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Rumsfeld Stakeout Following Briefing of Senators

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 3:41 p.m. EST

(Press stakeout following briefing of U.S. Senators on Iraq in the Senate Crypt, The Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us about your meeting with the members?

Rumsfeld: Well, it started and it ended, and it was a good one. There were a lot of important questions, and we had a good discussion. General Pace and I made practically no opening remarks and simply answered questions for -- I don't know what it was -- better than an hour.

Q: Did it focus around the price tag on the war, or around post- Saddam Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Both of those were discussed, and the situation in the United Nations. And we discussed Afghanistan and President Karzai's visit; the provincial reconstruction teams that we're developing for Afghanistan, and which -- two of which are deployed; one is deployed tomorrow, and others are in the works.

Q: Can you talk about the price tag for this war, I mean the $95 billion reported today? And how are you going to ask for that from Congress?

Rumsfeld: The -- first of all, no decision has been made by the president to use force. The hope still is that force wouldn't be necessary; that Iraq would cooperate or that Saddam Hussein would leave the country, recognizing that the time had come.

In the event force has to be used, it's not knowable how long it would last, what kinds of weapons would be used, how many other countries would be participating, although there are a large number of countries that have indicated they would be participating. And cost would be a function of what it cost minus what other countries provided. So there are so many variables, to pretend that someone can even marginally usefully speculate on that when no decision has been made is obviously not, I don't think, a very useful exercise.

Q: With people moving into place to become human shields now, what are you telling them? And would they be ultimately charged with --

Rumsfeld: It's a war crime.

Q: They'd be charged with war crimes?

Rumsfeld: It is a war crime to use human shields.

Q: But they are voluntarily putting themselves in that position. What do you say to those people?

Rumsfeld: Well it's clear that people who put themselves in dangerous positions put themselves in dangerous positions.

Q: If we do attack Iraq, would that have any impact on the targets, where these people are?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'd want to suggest that. I think that -- then all you would have to do, if you were Iraq, would be to take a human shield and put them on all your weapons of mass destruction locations and all the places you didn't want somebody to hit, obviously.

Q: Do you think that there's a possibility that our -- that the U.S. policy regarding assassinations of foreign leaders will change?

Rumsfeld: Not to my knowledge. I've never heard it discussed in that context.

Q: If we were to get near enough to Saddam Hussein -- if the U.S. Army, our U.S. military -

Rumsfeld: I've never heard that subject discussed in -- that there's any plan at all to change the policy. That's just not something that I've ever heard.

Thank you.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

ENDS


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