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17 March 2002

Transcript: Cheney Says U.S. Engaged in Search for Mideast Peace

(Vice President discusses Iraq, free trade in Bahrain) (3,710)
The United States, said Vice President Dick Cheney, "will do
everything in our power to try to bring an end to the tragic violence
between Palestinians and Israelis and to persuade them to resume a
serious negotiating process."
Speaking at a March 17 press conference in Bahrain with Crown Prince
Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Vice President Cheney said that one of
his missions "has been to travel around and let all of our friends in
the region know the importance of our commitment to try to resolve
this conflict."
Cheney said, "We think, as many have expressed, that the ultimate
objective here needs to be an Israeli state and a Palestinian state
that can live side by side in peace and harmony."
The Crown Prince said that the Vice President and His Majesty the King
discussed a broad range of international, regional, and bilateral
issues, including the Middle East situation, the war on terrorism, the
designation of Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally, and progress toward a
Free Trade Agreement.
Vice President Cheney said that his discussions in Bahrain and
elsewhere in the region covered the campaign against Al Qaeda
terrorists, and he refused to speculate about any hypothetical
military action against Iraq.
Nevertheless, he said, Iraq continues to pose a growing threat to the
region and the world.
"The important question here," Cheney said, "is why hasn't Iraq
complied with the UN Security Council resolution 687 that Saddam
Hussein signed at the end of the Gulf conflict, that said specifically
that he committed to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction
including biological and chemical weapons as well as ballistic
missiles beyond a certain range. And he has not done so."
Cheney added, "If a man like Saddam Hussein with his track record is
allowed to develop and deploy this capability, that clearly is not in
anyone's interest."
Following is a transcript of the press conference with Vice President
Cheney and the Crown Prince in Manama, Bahrain, on March 17:
(begin transcript)
Press Conference 
Vice President Dick Cheney and 
His Highness Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, 
Crown Prince of Bahrain
at Shaikh Hamad Palace 
Manama, Bahrain 
March 17, 2002
Crown Prince: Good afternoon. First of all, I would like to welcome
our good friend, Vice President Cheney, to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The visit comes at an important time for the region and we appreciate
the efforts and the endeavors of the United States in consulting with
its friends here. Today his Majesty the King and the Vice President
had fruitful and frank discussions, covering a range of topics from
bilateral issues to issues of regional and international concern.
On the bilateral front, we discussed building on the recent assignment
of Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally, by working among other things
towards a Free Trade Agreement.
Regionally, one of the most important items discussed was moving the
Middle East Peace Process forward and in this regard we welcome the
President sending General Zinni back to the region. We in the Kingdom
of Bahrain believe that the way forward is by having the Israelis
withdraw and end their current brutal occupation and that the
Palestinians show the utmost restraint during this time. Both parties
need to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1397 that builds on
resolutions 242 and 338.
On the war against international terrorism, we have reaffirmed our
total support to the continuing international effort both militarily
and otherwise. On Iraq, it is our belief in Bahrain that Iraq must
comply with all relevant UN resolutions without delay so as to avoid
potential harm to the region.
In closing, Mr. Vice President, welcome. It is our pleasure to have
you here, and it is a pleasure to work with you, even in this short
trip, and with that I'll hand it over to you.
Vice President: Thank you, Your Highness. I am delighted to be back in
Bahrain and have the opportunity today to meet with His Majesty the
King, and with His Highness, and the other senior officials of the
Bahraini government.
I have visited Bahrain many times in the past and of course we have a
long and historic relationship which is extraordinarily important to
both countries. I am on a mission to the Middle East at the request of
the President to confer with regional leaders on issues of importance,
and we spent a lot of time today focusing on a range of those
concerns.
I specifically thanked the Bahrainis for their great work and support
on behalf of the war on terror and our work against the problems that
we've encountered in Afghanistan dealing with the Al Qaeda and in
trying to wrap up the world wide terror network. Bahrain of course is
a major non-NATO ally of the United States and we've received great
support from a military standpoint as well.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit our fleet, the U.S.S.
Stennis, and steaming alongside the Stennis was the Bahrain's frigate,
the Sabah, a very great pleasure, I think, for both navies that we
have been able to work so closely together.
