of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Sultan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
October 3, 2001
11:30 P.M. EDT
SULTAN: -- The friendship established long ago between the United States and
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on frankness and serves the interests of
both the American and the Saudi people. As you know, your Excellency, this country
is a holy country. It is distinguished by having the two holy mosques and the
Qibla which is for all Muslims all over the world. Muslims direct their faces
to the Qibla five times a day. Hence, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership
and people are obliged to serve all Muslims and humanity all over the world
and to respect all the divine religions which came by messenger from the prophets
Moses, Jesus and Prophet Mohammed, may peace be upon them all. I would like
to state once again that we are friends, and our friendship leads to all good
things and benefits both our countries and also recognizes the divinity of service
of Muslim and Arabs and this has been the approach of the people of Saudi Arabia
throughout our history.
RUMSFELD: Your Royal Highness, may I on behalf of President Bush and the people
of the United States thank you for your hospitality and the privilege of meeting
with His Majesty King Fahd and the Crown Prince. This has been an important
day for us, to have the chance to be here to express our personal appreciation
to you for the sympathy that your government has offered concerning the tragic
events that took place in the United States. I've been to this country a number
of times over the years and benefited from the friendships and the relationships,
and I recognize the importance of the Kingdom's responsibility to the holy places.
Our delegation includes civilians and military personnel, people who have participated
with your country in important activities over the years, both civilian and
military. We are here of course at a time when President Bush is determined
to do what can humanly be done to deal with the problem of terrorism across
the globe. He has resolved to proceed in a measured and thoughtful way across
the broad front, doing what is possible to provide for the self-defense of the
United States and friends and allies and deployed forces across the globe. We
are grateful for the wonderful, spontaneous cooperation we have received from
so many nations, and for the expressions we have received from your country.
We thank you so much for your hospitality.
QUESTION: (Inaudible question about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process)
RUMSFELD: In response to the second question, President Bush made a statement
that the United States is very much in support of the Mitchell approach and
regards both President Bush and Secretary Powell and working with both sides
of the process attempting to bring them together and we're pleased that the
meeting took place between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the PLO representative
QUESTION: (Inaudible question about whether the U.S. intends to continue the fight
against terrorism beyond current concerns about bin Laden and the Taliban.)
RUMSFELD: First, the concern the United States has with respect to terrorism
and the devastating attack on the United States, goes well beyond the Taliban.
And as President Bush has indicated, we are anxious to have the support of countries
across the globe, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in any way and in any
aspect of the fight against terrorism that is appropriate for those countries.
As His Royal Highness said, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a long and
close relationship and we were deeply gratified when the spontaneous support
that came from the officials in this country and expressions of sympathy with
respect to the tragic loss of life in the United States.
QUESTION: I have a question for the Prince. The United States has asked organizations
to freeze or impound the funding of 27 organizations that are linked to bin
Laden. Saudi Arabia has not yet agreed to take this step. Will Saudi Arabia
agree to do this, and what specific military activities is your government prepared
to offer us? Will you allow the United States to have a combat air center here?
Will you allow the United States to fly bombing missions against the Taliban?
Will you allow the United States to board aircraft for refueling and other purposes?
SULTAN: First of all, I would like to stress that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
does not approve by any means and does not agree by any means to the support
of terrorism, terrorists or criminals in any way, and there is nobody in the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who funds such groups. And if we find them, we will
take all the necessary measures in that respect. As far as any request from
the United States for support or any support the Kingdom will be making, there
are no such requests presented by the United States at present. This matter
was not a point of discussion between the two sides. Thank you.
QUESTION: Concerning the suspects' list: the list of suspicious people included names
of Saudi people. The names kept changing on that list, and then some of those
names were mentioned on a pending list; some were deceased some time ago, and
some turned out to be alive. Most of the names that were mentioned on the list
were sons of well-known families in the Kingdom. For those who were called suspects
but were not actually suspects, and for those who had died long ago, you should
offer an apology.
RUMSFELD: I'll apologize, but I'm having trouble understanding the question.
