normality is starting to return to Afghanistan, although
there is still a very great deal more to do, and as you know we are
talking to coalition partners about who then takes on the role of
ISAF, though the UK will remain committed to the Security Force for
And the international community has also mobilised a massive
reconstruction effort to help build a better future for Afghanistan.
We are not going to turn our backs on Afghanistan, we will not let it
become a failed state again.
It is also worth remembering too that in the aftermath of 11 September
there were real concerns for the state of the world economy, the
effect on economic confidence was immediate and dramatic and that too
has been significantly restored as a result of the decisive action
that was taken.
In the discussions with Vice President Cheney we obviously discussed
Afghanistan, we looked too at the situation in the Middle East which
of course remains a cause of enormous concern and I welcome the
important visits that he will be making in the coming days to the
region and I wish him well on that. It is in our view essential that
we do everything that we possibly can to restart a proper process that
can lead to lasting peace in that region.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, I know has spoken to Colin Powell,
to Shimon Peres and Javier Solana and other key figures over the
weekend and the European Union Foreign Ministers are going to discuss
the situation in Brussels.
I welcome very much the President's decision to send his Special
Envoy, Anthony Zinni, back to the region and we will of course give
him every assistance that we can.
In addition of course we took stock of the situation in the wider
campaign against terrorism.
I would like once again to pay tribute to the leadership that
President Bush has given to this campaign right from the outset.
The coalition that we have assembled has acted in a calm and a
measured way and this will continue.
We have also said, again right from the outset, that the threat of
weapons of mass destruction will have to be addressed. In the House of
Commons statement I made just a few days after 11 September I said
that these issues had to be addressed because of course al Qu'eda
would use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of mass
destruction if they could, and I also said that there were some groups
and some states who trade the technology and capability for such
I said at that time that it was right that this trade was disposed,
disrupted and stamped out and that remains our position.
No decisions of course have been taken yet on how we proceed, but this
is a time when we discuss how important it is that the issue of
weapons of mass destruction is properly dealt with.
I look forward of course to discussing these issues further with
President Bush when I visit the United States of America in April.
Finally I would like to say that relations between our two countries
are very, very strong.
The United States, indeed the entire world, suffered a huge blow on 11
September and I am proud of the role that Britain has played in
responding to that.
We will continue to work closely with the United States of America in
facing up to all these threats and challenges that we face.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Thank you Prime Minister. I am delighted to be
here today in London and have the opportunity to meet with the Prime
Minister and his associates.
This is the first stop on an important trip to the Middle East and the
President wanted to make sure I checked in first with the Prime
Minister before I went down to a part of the world that he knows so
well and where we have worked together so effectively I think over the
Of course this is six months to the day since we were attacked in New
York and at the Pentagon and I think more than ever the Americans
appreciate the depth of the relationship with our British allies.
Many Brits died alongside thousands of Americans on 11 September and
we have mourned our losses together and at this hour we engage the
enemy together. The bonds between our two countries are more important
and lasting than they have ever been. Soon after the attacks of course
Prime Minister assured President Bush and the American people, we were
with you at the first and we will stay with you to the last, and Mr
Prime Minister, for your clarity and conviction in this time of
testing, President Bush and I are grateful and so are the people of
the United States.
The British military has made a significant contribution to the
coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.
The United Kingdom has taken additional important steps in the war,
including the freezing of millions of pounds of terrorist assets, as
well as passing new legislation to make it possible to confront the
on-going danger of terror.
This morning the Prime Minister and I discussed the progress that has
been made and the challenges that await our continuing efforts.
Today in Washington President Bush will welcome to the White House
representatives of the United Kingdom and more than 100 other
countries that have joined the global effort to defeat terror.
For their commitment and for their sacrifices we will give thanks, the
thanks of the American people, and we will express the continuing
resolve of our coalition for a long campaign to deny terrorists
sanctuary anywhere in the world.
Tomorrow I head to Jordan, the first of 11 Middle Eastern countries on
this trip, and with the governments of that region I will be
discussing the current actions of the coalition.
We will confer as well about the threat of weapons of mass destruction
and the important choices that await us in the days ahead.
In these matters America is not announcing decisions, I will be there
to conduct frank discussions and to solicit the views of important
friends and allies. In all that lies ahead my country will continue to
consult with Britain and the other members of the coalition.
On 20 September President Bush said at the United States Congress,
America has no truer friend than Great Britain and once again we are
joined together in a great cause. Both our countries are very ably
I thank the Prime Minister once again for his leadership and for his
hospitality this morning.
QUESTION: Could I ask both leaders about the second phase of the war
against terrorism and the weapons of mass destruction issue.
What evidence can you lay before the world that Saddam Hussein does
have, or shortly will have, the capability to threaten not only his
own people but countries in western Europe and indeed the United
PRIME MINISTER: If I can answer first of all. Let's be under no doubt
whatever, Saddam Hussein has acquired weapons of mass destruction over
a long period of time.
He is the only leader in the world that has actually used chemical
weapons against his own people. He is in breach of at least 9 UN
Security Council Resolutions about weapons of mass destruction. He has
not allowed weapons inspectors to do the job that the UN wanted them
to do in order to make sure that he can't develop them.
Now we have said right from the very outset, you will have heard me
say on many, many occasions, no decisions have been taken on how we
deal with this threat, but that there is a threat from Saddam Hussein
and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired is not in
doubt at all.
So what is important obviously is that we reflect and consider and
deliberate, as we have done throughout all the various aspects of this
campaign since 11 September.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I would embrace and endorse what the Prime
Minister said, but add one additional factor to consider and that is
we know from the work we have been able to do in Afghanistan, the
training camps and the caves where al Qu'eda was holed out, that they
were aggressively seeking to acquire the same capability, nuclear
weapons, biological or chemical weapons.