Bahrain shares the same goals the United States does for a lasting
peace in the Middle East. President Bush has made clear we will do
everything in our power to try to bring an end to the tragic violence
between Palestinians and Israelis and to persuade them to resume a
serious negotiating process.
Finally I want to congratulate the King on his intention to conduct
parliamentary elections in October this year, as well as municipal
elections in May that will permit women as well to be candidates.
America supports the government of Bahrain as it pursues political and
economic reform that works for the good of all its people.
Our meetings today have touched upon all of these matters here and
throughout the trip, and I've sought open and frank discussions and
wise counsel on issues of mutual concern and I have received them.
Your Highness I want to thank you again for hosting me today and now
to all the people of your country I want to bring the respect and good
wishes from the people of the United States and President George W.
Bush.
Thank you so much.
Q: (Adnan Malik, AP) Sir, can you tell us regarding Iraq what is
Bahrain's stance towards any strikes on Iraq in the near or distant
future in terms of ongoing war on terrorism?
Crown Prince: Well, I don't think that the strike on Iraq has been
decided yet. We certainly support UN resolutions and we feel that,
maybe the Vice President can answer this probably better, that the
intention is very strong and very clear to get those inspectors back,
among other things and we strongly encourage Iraqis to do so. So, that
is our current position. As far as the hypothetical question of an
intended strike I think I will defer that until the policy is made
more clear to us.
Vice President: I make it a habit never to speculate about prospective
future operations. I don't think that is helpful. The President has
made it clear that we are concerned about nations such as Iraq
developing weapons of mass destruction.
We know the Iraqis have been engaged in such efforts over the years.
We know they have biological and chemical weapons. We know they used
chemical weapons against Iran and against the Kurds and we also have
reason to believe that they are pursuing the acquisition of nuclear
weapons. That's of concern to the United Sates. We think it is of
concern to people all over the region and we think it is important
that we find a way to deal with that emerging threat.
Vice President: Mr. Rahm.
Q: (U.S. traveling press) Mr. Vice President. Could we ask you
something about the meeting last night in Saudi Arabia? You met with
the Crown Prince. Is the United States ready to increase its support
for the Saudi peace initiative and we understand that the Crown Prince
is invited to the United States. What will be accomplished by this
visit and is it another attempt by the United Sates to draw Saudi
Arabia both into the peace process and into the planning on Iraq?
Vice President: With respect to the Crown Prince's initiative, we
think it's a good one. We appreciate very much the fact that he
stepped up and put it forward at an important time. We think it has
given some impetus to the peace process, and so we have been very
supportive and encouraging of what he has attempted to do and I
reiterated that support for the Saudis last night as well. We expect
that will be the subject, one of the subjects, focused on at the
upcoming Arab Summit in Beirut at the end of this month
I did last night, in response to the second part of your question, I
did deliver to the Crown Prince a personal invitation from the
President to visit the United States in the near future and I think
the Saudis will have an announcement later today with respect to their
intentions in that regard.
Crown Prince: Indira?
Q: Your Highness, can you give us some more information about this
Free Trade Agreement? What stage is it at right now, whether it is in
discussion stage and in what kind of time frame do you think Bahrain
and the U.S. could sign it?
And the question for the Vice President -- on Palestine. Do you have a
target date by which Palestine will be declared, and why this
reluctance on the U.S. side to declare the Palestinian state. You did
it with Israel. The state was declared first and it was created later.
Why are you reluctant to do it in this case?
Crown Prince: Okay. As far as the FTA is concerned, we are working
towards that as a goal. But in order for that to happen I think there
must be a structured dialogue first and we will be looking at
mechanisms to make that happen. So that is, I do not foresee it
happening within a short time, but we hope that it is not too long in
the distant future. And getting our process started will be our main
goal in the coming months.
Vice President: We discussed the question of improving trade relations
between the United States and Bahrain. We think it is a worthy
objective and as we discussed with His Majesty. We think it is
appropriate to find a structure we can put in place to begin those
discussions so that we can move towards that objective. With respect
to that Palestinian homeland, President Bush was the first President
of the United States, just within the last few months, in a speech
last fall, to announce that his vision for the future of the Middle
East includes a Palestinian homeland.
