DoD News Briefing

April 18, 1998
Prime Minister Majali

Prime Minister Majali: Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, due the short time, we are not going to make speeches, rather than because of the short of time, it's not going to be more than fifteen minutes, because there is another appointment which His Excellency has to keep and so please be precise with your questions and I'm sure His Excellency and myself will try to answer as quickly and as precisely as possible. Do you want to say something?

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister. Let me make a speech.

Majali: Just for both of us.

Cohen: I want first of all to thank you very much for hosting this visit. Jordan and the United States are partners for peace and stability in the Middle East. This visit is an opportunity for our countries to reaffirm our shared goals and plans for the future. And we both agree that the key to stability in the Middle East is a just and lasting peace agreement between Israel and it's neighbors, and Jordan has taken a bold step in that direction and is reaping the rewards of peace. The United States is doing all that it can do to broaden that peace process. We also both agree that it's important to prevent Iraq from attacking its neighbors again and from continuing to work on its program to build deadly chemical and biological weapons, and that's the reason why the United States has worked so hard to make sure that the United Nations inspectors had the freedom that they need to do their jobs. Unfortunately the UN's Special Commission on Iraq said yesterday that Iraq still is not complying with the U.N. requirement that it prove that it has ended its program of weapons of mass destruction and abolished stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and the United States has also sponsored and supported the oil for food program, the United Nations program that channels food to the people of Iraq in order to ease their suffering while Saddam Hussein squanders money on opulent palaces rather than helping his own people, and we think of that is a policy that certainly should change. Finally, the United States and Jordan are united in our opposition to terrorism, and Jordan has taken a stand for peace and I'm glad to be here to discuss ways in which we can promote peace together. With that we'll be happy to answer your questions.

Q: I have mainly one question, Sir. It is about modernizing the armed forces in Jordan. We've heard several promises and I think it's practically taking place, but it's very slow compared with other countries and the aid to other countries, it's actually nothing compared to other countries. This is what we notice as journalists and also as specialized people. How can you prove that you are taking it seriously and that you will go ahead with that. Also about the A-10, we have heard that Jordan asked for A-10s – I wonder if this is going to be accepted from the American side or not.

A: (Cohen): I am sorry, your second question?

Q: The A-10?

A: (Cohen): You want to know…

Q: Whether these were accepted from the American side or not. Thank You.

A: (Cohen): Well, first of all, I think that the Prime Minister would be the first to indicate that the cooperation between the United States and Jordan is very strong and productive, and that we have worked very hard to provide Jordan with its defense requirements. The F-16 request has been completed as far as the delivery of the F-16 aircraft are concerned. There are some components and supplies and others that have to be completed in the next year, but that is moving forward as planned. And so we have tried to be very responsive to the security needs of Jordan. I believe the Prime Minister would indicate that that is the case. With respect to what Jordan's requirements are, we evaluate that based upon the request made by the Jordanian military experts. They make a request for their needs; there was an indication that perhaps the A-10 might be required as an anti-armor mechanism as such. We have had the commander of our Central Command, General Zinni, to make a thorough evaluation in terms of what Jordan might require in the way of new systems and equipment, and that is currently being reviewed by the Jordanian authorities. But we have indicated a willingness to cooperate in whatever fashion we can, taking into account Jordan's needs and our own assessment of what would be required and the most cost effective and efficient way of meeting those requirements.

A: (Majali): Well, I assure you what His Excellency has said about the cooperation with the armed forces and last year we were given 75 million dollars in military assistance, and this year the same. We hope that it will continue next year and will possibly increase according to our needs. I think the cooperation is great and continuous, and the trust between both sides is very high.

Q: I'd like to ask both of you gentlemen. You both stated your support for the peace process and yet the peace process is stalled; and there is a feeling among Arab leaders – correct me if I'm wrong – that Israel is dragging it's feet on withdrawal from occupied territories and settlements on the West Bank with the support of the United States. I'd like both of you gentlemen to address that.

A: (Majali): Yes, I think the peace process, I won' t say that it is bad and I think it's still is alive. There are obstructions, it's halting at the moment, especially on the Palestinian track which was supposed to move. Unfortunately, the new administration, which is no longer new, has not kept the signed agreement with the Palestinians so it can go further. All the efforts now from everywhere to try to remove the obstruction from the way of the peace. His Majesty, the King, the day before yesterday, visited Eilat and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and explained the dangers of obstructing the peace and what are the consequences coming out of this. We felt there is movement; and as you heard or knew, Mr. Ross will be coming at the end of the coming week to restart talking about this and planning for, hopefully, a breakthrough by having an American initiative to be presented to both sides officially. Hopefully, now after the Palestinians have accepted it, the Israelis will accept it so that the peace process can resume. Again, we have indication that on both the other tracks, the Syrian and Lebanese in particular, there is movement; certainly there are some obstacles, but it seems that the decision is there to make the peace move.

