Rumsfeld in Saudi Arabia to discuss cut in US military presence
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss an expected reduction in the American military presence at bases in the kingdom.
Rumsfeld's aircraft landed at the Prince Sultan air base in the desert, where a high-tech U.S. command center was used to guide air operations in the war to oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
He was to hold a meeting with American pilots and crews and was expected to fly later to Riyadh for meetings with Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan and other leaders. The Pentagon is considering a sharp cut in troop numbers in the kingdom, moving its Combined Air Operations Center from Prince Sultan after Saudi Arabia refused to let U.S. aircraft based in the kingdom take part in strikes on Iraq.
Rumsfeld said no final decision had been made on moving the air operations command to Al Udeid air base in neighboring Qatar.
Asked about reports that the United States was contemplating a "pre-emptive strike" against Syria, Rumsfeld said: "We have no hidden agenda. In the US with our free press for whatever reason we can't hide anything, even things we try to hide."
Rumsfeld said Syria had sent "busloads of fighters into Iraq with weapons and money" and had allowed senior Iraqi officials to flee.
"When you are at war, you don't like a neighbour sending fighters or weapons into the country to kill coalition forces. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable position," Rumsfeld said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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