U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says if war is necessary against Iraq, the United States will lead a coalition that could be larger than the alliance in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Mr. Rumsfeld said that despite talk of a U.S. willingness to act against Iraq on its own, the United States has many allies willing to join a coalition to disarm Iraq. "It will be a very large coalition. It will be a coalition that I submit will very likely be as large, or larger than the coalition that existed in the [Persian] Gulf War," he said. "The United States will not go at it alone, it will go with many other countries."
Mr. Rumsfeld made his comments just hours after the U.N. Security Council held another round of debate on whether to allow inspections in Iraq to continue or to authorize military force.
The Secretary of Defense said many of Iraq's neighbors are deeply concerned about the reaction among their own population. Nonetheless, he says nearly every nation in the Gulf region privately supports U.S. led action against Iraq. "I have met with all of them," he said. "They live in the neighborhood, they know the threat that Saddam Hussein is, there is not any doubt in their minds. They would be foolish to stand up until a decision is made and they are absolutely confident that in six months from now, Saddam Hussein will not be there."
Mr. Rumsfeld made his remarks in New York after receiving an award at the USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier that now serves as a museum.
In his speech, Mr. Rumsfeld pledged that in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, the United States would apply the same guiding principles as in the campaign in Afghanistan, to "stay as long as necessary and leave as soon as possible." He said the United States does not aspire to run Iraq and would work with partner nations to help give the Iraqi people a voice in their new government.
Mr. Rumsfeld also discussed the threat of weapons of mass destruction, which he says, in the wrong hands, have the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people. He said in this new, post September 11 world, governments must prepare for the worst and think in unconventional terms.
When asked about the threat posed by North Korea, Mr. Rumsfeld said he is sure Pyongyang would sell its nuclear material. He said the United States estimates that North Korea already possesses one or two nuclear weapons and could produce nuclear material in the coming months for six to eight more nuclear bombs.