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George W. Bush: Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
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George W. Bush
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
November 26, 2002
The White House: Office of the Press Secretary
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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:40 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. The President this morning called President-elect Lucio Gutierrez of Ecuador and congratulated him on his electoral victory on Sunday, November 24th. The President expressed support for Ecuadoran democracy and said he looked forward to meeting the new President and working with him on a host of issues, including counter-narcotics and the importance of trade.

Then the President proceeded to have his intelligence briefing, FBI briefing. He signed into law the job-creating Terrorism Insurance Act of 2002. And then, this afternoon in the Rose Garden, the President looks forward to pardoning the first female turkey ever pardoned in the White House National Thanksgiving turkey celebration. (Laughter.)

Other announcements -- the President will meet with President Emomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan at the White House on December 9th. And the President will also welcome President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova to the White House on December 17th.

With that, I'm happy to take your questions.

Q: Ari, we talked about this earlier. As you know, there was a report in The Washington Post today that talked about an NSC working group looking at the possibility of giving an ultimatum to Saudi Arabia to assure that they do more in terms of tracking funding for terrorists. Where exactly is the administration? Do you believe an ultimatum is something that may be necessary?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes that Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in the war against terrorism. But even a good partner like Saudi Arabia can do more in the war against terrorism. And that involves the financial front, diplomatic front, et cetera. But I want to reiterate, the President thinks Saudi Arabia has been a good partner, and like many around the world, the President will continue to push nations to do more.

The National Security Council, at a working group level which is not even yet risen up to the point of making recommendations even to a deputy level, has been meeting and working on different ideas that individuals may have about how to continue the war on terrorism, and to make every effort around the world to fight the war on terrorism, including the financial front. I'm not going to characterize any of the work that they are doing in terms of specific recommendations, or not. The President will continue to use every diplomatic channel to push for action by Saudi Arabia and other nations so they continue to do everything that can be done to defeat terrorism.

Q: Well, is the working group just focusing on Saudi Arabia, are they -- and why would it require then, if Saudi Arabia is a "good partner," that there needs to be sort of this level of attention focused at them in terms of what they may be doing?

MR. FLEISCHER: They are looking at a broad number of countries. This is a worldwide fight against terrorism, including on the financial side of it. I think it's important to look, just as the President described the war on terrorism is going to take considerable amount of time and would not be like other wars, in the financial front, much of the low-lying fruit has already been picked, both in the Western nations and around the world. What remains now, just like the efforts to bring people into custody and to arrest individuals, is a slow, methodical fight, because the easier fights have all been waged and now the terrorists have gone underground, they are hiding, they're doing better at trying to hide their money in places where Western banks are not able to use the sophisticated resources of Western technology to find money trails. And so the money and the individuals hide deeper.

No matter where they hide, no matter how hard they try to hide, this government will work with other governments to bring them to justice. And that's something the President has made repeatedly clear. And so as the fight goes along, the efforts go along with it.

Q: So you're saying that the Saudi government could do more. There seems to be a level of frustration --

MR. FLEISCHER: No.

Q: -- on a lower level that you are not expressing when there is at least a discussion about an ultimatum, about trying to get the Saudis to crack down on these wealthy individuals who do contribute money to these causes.

MR. FLEISCHER: What was the name of the individual who said something about an ultimatum?

Q: I said an individual.

MR. FLEISCHER: But what was his name? Who speaking for this administration said it?

Q: Not the point, Ari.

MR. FLEISCHER: My point is that whether or not there is one anonymous quote from somebody who didn't even put their name behind it, or not, the point is that this President is working around the globe in concert with our allies -- and Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terrorism -- to push every nation around the globe to do more. We, as the United States, continue to push to do more in the war on terrorism because it's a long war. And as we adopt one tactic, we have wily enemies who change their tactics to get around the new tactics that we employ.

So, yes, we will continue to push nations around the world to do more. We will continue to push America to do more. But the President thinks that Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in the war on terrorism and they are a good partner who can do more.

Q: -- they could do more, in other words?

MR. FLEISCHER: Every nation around the world can do more. And that includes Saudi Arabia.

Q: But, specifically the Saudis.

MR. FLEISCHER: That includes Saudi Arabia.

Q: What is the theory behind making the Millennium Challenge Corporation separate than the Agency for International Development? And part two, how does that fit into smaller government which is part of the President's agenda?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, on March 14th, if you remember, the President called for a new compact for global development that focused on accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. The President wanted to have a focus on aid that would reward countries and provide greater contributions as incentives to countries that follow transparency, rule of law, vigorously fought corruption, so that aid programs would not pour money into nations where the money didn't go to the people who needed it, and went instead to rulers of those countries.

Q: But why make it separate from the Agency of International Development or State Department?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because this is intended to accelerate development in those countries that receive international assistance and to encourage best practices, as I indicated, in government corruption and increasing transparency. It's not a substitute for other development assistance. Our levels of aid have not changed. But we believe this is a way of enhancing the existing institutions to provide development assistance on -- a formula around the world to create greater incentives for nations around the world to combat corruption and to have transparency.

It's a new approach, a fresh approach to providing aid. There are many people around the world who are in need who need assistance, and it's always healthy to take a look at America's assistance programs and make them the most effective for the taxpayers, as well as for people around the world who depend on the United States to grow.

