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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Pentagon Briefing

Aired November 4, 2002 - 13:20   ET

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

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We're live from the Pentagon right now. Activity over the skies of Iraq. Let's listen in to the briefing.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... which we understand that the president has not made a decision on military action...

(LAUGHTER)

... but the Saudi foreign minister said that even if the U.N. did support such action, that the Saudis would not provide basing rights or military support. Meanwhile, the Kuwaitis said that they would -- said yes that they would provide such support.

Do you think that that's the final word from the Saudis and, if it is, could the United States or a coalition launch a successful invasion of Iraq without Saudi military support?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: Well, I did not have a chance to see the foreign minister's statement, so I can't address that. And you're quite right: No decision has been made with respect to the use of force in Iraq.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship is one that has gone on for many, many decades. It's been very mutually beneficial. As you know, we have a good deal of interaction with them now in the Department of Defense. I don't know that what you quoted is necessarily a change in their policy, so I don't find it notable in any sense.

With respect to the rest of your question, sure, anything the president asks this department to do we'll be capable of doing.

QUESTION: Even without Saudi help?

RUMSFELD: I didn't say that. I said the way I wanted to say it because, first of all, even the quote you gave did not suggest there would be no Saudi help. It was fairly precise as to what it said. And I think I've been right for a year and a half in saying that it's best to let countries say what they want about what they do and how they do it rather than for me trying to recharacterize it or for me to respond to a question from you where you characterize something that was said.

We have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia and it's been mutually beneficial.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us about the car explosion that was reported today in Yemen? Were any U.S. forces involved in that? And have you learned anything about the aftermath of who was killed in that event?

RUMSFELD: I've seen the reports, and the discussion in one of the reports -- I didn't notice whose report it was, but it looked like a wire service report of something out of the region -- it said that Harifi might be involved, in which case, as I recall, he was, in fact, one of the people that is thought to have been involved with the USS Cole.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that to...

RUMSFELD: I have not.

And needless to say, he's been an individual that has been sought after as as Al Qaeda member, as well as a suspected terrorist connected to the USS Cole, so it would be a very good thing if he were out of business.

SAVIDGE: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, talking in a briefing, coming live from the Pentagon. He was talking about an explosion in Yemen that has killed, its believed, a top Al-Qaeda operative, and also talking about lukewarm support reportedly coming from Saudi Arabia for a U.S. attack on Iraq.

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