Now we think, as many have expressed, that the ultimate objective here
needs to be an Israeli state and a Palestinian state that can live
side by side in peace and harmony. That's in everybody's interest.
Clearly we have a long way to go to get there. There are a lot of very
important issues that need to be resolved. First and foremost is to
accomplish a ceasefire so that negotiations begin once again and we
can see an end to the loss of innocent human life on both sides.
Following that, we are supporting an effort to implement the Tenet and
the Mitchell plans and clearly ultimate decisions about boundaries in
those kinds of arrangements need to be worked out between the parties
to the negotiations. But the President of the United States has made
it clear that his vision for the future of the region does include a
Palestinian homeland.
Crown Prince: Mr. King.
Q: Vice President, after your meeting last night, Saudi officials said
that the Crown Prince had told you under no circumstances would Saudi
bases be allowed in a U.S. military offensive against Iraq. Is that
the case sir, and as you answer in a broader context, the Saudis said
they oppose this, the Egyptians said the same, the Jordanians said the
same -- a bit of a softer tone today, but still obviously, no one
thinks the military option should be the first one. How are we not to
judge your discussions as a failure? And Your Highness, if you would,
if the United States did have a military confrontation with Iraq,
could it use its bases in this country as part of that operation?
Vice President: Well, as far as the meeting last night goes, the only
people in the meeting were the Crown Prince and myself, plus an
interpreter and I have his notes, so there I think has been a lot of
speculation both about my conversations as I travel through the region
and I think a lot of it has been uninformed.
I don't choose to ever describe the views of my hosts. They are
perfectly able to speak for themselves. The meeting I had last night
with the Crown Prince, frankly, was very warm and very friendly. We
renewed friendship that goes back many years. We've been through
difficult days together, our governments have, and the two of us have
personally. And last night was one of the warmest sessions I've ever
had, frankly, in Saudi Arabia. It was very good, very productive, wide
ranging discussion and I wouldn't choose to characterize it further
than that. I think the Crown Prince will affirm that.
Q: (on the base issue)
Vice President: Well, I sense that some people want to believe that
there is only one issue that I am concerned about, or that somehow I
am out here to organize a military adventure with respect to Iraq.
That's not true. The fact is we are concerned about Iraq, that's one
of many issues we are concerned about. But in all of the stops that I
have made so far, we have talked not only about the war on terror
which is in any respects, a more imminent, ongoing current activity.
We talked about the importance of our continued efforts in Afghanistan
as well as making certain that the Al Qaeda doesn't relocate to any
other country in the region, about our mutual military and
intelligence and law enforcement financial efforts to stamp out the
operations of Al Qaeda.
A lot of time, as the Crown Prince mentioned today, on the question of
the Israelis and the Palestinians, and in every case the bilateral
relationships that we have in this part of the world. So I think it
would be a mistake to assume that there is only one issue on my agenda
or that it's possible to characterize this trip based upon speculation
about what people may or may not have said to me. Thank you.
Crown Prince: And sir, I think as I said before, I think it's a bit
too early to speculate on a hypothetical. But Bahrain has always
honored its commitments and while we think that people are discussing
it out in the open, it is important to recognize that in the Arab
world the way that the threat is perceived is quite different. The
people who are dying today, on the streets, are not only, are not a
result of any Iraqi action. The people that are dying on the streets
today, are dying as a result of an Israeli action. And likewise the
people in Israel are dying as a result of action in response to those
actions that are taken. So the perception of threat in the Arab world
really focuses around that issue and we are preoccupied by it. Deeply
so.
And the importance I think of reaching a just settlement for both
sides has never been more important, because it holds up and it
precludes and it confuses all the other issues which are of concern to
all of us, specifically weapons of mass destruction, which we feel as
strongly as the United States does about it and their danger not only
to us but to the world as a whole. So I reiterate again and I call
towards the Iraqi government to comply completely with the UN Security
Council resolutions because it is in the interest of everyone in this
part of the world.
