After meeting with the top officials of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in recent days, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he does not see much likelihood of international terrorist organizations gaining a foothold in any of those countries. The secretary spoke Monday after meeting with Morocco's King Muhammed IV at the king's mountain retreat northeast of Fez.
Secretary Rumsfeld focused on counter-terrorism on all three of his North Africa stops, after U.S. officials said they want to continue working with the three countries to help them gain full control of their territory to prevent terrorist groups from establishing bases there.
But, after the meetings, Rumsfeld said the three countries are already doing a good job keeping terrorists out.
"I think that each of those three countries are managing their internal affairs in a way that makes that an extremely low possibility," said Rumsfeld.
Secretary Rumsfeld said leaders of the three countries recognize that economic, political and social progress are as important as security efforts in keeping terrorists from gaining a foothold.
The secretary also praised cooperation among the North African countries in fighting terrorism, and he said the leaders of the three countries all commented on the importance of that cooperation.
U.S. officials say Rumsfeld came to Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria to thank their leaders for their cooperation in the war on terrorism and their moderate leadership among regional countries.
Morocco and Tunisia have long-standing relations with the United States, including military relations. But military ties to Algeria are in their early stages, and officials say Sunday's approximately four-hour visit was the first by a U.S. defense secretary.