How far they got, we don't know, but we know they clearly, given their
past track record, would use such weapons were they able to acquire
them and we have to be concerned about the potential marriage if you
will between the terrorist organisation like al Qu'eda and those who
hold or are proliferating knowledge about weapons of mass destruction.
So the concern is very real, it is very great and we need to find ways
as we go forward to make certain that the terrorist never acquires
that capability and that it can never be used against the United
States or the United Kingdom or our allies.
QUESTION: There were reports over the weekend that the Pentagon has
told Congress that it is re-examining its nuclear targeting procedure,
or is looking at the possibility of using nuclear weapons in places
perhaps like Iran.
As you set off on this trip, does this undermine your attempt in any
way to get support from the Arab countries on taking a tougher stance
on Iraq? And in England, how does this play, Mr Prime Minister, in
terms of keeping support high in England for the US-led effort?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The report you had reference to, Tom, is called
the Nuclear Posture Review, we are required to submit it periodically
to the Congress, it talks about broad questions of nuclear strategy.
There are some noteworthy developments in this year's review, among
other things for example the fact that we are going to reduce our
operationally deployed strategic warheads by about two-thirds, from
roughly 6,000 where we are today down to somewhere between 1,700 and
2,200 over 10 years, a policy the President announced unilaterally in
the last Fall and that the Russians have now agreed to.
We also in that study direct that the Pentagon take note of and
consider the possible threats to the United States from those nations
that are seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the report
specifically cited, as the press has reported, Iraq, Iran, Syria,
Libya, North Korea.
The question of targeting though isn't really addressed in the Nuclear
Right now today the United States on a day-to-ay basis does not target
nuclear weapons on any nation.
We do have and we maintain and continually update something called the
Single Integrated Operating Plan, or the SIOP, that is classified,
that is what actually deals with the selection of targets and how
nuclear weapons might be applied.
But I would look on the Nuclear Posture Review statement as just that,
it is a regular report to the Congress on the overall state of our
capabilities and gives some idea of the directions we would like to
move in in the future.
But the notion that I have seen reported in the press that somehow
this means we are preparing pre-emptive nuclear strikes against 7
countries I believe was the way it was reported, I would say that is a
bit over the top.
PRIME MINISTER: agree with that.
QUESTION: Mr Cheney, what would you say to many people in the British
public who are reluctant really to see British troops possibly
deployed against Iraq in support of the United States when they feel
that they can't trust the United States after the unilateral action
taken last week over steel?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I think it is important first of all to
recognise there are enormous differences under those circumstances.
I would suggest that were the United States to undertake further
military action of any kind that involved our British allies, that it
would be done only in the closest possible consultation and
co-ordination and that Britain certainly retains the right to decide
whether or not to participate in any particular action.
But to draw a parallel between that and the decision the President
made with respect to steel I think is inappropriate, there is no
The decision he made on steel was one he thought long and hard about
and we recognise that it is not without controversy.
Our view is that it was done within the confines of what is consistent
with WTO provisions, obviously it is going to be challenged, obviously
there are different points of view.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that his government holds a
different view than does mine, but we will move forward working with
these kinds of issues, just as we always have.
QUESTION: oes the US position that it is Iraq which constitutes the
greatest threat to stability in the region undercut by what the Vice
President did not mention, the conflict now between the Palestinians
and the Israelis?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course we want to see a resolution of the Middle
East peace process, that is vitally important, it is important not
just in terms of the stability of the region, it is important in terms
of sheer humanity when we see what is happening there with the carnage
and the death and the terror.
And of course we will do everything we possibly can to assist the US
in the efforts to bring about some relaunching of that process there.
I think it is tremendously important, I think it is absolutely clear
that the only basis upon which we are going to get lasting peace in
the Middle East is through people accepting first of all that Israel
has the right to exist, secure in its own borders and that being
accepted by the entirety of the Arab world, and secondly that there
will as the outcome of this process be a viable Palestinian state. Now
I think if we start from those two principles we can make progress.
But I think the issue of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses is an
issue in its own right because the reason why the UN Security Council
passed these resolutions was precisely because we know the threat that
there is from the weapons of mass destruction that he has.
So of course we want to see progress in the Middle East.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I think it would be inappropriate, and I
certainly agree with the Prime Minister, to assume these two are
linked, I am sure they are linked in some minds but the fact of the
matter is we need effective policies to deal with both situations,
both the need to find some way to establish peace between Israel and
the Palestinians as well as the need to find and pursue policies that
limit the threat to the United States and the United Kingdom from
weapons of mass destruction. We have an obligation to deal with both
QUESTION: Mr Vice President, if the inspectors are allowed into Iraq,
will that negate the need to take military action against Baghdad? If
you do have to take military action against Baghdad, what will be the
legal basis of that action? And if you can't build a coalition of any
support will you go ahead anyway?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: They do the same thing here that they do in the
States, they ask these long complex questions. I will try to be brief.
I never speculate about prospective military actions. Let me address
the issue of inspectors.
The question is whether or not Saddam is in compliance with Resolution
687 under which he pledged to get rid of all weapons of mass
The inspectors were there as a device to be able to assure the world
that he in fact complied with the resolution, he has not complied with
the resolution, he has now kicked the inspectors out, there is a lot
of evidence that he does in fact have, and is continuing to develop
weapons of mass destruction.
So if the issue of inspectors is to be addressed, we feel very
strongly as a government that it needs to be the kind of inspection
regime that has no limitations on it, that is a go anywhere any time
kind of regime so that in fact the outside world can have confidence
that he is not hiding material that he has promised to give up.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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