Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Rumsfeld: Iraq Proclamations Are Baseless

The first of about 4,000 U.S. troops arrived in Jordan by sea Tuesday for a two-week training exercise with Jordanian special forces that Pentagon officials say has been in the works for months.

Operation Infinite Moonlight includes the movement of two shiploads of Bradley armored vehicles, tanks, Humvees, attack helicopters and ammunition. Officials say the shipment to the Gulf region is for a future training exercise and part of regular redistribution.

Pentagon officials denied that the moves are part of preparations for a possible U.S. military action to take out Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but concede more resources are now in the region.

Reacting to the latest statements by Saddam's regime, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Iraq really has no intention of letting weapons inspectors back in the country though he made no mention of any potential action.

"It seems to me it's like a broken record," he said.

Iraq's information minister said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television Monday that U.N. weapons inspectors finished their job four years ago and should not come back.

Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf accused the Bush administration of trying to use the inspections issue to justify a battle with Saddam and said Iraq does not have any weapons of mass destruction.

The Pentagon doesn't buy that assertion, and the defense secretary said this is more back and forth from Iraqi leaders.

"They agreed to have inspectors, they threw the inspectors out, the inspectors are still out for a period of years and they're still not allowed back in. What else can one say? They're in violation of the U.N. resolutions," Rumsfeld said.

While intelligence is not clear when it comes to the amount and variety of the weapons of mass destruction Saddam has, officials are positive he is working to get more.

Rumsfeld said he still believes it would be almost impossible to find all those weapons.

"It is a big country, they've had years to do what they want to do. They have done a great deal of underground tunneling. They have things that are mobile. That makes it very difficult for inspectors, under the best of circumstances, to find things," he said.

Rumsfeld said it's unrealistic to believe that even if weapons inspectors are let back in that they will be allowed enough leeway to find any caches.

The defense secretary also praised the efforts of the opposition groups, saying their meeting here this weekend demonstrated that they are united and ready to change the regime.

His optimism comes as the leader of the Kurds said publicly that the United States will be allowed to use Kurdish-controlled bases in Northern Iraq to launch an attack against Saddam. Pentagon officials and other Iraqi opposition leaders confirm the plan is being discussed.

"The INC welcomes U.S. support by any means possible, including military means for the Iraqi people to achieve the liberation of Iraq," said Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress.

Covering the second of the three countries making up President Bush's so-called "axis of evil," Rumsfeld said Iran is allowing Al Qaeda terrorists to cross its borders from neighboring Afghanistan, a specific effort to undermine the war against terrorism.

Rumsfeld brushed off reports that the Iranians had captured and deported some Al Qaeda members to their native countries, and handed over 16 suspected terrorists that the Saudis had been seeking.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told reporters in Kabul Tuesday -- during the first visit by an Iranian head of state to Afghanistan in 40 years -- that his government has given suspects to other countries as well.

"There is no question that they have permitted Al Qaeda to enter their country. They are permitting Al Qaeda to be present in their country today. And it may very well be that they, for whatever reason, have turned over some people to other countries, but they've not turned any over to us," he said.

Rumsfeld has on several occasions charged that Iran has let Al Qaeda members escape to safety through its territory. And two suspected terrorists captured by naval forces in a U.S.-led ship interdiction last month were coming from Iran, officials said at the time.

Rumsfeld said Khatami's visit to Afghanistan is "probably a useful thing," particularly since Khatami offered a $500 million aid package and is looking for ways to slash opium production and trafficking.

"Obviously they're a big, important neighboring country to Afghanistan, and it's important that Afghanistan have a relationship with all its neighbors so that the government is able to go forward and strengthen itself and function as a government in the country," Rumsfeld said. "That's much easier to do if you have neighbors that are not unfriendly."

Fox News' Bret Baier and Teri Schultz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.