Q: Mohamed Fadhel, from France Press, Mr. Cheney, what is your comment
on a report that came out in New York Times last week talking about
moving the American bases from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, to a base in
Qatar?
Vice President: Let me repeat the question to make sure I understood
it, about the New York Time article speculating about moving U.S.
military bases out of Saudi Arabia?
Fadhel: (indistinct.... "to Qatar"..)
Vice President: We have not made any plans to make any change in our
military dispositions with respect to Saudi Arabia. We have been
operating in conjunction with good many countries in this part of the
world for many years now. From time to time adjustments are made, but
I am unaware of any adjustments that we are planning nor did I discuss
with the Saudis last night any modifications of our force posture.
Judy Keen.
Q: (U.S. traveling press) Mr. Vice President, the United States has
previously made it clear to Prime Minister Sharon that it wants him to
pull his troops and tanks back. His reluctance to do so is now turning
out to be an obstacle to talks toward a cease-fire. In your
face-to-face meeting, will you ask him again to do so, and could you
talk a little bit about the way the situation in Israel and Israel's
actions are complicating your mission and making more difficult your
mission to build support for the war on terror?
Vice President: I think with respect to the impact on my trip overall
-- there is no question, and I don't find it surprising, we knew this
would be a prominent issue before I came -- that the ongoing conflict
between the Israelis and Palestinians is a preoccupation for everybody
in this part of the world.
As the Crown Prince has explained, it's real, it's happening everyday,
it's having a decided impact not only on the people of Israel or
Palestine, who are most directly affected, but also upon people
throughout the region who have strong feelings about the inability to
resolve this very difficult set of circumstances.
The first thing that I will do when I arrive in Israel is to meet with
General Zinni. General Zinni is there again at the direction of the
President. He has re-engaged very aggressively both with the Israelis
and Palestinians, met with Prime Minister Sharon, with Mr. Arafat and
so before I see any Israeli official, Mr. Sharon included, I will
specifically sit down and sort of touch base with General Zinni, who
will meet me at the airport and bring me up to speed on the latest
developments.
My role in part has been to travel around the region and let all of
our friends in the region know the importance of our commitment to try
to resolve this conflict to talk about the Crown Prince's initiative,
to look towards the Beirut Summit, to solicit advice and guidance from
our friends here in Bahrain as well as every other place I've stopped.
General Zinni is the one who is sort of in the firing line and in the
midst of the efforts to negotiate a cease-fire between the Israelis
and Palestinians and I hope he will have something positive to report
by the time I arrive.
Crown Prince: Time for one more question please. Please at the back.
Q: Nada Mohamed, the Business Channel. Many U.S. friends in the region
have expressed their wishes for the U.S. not to use military force
against Iraq. Most if not all of the Gulf and Arab states which you
have visited oppose the use of military force. With this existing
scenario, will the U.S. still go ahead and launch a military strike
against Iraq if Iraq has not complied with UN resolutions?
Vice President: Let me reiterate again what I said: I never like to
speculate about what we might or might not do in the future with
respect to the use of military force. But I think the important issue
here isn't this speculative bubble that is sort of billed as whether
or not the United States might use military force.
The important question here is why hasn't Iraq complied with the UN
Security Council resolution 687 that Saddam Hussein signed at the end
of the Gulf conflict, that said specifically that he committed to
eliminate all weapons of mass destruction including biological and
chemical weapons as well as ballistic missiles beyond a certain range.
And he has not done so, and we know he has not done so, not only as a
result of intelligence that we've collected, but also as a result of
defectors, his sons-in-law, who came out some years ago to Jordan and
made public a great deal of information about the status of those
programs. And of course Saddam Hussein has refused to allow UN
inspectors in now for several years with the result I think that we
are increasingly concerned, and we find others are as well, that he
has in fact acquired biological and chemical weapons, which we are
quite confident of. He used chemicals against the Iranians and the
Kurds but also that he is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons.
And as long as the current situation continues, then we think the
threat will grow, and that threat is I think to all of the countries
of the region and to the peace and stability of this part of the
world. If a man like Saddam Hussein with his track record is allowed
to develop and deploy this capability, that clearly is not in anyone's
interest.
Thank you.
Crown Prince: Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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