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World Patience with Iraq Nearing End, Says Rumsfeld - 2003-02-07

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says momentum is building for possible military operations to make Iraq give up its weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Rumsfeld spoke in Rome, after meeting with top Italian government officials.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the international community has made all possible attempts to disarm Iraq, but it has failed. He said the patience of the world is running out. "I think the world feels a sense of momentum," he said. "It's been a long road, 12 years. We've seen enormous efforts by the international community of a diplomatic nature, and they have failed. And not only did the diplomatic efforts fail to get Saddam Hussein to cooperate and disarm himself of the weapons of mass destruction, but so too the economic sanctions and the so-called oil-for-food program has failed to get him to cooperate."

The U.S. defense secretary added that limited military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq has also failed to get Saddam Hussein to comply with the demands made by the United Nations.

Mr. Rumsfeld said that, while the debate in Europe and the international community on the use of force against Iraq is healthy, the world must be aware that the weapons in Saddam Hussein's possession are very dangerous, and could fall into the hands of terrorists. "The weapons that are available today to terrorist states and terrorist networks can kill, not simply hundreds, or thousands, but tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the world is dealing with a dictatorial regime, which has chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and is capable of using them. He said the risk of not acting could be vastly greater than the risk of acting.

The U.S. defense secretary met in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Defense Minister Antonio Martino. Mr. Rumsfeld thanked Italy for its support in the war against terrorism. Mr. Martino said Italy agrees with the United States on Iraq, adding that the credibility of the United Nations must be safeguarded.

Mr. Rumsfeld also visited U.S. troops at Aviano airbase in northern Italy. He was then due to fly to Munich for an annual security policy conference of European and Asian defense officials.