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Rumsfeld Thanks European Countries for Iraq War Support - 2003-06-10

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he expects remnants of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's forces to continue attacking U.S. troops for months, but he says they will ultimately be rooted out.

The purpose of Mr. Rumsfeld's trip is to thank European countries that supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq and to ask for more help in keeping the peace there.

He says the United States is talking to about three dozen countries about assembling an international peacekeeping force for Iraq. But he acknowledges that, even after that force begins to arrive in September, there will be resistance from elements still loyal to Saddam Hussein.

One reason for that, says Mr. Rumsfeld, is that the U.S.-led coalition has failed to prove that Saddam Hussein is dead. That failure, he suggests, may be emboldening the fallen leader's loyalists to attack U.S. forces in Iraq.

Since President Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq on May 1, 29 U.S. soldiers have been killed in attacks.

The defense secretary spoke at a news conference in Portugal before flying to Albania. Both countries backed the U.S. position during the war, but did not send troops.

Albania has since deployed a small unit of non-combat troops to Iraq to help with post-war peacekeeping, and Portugal says it will send about 100 police there to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid.

From Albania, Mr. Rumsfeld makes a stop at an international studies center in Garmisch, Germany, that has close ties to the Pentagon. The center runs a school for mid-level officials from former Soviet-bloc countries that are either aligned with NATO or expect to join the alliance.

On Thursday and Friday, Mr. Rumsfeld attends a NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels as the alliance tries to put divisions over the Iraq war behind it and face up to new challenges in the future.

The Pentagon is planning a global realignment of forces that is expected to move U.S. troops out of big Cold War-era bases in Germany to other locations in Eastern Europe.

One top NATO official says those U.S plans are not officially on the ministers' agenda. He says they will concentrate on reorganizing NATO's command structure to make it more adaptable to 21st century challenges like terrorism and rogue states that harbor weapons of mass destruction.