Kuwait — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday dismissed claims by the Iraqi government that it has no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and is making no effort to acquire them.
"They are lying," he told a news conference at Kuwait's international airport before flying to Bahrain.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad issued a statement Sunday asserting the government of Saddam Hussein has neither made nor possessed weapons of mass destruction in more than a decade.
"Iraq has said on many occasions that it is not concerned with entering the mass destruction weapons club. ... We left it in 1991," the official statement said.
Rumsfeld said the Iraqi claim cannot be trusted.
"It is false, not true, inaccurate and typical," the defense secretary said, adding that Iraq remains a destabilizing factor in the Gulf region.
"They have had an active program to develop nuclear weapons," Rumsfeld said. "It's also clear they are actively developing biological weapons" and used chemical weapons against their own Kurdish population in the 1980s.
Rumsfeld met Monday with senior Kuwaiti government officials, including Defense Minister Sheik Jabir al-Mubarak. He said they discussed Iraqi violations of the United Nations resolutions that Baghdad agreed to live up to as a condition of ending the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He said they discussed "the way ahead" in the global war on terrorism but not potential military actions against Iraq.
A reporter asked Rumsfeld what he thought of Iraq's recent pledge to respect Kuwait's sovereignty and to restore full relations with the Kuwaiti government. He said that accepting Iraq's word of good intentions toward Kuwait "would be like the lion inviting the chicken to embrace."
"What good, in the past, have Iraqi representations of goodwill to its neighbors been? Precious little," he said. "Should hope spring eternal? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the risks."
Rumsfeld also said he invited Kuwaiti government representatives to meet with a dozen Kuwaitis who are among the more than 300 Taliban or al-Qaida fighters captured in Afghanistan and held prisoner at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
Rumsfeld told reporters the Kuwaitis' meeting at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would have two purposes: to glean additional intelligence from the prisoners and to determine "if there is any law enforcement interest" in them.
It marked the first time Rumsfeld has publicly acknowledged the nationality of any Arabs held at Guantanamo Bay and specified how many of any specific nationality are imprisoned.
On Sunday at Kuwait's Camp Doha, a desert encampment 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the Iraqi border, Rumsfeld told American troops that state sponsors of terrorism must be punished.
Without mentioning Iraq by name, Rumsfeld said the soldiers are on the front lines against a dangerous foe.
"You are the people who stand between freedom and fear, between our people and a dangerous adversary that cannot be appeased, cannot be ignored and cannot be allowed to win," he told about 1,000 troops assembled in an air-conditioned gymnasium on a 110-degree Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) afternoon Sunday.
Rumsfeld left little doubt he was aiming his words at Iraq, which he often says is among nations that support international terrorist groups and could help them gain access to weapons of mass destruction.
These states, he said, "do need to be stopped so that they cannot threaten or hold free people hostage to blackmail or terror."
He again alluded to Iraq in describing the ultimate goal of U.S. President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.
"It will not end until state sponsors of terror are made to understand that abetting terrorism is unacceptable and will have deadly consequences for the regimes that do so," Rumsfeld said.
Camp Doha, where Rumsfeld addressed the troops, is a sprawling military base that Kuwait turned over to U.S. forces after they evicted Iraq's occupation army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It is home to about 2,000 U.S. troops.
Later this week, Rumsfeld is scheduled to travel to India and Pakistan to continue Bush administration efforts to persuade the nuclear-armed neighbors to defuse military tensions over Kashmir.