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US Defense Chief Says No Plans For US Troops In Mideast - 2002-04-02

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has strongly condemned Iran, Iraq and Syria for what he said is their role in promoting terrorist violence, including suicide bombings in Israel.

Mr. Rumsfeld has had little to say in public about the escalating crisis in the Middle East. But at the Pentagon Monday, Mr. Rumsfeld lashed out at three countries - Iran, Iraq and Syria.

His comments were inspired by what he said were their actions in fomenting anti-Israeli violence. "Murderers are not martyrs," he said. "Targeting civilians is immoral, whatever the excuse. Terrorists have declared war on civilization, and states like Iran, Iraq and Syria are inspiring and financing a culture of political murder and suicide bombing."

Still, Mr. Rumsfeld declined to discuss what he described as a sensitive and difficult subject. He would not, for example, comment on whether he believes Israeli actions aimed at halting the violence will be effective.

However, he made clear in response to questions that the United States has no plans to dispatch troops into the Middle East on a peacekeeping mission. "We know of no plan to use U.S. military people, and that's a fact," he said.

In his remarks, Mr. Rumsfeld accused Iran and Syria of involvement in shipping weapons to Palestinian groups. As for Iraq, he said, the government of Saddam Hussein is offering money to the families of suicide bombers.