Joint Press Conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (Excerpts)

February 22, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you afraid that threats by U.S. legislators to block this deal on the ports with the United Arab Emirates is Arab bashing and are you afraid it could undermine what you're trying to do in the region? Are you concerned that the UAE could retaliate by blocking U.S. naval bases and access to ports or withholding cooperation in the war on terror?

And Mr. Foreign Minister, Secretary Rice and the U.S. say that Iran's nuclear program is a threat to the whole region, destabilizing the region, if you take into account its support for terrorist groups and its interference in Iraq and Lebanon. Do you agree that Iraq is -- excuse me, that Iran is trying to destabilize the region and do you support U.S. calls to further isolate Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Elise, how many questions were in there?

On the question of the port, the President spoke to this yesterday. This was a process that was very thorough concerning the questions of security. Whenever there is a proposal by a foreign company to be involved in or to purchase an asset that has security concerns for the United States, there's a very thorough process of vetting that deal. And that thorough process was carried out. Experts were asked and there was agreement that this was a sale that could go forward with absolute -- with security for the United States unimpaired.

We have to maintain a principle that it doesn't matter where in the world one of these purchases is coming from; if it meets the standard of meeting the security standard that we need to meet, then it ought to go through. And that should be the case if it is from Great Britain or if it is from Germany or if it is from the UAE.

And so as the President said, we shouldn't want to turn down a deal of this kind just because it happens to originate in the Middle East. The UAE is a good partner in the war on terrorism. It has been a stalwart partner and we believe that this is a deal, a port deal that serves the interests of the United States, serves our security interest and serves the commercial interest as well.

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Iran is an important and large country in the area and it certainly has its responsibilities for the stability and security of the region. It is a country that we hope will work towards carrying those responsibilities to their fullest.

In this regard, we think -- and this is our thinking -- that there is no proof here that they are producing atomic weapons. They deny this. They have denied it many times to us. They say they need the technology for its own purposes and there are accusations that are being -- we are being told about that they are, they're in the process of developing atomic weapons. We hope -- we ardently hope -- that they would follow our policy and the policy of the GCC of making the Middle East an area free of atomic weapons. That is the more stable policy, the more effective policy and the more peaceful policy. And we hope that they will play the role of a stabilizing country in the region and not a country that would add to the already volatile situation in the Middle East.

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