Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz today received visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. During the meeting, they discussed the latest regional developments including the issue of Iraq and the necessity of preserving Iraq’s security, unity, independence and territorial integrity. They also discussed the issue of Palestine and the importance of accelerating implementation of the 'road map'.
Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz also held talks with the visiting U.S. official. At a joint press conference, they both confirmed that the ending of the mission of U.S. forces in the Kingdom does not reflect any difference between the two countries, since the sole aim of the mission was implementation of United Nations resolutions. Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out that the region has become more secure after the regime change in Iraq, and that U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia are leaving my mutual agreement. Prince Sultan affirmed that the Kingdom had not requested the departure, but that since their mission is ended, there is no need for their further presence. The long-standing U.S. military training mission, however, is scheduled to remain, in order to provide Saudis with the latest information on military technology. Saudi-U.S. cooperation, he said, which goes back long before the 1990/91 Gulf war, will continue beyond the 2003 war in Iraq. In response to questions, Prince Sultan commented that Saudi Arabia would welcome the integration of a post-Saddam Iraq into the Gulf, Arab and Islamic arenas; and that he could not see any threat to Iraq from Iran.