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GWEN IFILL: The first stop on Rumsfeld’s trip today: Old Gulf War ally, Saudi Arabia. On the agenda: Access for the U.S. Military– to bases for U.S. troops, and to intelligence gathering throughout the region. En route to Saudi Arabia last night, Rumsfeld suggested this intelligence may be the key to the new war.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I really believe that before it’s over, it’s not going to be a cruise missile or bomber that’s going to be the determining factor.
It’s going to be a strap of information from some person in some country that’s been repressed by a dictatorial regime that’s been sponsoring a terrorist organization that’s going to provide the kind of information that’s going to enable us to pull this network up by its roots and end it.
GWEN IFILL: The nations Rumsfeld will visit– Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Uzbekistan– have all said they would support a U.S. Military response to the September 11 attacks, but with varying levels of enthusiasm.
The Pentagon reports that the U.S has 30,000 troops stationed in and around Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon says two aircraft carriers and 350 combat aircraft are also now stationed in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. A third carrier is on the way. Since the end of 1991 war, American pilots based in Saudi and other regional air bases have patrolled the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq.
Washington has said it expects similar cooperation this time around, but the specifics remain unclear. Still, the State Department has been publicly optimistic about the prospects of Saudi cooperation.
SPOKESMAN: They share the same loathing for what’s occurred in New York and the Pentagon on September 11 and I don’t think they’ll be found wanting.
GWEN IFILL: Rumsfeld will also visit Oman, where 24,000 British troops are already in place for previously planned military exercises. U.S. warplanes are there as well. Also on the itinerary: Egypt, an old U.S. ally, but one whose leaders have sent mixed signals about this new coalition. President Hosni Mubarak openly supports the U.S. campaign, but he also faces growing anti-American sentiment among Islamic militants at home.
Rumsfeld will come closest to Afghanistan when he visits the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. The two nations share a 125-mile border. Uzbekistan has offered the U.S. access to airspace and logistical support. Published reports say the Pentagon is sending military personnel to Uzbekistan to join local forces there, and that the U.S. will minimize its use of bases in Pakistan, another Afghan neighbor.