Q: Do you feel that the United States is favoring Israel in the process and do you plan to twist arms when you get to Israel on that.

A: (Majali): I think that the Americans are pressing the Israelis quite well to get on board with the peace process.

A: (Cohen): With respect to twisting arms, my goal in traveling to Israel is to meet with my counterpart, Minister Mordechai, to meet with other officials to discuss ways in which we can continue our relationship with Israel. We are committed to Israel's security and to helping them maintain a qualitative edge in their capabilities, but at the same time, also indicate that we are interested in, as President Clinton has indicated, he is interested in moving the peace process forward, and I will look for ways in which I can certainly express the President's interest. As the Prime Minister has just indicated Dennis Ross will be visiting Israel at the end of next week. I know that Secretary Albright is very committed to energizing the peace process. But let me also indicate that just as the Prime Minister has indicated that terrorism is something that Jordanians are concerned about, Israel is also concerned about acts of terrorism. So, to the extent that there is to be progress made on the peace process itself, there must be restraint exercised by both sides, and that means that acts of terrorism do not contribute to progress being made. So, I think that that has to be taken into account as well. We are all interested in seeing the peace process move forward and that is going to require the exercise of restraint and the measuring of commitments on both sides.

Q: Sir, the last crisis between the United Nations and Iraq, was amplified by comments of Richard Butler that Iraq has enough weapons to hit Israel and chaos broke out in this region because of that.

Recently a U.N. official with UNSCOM made comments that Iraq is not cooperating with UNSCOM but the report by the special commission set up by the Secretary General after the signing two months ago made it clear that they were cooperating. Where does the U.S. stand on that and what will be the next move if Iraq does not work with the U.N. on opening their sites for inspection.

A: (Cohen): Let me respond to the issue of UNSCOM inspectors. First of all, it would be very difficult if not impossible for me to comment since the report has not yet been officially filed, with the United Nations Security Council. There have been reports expressed in the press that perhaps the UNSCOM inspectors have been less successful than one might judge. So far, there appears to be compliance in the sense that inspectors have been allowed access to the presidential palaces, and that is only one part of the obligation that Saddam Hussein and his government have under the United Nations resolutions. They must not only allow unfettered access to all areas in Iraq, but there can be no limitation upon how many inspections are conducted, and certainly that is an issue that should be clear from the Memorandum of Agreement that was signed by Saddam Hussein and by Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Secondly, it is imperative that Saddam Hussein produce proof that he has in fact destroyed those chemicals and biological weapons and missiles that he claims have been destroyed, and in that respect teams and evaluators have been requested by Saddam Hussein through Tariq Aziz to come to Baghdad to make an evaluation. And according to reports that I have seen those teams that came at the request of Tariq Aziz, was not satisfied, that the Iraqi government has measured up to its responsibility to produce evidence of its destruction of those systems as required and the U.N resolutions and so there is an affirmative obligation on the part of Saddam Hussein and that he must fully comply by producing evidence that their systems have been in fact destroyed, and that called on my understanding of the inspectors as yet to be done. With respect to what the United States will do, we intend to maintain, obviously, a presence in the Gulf region as we had prior to the crisis being escalated by Saddam's actions, that we would continue to insist that he fully comply with the U.N. resolutions as the United Nations requires, that sanctions will remain in place until such time as there is full compliance, that should he hinder or obstruct the inspectors contrary to the agreement that he signed that obviously that would be a matter that would be taken up by the United States in consultation with its allies, but we would maintain a presence in any event throughout the forseeable future to make sure that there is full compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Q: Iraq is said to be looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Do you think that Iraq deserves any credit at all for providing access to the sensitive sites?

A: (Cohen): First of all, Iraq was required from the very beginning to open up all of its sites, from the end of the Gulf War as such, it on its own decided that there were certain sites that would be off limits. Under the U.N. resolutions that were passed at the end of the Gulf War there were no such limitations on the access to any place in Iraq, and so by erecting barriers to the inspectors to carry out their obligations they were already in violation of the agreement that was agreed back in 1991, and so, yes, there should be light at the end of the tunnel, provided there is compliance. This is only one small part to say that the inspectors have been allowed into 8 presidential palaces, is by no means any indication, certainly not a satisfactory indication that they intend to fully comply, by producing the kind of evidence that I mentioned before, the documentation that they have destroyed all of their scud missiles that have been weaponized with anthrax that they have destroyed all of their chemical weapons and biological weapons that they have in fact done with they claim they have done, and until such evidence is produced then there can be no easing of the sanctions and so the best way for there to be light at the end of the tunnel is for the doors to remain open to all areas and for Saddam Hussein to produce the evidence that is required.

