Munich, Germany Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, defending the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to a skeptical international audience, said Saturday he was confident Saddam Hussein's removal eventually would spread "seeds of freedom" through the Middle East.
In a sign that prewar diplomatic rifts continue, however, Germany's foreign minister warned of "possibly fatal consequences" for NATO should the alliance take a direct role in Iraq's reconstruction. Russia's defense minister, whose government also opposed the war, said military force should be used only "within the realm" of international law.
Rumsfeld made an impassioned defense of the U.S. role in the world, contending that Arab television networks' coverage was contributing to the decline in America's image abroad by promoting the notion that Americans are imperialists.
"I know in my heart and my brain that America ain't what's wrong with the world," Rumsfeld told a German questioner after his speech.
"To the extent that that concept is promoted, as it is," Rumsfeld said, "only time will deal with that."
Rumsfeld asserted that the war showed other "rogue regimes" what could happen if they should refuse to come clean about disarming. He did not mention that inspectors had failed to find banned weapons in Iraq, a principal reason the Bush administration gave for invading last March.
The secretary suggested that Libya had an eye on what had happened to Iraq when the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, voluntarily ended his weapons ambitions in December.
"We may never know exactly why Saddam Hussein chose the destruction of his regime over peaceful disarmament," Rumsfeld said at the Munich Conference on Security Policy.