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News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Sunday, October 11, 1998
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Secretary Cohen: I will make a brief opening statement and then will answer your questions, and any that I do not answer, I will refer to my friend Sheikh Mohammed for his answer to you.

I've just completed a very productive visit with Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed. We discussed important bilateral and regional issues including Iran and Iraq; efforts by Iraq and Iran to build weapons of mass destruction is a threat to the security and stability of the region.

With respect to Iraq, we agree that Saddam Hussain must fully comply with all UN Security Council resolutions. We want compliance, and not confrontation, with Iraq. Compliance is going to help the Iraqi people. Iraq learned this when they accepted the "Oil for Food" program after five years of delay. This program, which was sponsored by the United States, helps to ensure that Iraqi oil revenues feed Iraqi people rather than fuel Iraq's arms program.

On Iran, I explained there could be no significant improvement in relations with the United States as long as Iran continues to support terrorism, to build weapons of mass destruction, and to vehemently oppose the Middle East Peace Process. Current and future threats increase the importance of good friends such as the UAE - United Arab Emirates, and the United States are going to continue the work together for peace and stability in the region.

With that let me entertain your questions.

If you have no questions, I'm happy to go. ....Yes.

  • Q: Qamar Hassan from the "Khaleej Times." Due to the fact that you have been known to have a very positive attitude towards the appointment of Ariel Sharon as Israeli foreign minister for he has been known as a very hawkish attitude towards the peace process?
  • A: Sometimes it takes hawkish and more conservative people in order to reach agreement. I think time will tell, but I believe that significant progress has been made in the past week, where you had Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat meet on three separate occasions in a one week period, which I think is quite remarkable; and the fact that they will be coming to Washington next week at the Washington summit, I think offers us hope that there can be real progress made toward peace in the Middle East.
  • Q: (Inaudible) and according to the (inaudible) statement. How do you think (Inaudible)?
  • A: Could you just repeat the first phrase of your question? It wasn't quite clear.
  • Q: (Inaudible) that the crude (inaudible).
  • A: Thank you very much.

We believe that with the proliferation of missile technology overseas, and particularly throughout the Gulf region, that this poses a threat to stability and security. And we know that Iran, for example, has recently fired the Shahab III which has a much greater range than had previous missile capability. And so we see this proliferation of missile technology posing a threat to many countries.

We have seen it coming for some time with respect to the United States as far as the protection of our troops is concerned, which are forward deployed throughout the region. And so we have undertaken a very extensive, and I would say, expensive, research and development program that would encompass some five separate theater missile defense systems.

We are moving as quickly as we can, but the technology itself is very demanding. So we are now grappling with if we have too many systems; that we need to perhaps combine some of the systems. We are looking very closely at ways in which we can field a theater missile defense system as soon as we possibly can, and we are making some progress in that regard.

As I've mentioned to a number of people in the region. I think it will be important for the Gulf States also to participate in some fashion, in either the research and development stage, or in the acquisition phase, to protect their people - their soldiers - from this growing threat. So we will be looking to be as helpful as we can as we proceed down the path of really evolving our research and development programs. And that is a very technically demanding task that we ask of these systems - in essence hitting bullets with bullets - and so it requires an extraordinary effort, but we are making considerable progress.

  • Q: Have you concluded any deals?
  • A: (laughing) No deals. I did not come to make any deals or to offer any deals. I did come bringing small gifts but that is all. I came really to reaffirm the friendship that we have with our partners in the region, to renew the bonds of friendship, and to keep in touch with each other and to consult.


Press: Thank you.


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