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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld Briefs Press

Aired January 19, 2003 - 08:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after a morning talk show. Let's listen.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... or heard of anything like that. So I really can't imagine what he might have been referring to.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Iraq, how much money do you think the Department of Defense would need to pay for a war with Iraq?

RUMSFELD: Well, the Office of Management and Budget has come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden and how much would be other countries is an open question. I think the way to put it into perspective is that the estimates as to what September 11 cost the United States of America ranges high up into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Now, another event in the United States that was like September 11, and which cost thousands of lives, but one that involved, for example, a biological weapon, would be -- would have a cost in human life as well as in billions -- hundreds of billions of dollars that would be vastly greater.

QUESTION: Do you consider the recent discovery of warheads to be a material breach of the U.N. resolution?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. I think that really the only way inspectors can find anything is if the Iraqi government cooperates and shows them to them. And people are looking at those warheads now. I think it's probably early to make a judgment about them. But I think what really is being tested is not whether something can be found, because inspectors can't find things. They can only inspect what they've been shown.

And the real test that's taking place is the issue as to whether or not the Iraqi regime is going to be cooperative with the United Nations. And thus far they've filed a false declaration of what they had. They have refused to provide the lists of scientists that they are required to provide so that the scientists can be taken out of the country and talked to in safety with their families. And won't be killed by Saddam Hussein, as he did kill his sons-in-law after they came back in the country.

So the real decision -- the process that's going on right now is not testing whether something can be found, it's testing the degree of cooperation that the Iraqi regime is going to show to the United Nations.

QUESTION: How long can you keep troops in the Persian Gulf (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

RUMSFELD: Oh, we'll be able to manage what we're doing in a way that supports the diplomacy, which is what we're doing now, and anything else the president may decide.

QUESTION: If the U.S. can't convince the U.N. are we willing to go it alone?

RUMSFELD: The president has, of course, already said that the goal is to see that the Iraqi regime is disarmed before they do any greater damage to the world than they've already done. And his first choice is to have it done peacefully. And that is why he went to the United Nations. The hope still remains that they'll cooperate. If they don't cooperate, the hope is that he'll leave the country, or that the people of the country will throw him out, and that a conflict and the use of force can be avoided.

The president has also said that if all of that fails, that he would be willing to lead a coalition of the willing countries, and there are a large number of countries that have already signed up to participate in such a coalition.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE), how prepared will the military be to fight a war with Iraq if need be by the end of January? That had been suggested earlier in the week.

RUMSFELD: There's no way to know if force will have to be used. There's not been a decision that force would be used. But in the event that that decision's made, the United States will be ready to do whatever the president asks.

QUESTION: The thousands of protesters yesterday and today, does that make a difference on (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, this is a wonderful country we have, and it's a free country. And we have a constitution that allows people to express themselves in a variety of ways. And that's fine. And there are people who demonstrate and speak out on all sides of all issues. And I think that's the American way.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more question (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Are there any updated attack plans as a contingency?

RUMSFELD: The United States always maintains contingency plans for a variety of contingencies around the world. Noncombatant evacuations, possible attacks from other countries, these types of things. That's what the Pentagon's there to do, is to plan and be prepared and try to deter and defend.

So I think you used the words "attack plans." We think of what we do as more contingency planning to be capable of deterring hostile action against our country and our friends and allies and our forces. And in the event of hostile action against us, to be able to defend. Good to see you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld exiting one of the morning programs this morning. Didn't hear a lot of news in there, quite frankly. Mostly a recitation of familiar administration stances vis-a-vis Iraq.

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