Q: You just said that the sanctions will be lifted if Iraq complies fully with U.N. resolutions, but a few months ago, the Secretary Albright, Secretary of State said that Sanctions on Iraq will never be lifted as long as the current regime is in power in Baghdad.

A: (Cohen): I don't believe that Secretary Albright said that said that a few months ago, I think Secretary Albright has indicated that once that she and we and I suspect many in the region, would welcome the opportunity to deal with a different regime, but that if Saddam Hussein does in fact fully comply with all the U.N. resolutions then it would be the end of the sanctions, so that is our policy and will remains our policy today.

Q: There seems to be a perception, in the region, that the United States is not even handed in dealing with U.N. sanctions; that it is working very hard to get Saddam Hussein to comply with the sanctions, and its seems to work less hard to get Israel to do that?

A: (Majali): I think through most of the visits, when we talk, we do mention this. I think what you said is the feeling among most of the people in the Arab World. They are asking this question. Certainly, the literature says that sanctions (imposed) according to article seven of the U.N. charter are one thing and that the others are something else, we do understand this, and most of the people do not ask even the same treatment or same level of same treatment, but certainly they are watching and they are looking (to see that) that the United Nations with regard to all its resolutions about the Palestinian question will see the light properly to be done. As you know the whole of the peace process which has been now for nearly nine years or eight years is based on Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 425 and 426, all these resolutions are now in process. Now does that require real force? The dependence of reference to the article that (authorizes) the use of force is not in this. But I don't think this is enough of an excuse not to implement what the security council has said, especially on 242, and 338 and 425. Certainly the United States policy has been since the peace process is to implement 242, and the idea now is that we are negotiating at least the four tracks on how to implement it. It is the manner of implementation, not the 242 itself. Certainly it's not the same level. It is the policy of the United States to have a secure Israel. It's most important, most favored and (it wants) that edge of capabilities to be there because of certain relations between the two countries. We understand this, but at the same time we hope that took the other side will take action to resolve the problem and have the peace carry on.

Q: We were talking about the double standards in the dealing between Israel and Iraq. While with Iraq and Kuwait, and you still punishing Iraq and the Iraqi people. Israel is occupying Golan Heights and South of Lebanon and still some parts of the Palestinian lands, but you have done nothing, don't you agree there is a double standard in dealing with the Middle East issues? My other question. When you go to Israel, are you going to discuss the third stage of arrow missile development?

A: (Cohen): First of all, in respect to the arrow missile, that is a program the United States has contributed to in terms of the research and development project with Israel. If you look at the threat that is now being posed by the proliferation of missile technology, that the State of Israel does in fact have legitimate concerns about scud missiles having been launched against it in the past with the threat of other types of missiles of being launched in the future, so they have a legitimate concern and interest in providing protection against these types of missiles being launched against their territory. So I see that is not being inconsistent with pursuing the Middle East peace process to extent that one is able to enhance its defensive capabilities that doesn't undermine the peace process and that in fact can strengthen the peace process to the extent that another country believes that it is unable to intimidate another country such as Israel or to attack it successfully. That doesn't undermine the peace process I think it would enhance it. With respect to Israel and to Iraq. First of all it's not the United States who is punishing Iraq. It is the United Nations which has imposed the sanctions regime upon Iraq by virtue of what it had done by invading Kuwait, and many people have forgotten the kind of destruction that was reaped upon the people of Kuwait. I have not forgotten the images that still are seared in my mind, not only of the raping and the pillaging and the destruction that took place but the threat to indulge and I would call eco-terrorism, environmental terrorism by setting oil wells on fire, and those fires raging for days until we could help get experts to put them out. All of that was produced by Saddam Hussein and that's the reason why the United Nations imposed the sanctions. But it is the United Nations who has taken this particular action and it is the U.N. that would insist upon compliance. United States is part of that, obviously. We also want to see a peace process proceed as the Prime Minister have said. There are initiatives under way, but we should not equate the kind of threat posed by Saddam Hussein in terms of what he actually did, in the use of chemical weapons against his own people, against the Iranian people, and a threat that he caused by possession of these deadly weapons. So, we think that he should comply with the UN resolution, we're pushing and as best as we can to re-energize the peace process. Thank you.