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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gives Press Conference

Aired January 20, 2003 - 06:05   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We are able to get the news conference now from General Richard Myers in Turkey, talking to us about U.S. troops possibly being stationed in Turkey.
Let's listen in to that.


GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: ... went from there to Italy, and from there, of course, here, to Turkey, partly to reciprocate a visit that General Uzkuk (ph) paid to the United States in early November, when he visited me and my staff, and had a chance to tour some facilities in the United States.

We had some very good meetings that started last night at dinner and continued through this morning with my counterpart, General Uzkuk (ph), and his senior staff members. And we also met with the minister of defense as well.

We've discussed a wide variety of issues that are important to the national security of both Turkey and the United States, and for that matter for the region. And it was also an opportunity to thank Turkey for the support that Turkey has provided for the overall war on terrorism that we all share the responsibility for together. So, we talked about that as well.

As you would expect with allies that have been allies for some time, we had very good discussions, very frank and open discussions, and it was a very good meeting. And now, we'll -- once we answer your questions, we'll get on the airplane and return back to the United States.

And so with that, we'll take some questions. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Has the lack of firm commitment from Turkey, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) military planning. But how has it affected U.S. military planning?

MYERS: The -- first of all, let me just set the stage. Clearly, there is no decision by the president of the United States that conflict is inevitable. We hear that from time to time. That's certainly not the case.

In terms of Turkey's work with us on trying to bring pressure on the Iraqi regime to do the right thing, as they're called upon to do under Security Council Resolution 1441, that's what this is all about. And Turkey has been a very cooperative partner in all this. I would expect them to be in the future as well. We discussed a lot of that, and I would never characterize it as I think as a lack of cooperation. Turkey has been very cooperative. I would let Turkey -- or the government of Turkey, the Turkish general staff, characterize the details of that cooperation.

QUESTION: General Myers, are you leaving (UNINTELLIGIBLE) decision about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) attacking Iraq.

MYERS: Well, again, let me just tell you where we are. This is -- we're not talking about an attack on Iraq. What we're talking about and what we've said over time is that the U.S. has been deploying forces to the region to put -- to help reinforce the diplomatic efforts that are working through the United Nations and other means to convince the Iraqi regime of our resolve that they must do what they're called upon to do under the U.N. Security Council resolution. That's what we're talking about.

I am leaving -- I am probably leaving (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like many Americans have done in the past, very sure of our strategic partnership and very sure of the vision that we both have in terms of what we want for the region, and that is peace and stability, neighbors that can live in harmony with others, a place where you can have economic prosperity. And that's what I'm leaving convinced of.

QUESTION: Can we expect any additional American ground troops stationed here in the near future? Has it been only a commitment? And what have been the results of these U.S. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) survey team inspecting some of those bases for this?

MYERS: The survey team is still conducting its mission. They will report out and debrief Turkish authorities. Any future commitment, I'm just not going to talk about, because that starts to get into operational plans. I would let the Turkish general staff, the Turkish government, again explain any of that.

There was a question over here.

QUESTION: There's still a lot of talk lately of either Saddam Hussein going into exile or a coup being arranged, an alternative to launching a war. How likely are any of those scenarios at this point, do you think?

MYERS: I don't know how likely. I will say that certainly nobody wants conflict, least of all those of us in uniform that have been associated with that. We understand the impact that could have. So, I don't think anybody in their right mind ever thinks about conflict as being the preferred alternative. Diplomacy is the preferred alternative. You mentioned a couple of potential scenarios. I don't think I can put a probability on those.

What the Iraqi regime was called to do under the U.N. Security Council resolution, of course, was to admit to the biological and chemical weapons and the nuclear program that it still had, and to make that declaration, and then to do away with those weapons. It's up to Iraq in the end of whether or not there is conflict, because our president said if it comes to the use of force to make that happen, we will. But that's not the preferred -- that's certainly not the preferred course.

One last question.

QUESTION: General Myers, members of the Bush administration have expressed impatience with the time that the Turkish government has taken to make a decision on whether or not it would help the United States in the event of a conflict. And I'm wondering, how did you convey that impatience and that feeling to the Turkish government?

MYERS: I think -- I would not agree that the U.S. government has conveyed to the Turkish government impatience. These are strategic partners that we're going to work through the many issues that we have, and I certainly wouldn't characterize it as impatience. And I'm leaving here with a sense that Turkey will continue to be a very important strategic partner for the United States. And any idea that I am impatient or that we made demands here is absolutely not the case. It was nothing of the sort.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) initiative (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is Iran, Syria and other countries neighboring Iraq.

MYERS: I think that's a serious initiative, and I think it could be very, very helpful as a matter of fact.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

COLLINS: You have been listening in to a news conference in Ankara, Turkey from the chairman of the Joints of Staff, General Richard Myers.

Our Jane Arraf is at that news conference, and we will be talking with her more about what that means for U.S. troops coming up in just a little while.


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