I am not involved in the law enforcement aspect of the problem, so I am not
knowledgeable about specific names. It is my recollection, however, that in
some cases, people were using false passports. And that may have caused some
confusion on names, but I'm not aware of anyone who is due an apology. And that
may just be due to my lack of knowledge on the subject.
QUESTION: (Inaudible question about launching of attacks against Muslim people).
SULTAN: I would like to respond by saying that some of the press, the Arab,
Kuwaiti and international newspapers, gave some false reports. Some of the satellite
TV channels actually, were also reporting such information. What we need to
underscore here is that we have not received any requests from the United States
in this field and we did refuse all that was said in the press.
RUMSFELD: Even though the question was not to me, may I make a comment? There
is a portion of the question that talked about offensive attacks against Muslim
people. I think it is important for me to underscore the fact that the United
States of America is concerned about terrorists who go around murdering people
in large numbers, thousands of people in the United States and elsewhere on
this globe. This is not an issue of any religion, Muslim or otherwise, it is
not an issue of any country or any group of people, it has to do totally with
The United States has a large Muslim population and more come there every day,
every year, because they like living there and we like having them. The United
States has a record of shedding blood to move the Iraqis out of Kuwait, a Muslim
country. The United States assisted in Kosovo and Bosnia on behalf of Muslim
people. The United States has been assisting in humanitarian aid in Somalia.
This year before the attack, the United States gave something like 170 million
dollars in food aid to Muslims in Afghanistan. Now, it may serve some peoples'
purposes to try to equate an effort against terrorism on this globe as in some
way being against Muslim people, but that is false and untrue. And the propagation
of that nonsense only serves the terrorists.
QUESTION: (Inaudible question about launching strikes)
SULTAN: Given the chance, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cannot guarantee any country
in the world, and the United states cannot do so either, but I can say that
there is no suggestion for the United Nations to strike either an Arab or non-Arab
country, so --
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of Defense, did you give the Saudis a list of the terrorist
suspects in the attacks on the United States?
RUMSFELD: I am, as I said, not involved with the Federal Bureau of Investigation
that is conducting the investigation. It would have been on that basis that
those communications would have taken place and I have every reason to believe
that that relationship between our two countries is so close that any information
I am sure has been made available to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: Prince Sultan, have you expressed any concerns to Secretary Rumsfeld in your
meetings today about the possibility of U.S. military strikes on the Taliban?
And, if you have, could you share with us what some of those concerns were.
SULTAN: We did not actually discuss this matter with His Excellency because
we do not feel there are any specific strikes that are going to be taken against
the Taliban. At the same time, we believe that we cannot ask for things that
are beyond the things we can ask for.
SULTAN: First of all, our religion, Islam, is against terrorism, against criminals,
QUESTION: Has the United Sates taken into account the consequences of strikes in Afghanistan,
mainly because terrorism is not a country or something that can be destroyed
RUMSFELD: The answer is yes, we recognize that terrorism is not a country. Terrorist
networks exist in the world; we know that. Anyone who looks at Afghanistan and
sees the millions of people starving and suffering from drought and hostile
treatment by the Taliban, has to understand that there are any number of people
in Afghanistan who would love to see the al Qaeda network out of Afghanistan,
and many who would like to see the Taliban out of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Yes, can I just ask the next question? The U.S. is said to have solid information
that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are behind the terrorist attacks. Do you agree
with that intelligence and are you assisting the U.S. in helping to track down
SULTAN: Bin Laden has revealed himself as a criminal and a terrorist; he said
that he committed certain terrorist attacks. So we believe that he is a terrorist.
At the same time, for the Saudi people he does not represent the Saudi Arabian
people and we hope that our press does not repeat saying that he is a Saudi
citizen. He is not. He is a terrorist at any time and in any place.
QUESTION: (Inaudible question asking if Israel would join the coalition)
SULTAN: First of all, there is no such request that Israel joins the international
coalition. Second, the Arab answer is with the Arab leaders and the Arab League.
We have not been asked such a question, and we did not hear that Israel is requested
to be a part of the coalition to fight terrorism.