Q: You say the President believes Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in the war against terrorism. How so? What do you point to specifically?

MR. FLEISCHER: Saudi Arabia has been, indeed, helpful. In fighting the financial war against terrorism, on helping arrest terrorism, on the information sharing, Saudi Arabia has been a good partner. Saudi Arabia has been the subject of terrorist attacks, and Saudi Arabia has worked well with us. But as I indicate, there will always, in the long war on terror, work with our allies in a cooperative fashion so we can together do more.

Q: And terrorism financing, obviously, a key front in this war, you've been at it now for more than a year. What's the assessment? How significant is the source of terrorism financing from Saudi Arabia?

MR. FLEISCHER: There are individuals on all corners of the world, just as there's al Qaeda on all the corners of the world, who continue to try to find ways around the systems we have set up so they can fund terrorism. And we will continue to engage in -- we take action, they take counteraction; we take action, they take counteraction. It's a war. And they change their tactics.

Q: How much of it comes from Saudi Arabia --

MR. FLEISCHER: I've not seen any numbers that quantify --

Q: A lot? A little?

MR. FLEISCHER: I've not seen any estimates that quantify whether it's one nation, another nation, et cetera. But it's individuals. It's not a question of the nation.

Q: Well, but a lot of individuals in a nation might be contributing --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's why I was indicating I've not seen any estimates of individuals within a nation.

Q: And finally, if Saudi Arabia, or any country, doesn't step up to the plate, what are the consequences, what happens?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the consequences are that terrorists will start to gain advantages that we will not let the terrorists gain. And that is why it's in the interests of all nations, as the President has called on them, to recognize that they could be next. This is a global war against terrorism, and the consequences are that the terrorists will seek to exploit weakness. And that's why we work closely with our allies, including Saudi Arabia, to make certain that terrorists can't find areas of weakness.

Q: So the President would not in any way, aside from arguing that all nations could suffer from terrorism, use any diplomatic or financial muscle to convince Saudi Arabia to do more?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, to fight the financial war against terror, particularly in nations that don't have the same banking systems as some of the Western nations, where there are many more cash transactions and underground economies and other less stringent provisions that are in place, where front groups may, for example, be able to form, the only way to get at that is in cooperation with governments. And the President, as a very effective diplomat, believes that you get more cooperation of governments by working directly with them, stating your principles clearly and with moral clarity, calling on them to take every action to fight terrorism, and helping them to do so.

And especially when you're dealing with an ally like Saudi Arabia, that can be done from a position of friendship to get them working with us so we can all do more together.

Q: When President Bush and Putin met last week, did President Putin share any intelligence regarding his -- to back up his assertions of Saudi role in terrorist financing? And what was the President's response to those charges by Putin?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, he did not provide any intelligence. And I was asked earlier if the question of Osama bin Laden came up in the private meeting, and his name did not come up in the private meeting. I think the President's reaction to what President Putin said at the news conference is just as I indicated last week when I was asked that question. This is similar to what the President has said about every nation's responsibility to fight the war on terrorism on the political front, the diplomatic front, the financial front, the military front, as necessary. The President shares those thoughts.

Q: Ari, the essence of this story seems to be that the United States is providing specific names to the Saudi government or names of specific charities that they want checked out, closed down, investigated, arrested. Separate and apart from whether or not this is coming out of a working group within the NSC or elsewhere in the government, are you aware right now of any such lists of names as being prepared for delivery, or has been delivered to the Saudis?

MR. FLEISCHER: In the context of that story, no, I am not aware. I do not know. But, of course, we do have information-sharing with a number of governments around the world. And that's why we can together help to fight the war on terror.

Q: Outside of the context of that story, are you aware --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's why I can make the generic statement to you, which is, I think obvious, that when you have information-sharing between nations, you share information that can lead to the arrest of individuals, which we've successfully done as you now know in several high profile cases in the Middle East; or when it comes to the financial war, sharing information that could lead to the freezing of more assets or making it a more difficult path for assets to flow. So that comes from information sharing.

Q: Let me try at it another way. This morning, as you've been trying to figure out what is going on here, have you been made aware of any lists of Saudi individuals or charities?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the more I look into the very specifics of that story, as opposed to the overall direction of it, the less I can find.

Q: I have two questions for you. One, yesterday the President signed the Homeland Security bill, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and Christmas is around the corner. But there is no consumer confidence and still a terrorism concern -- we are living in fear of terrorism. Any time anything can happen. And also small businesses are suffering at the highest levels. So what the President is going to offer?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think I heard you say there is no consumer confidence. That's interesting because just this morning new surveys of consumer confidence came out indicating consumer confidence increased this month, which is change from several months of behavior.

In addition, an estimate came out of the third quarter gross domestic product today indicating the economy grew at a very healthy and strong 4 percent rate, as opposed to the 3 percent rate that was projected for the third quarter. So the economic picture remains mixed. There are pockets of growth in the economy. But there are areas of concern in the economy. And the President looks forward to working with Congress to address those concerns.

Q: Another question, if I may. When I was in Kashmir just a recent -- during my recent trip -- I just came back and I have visited these places, the temples in Kashmir. And some people told me that the terrorism will not stop unless the U.S. really push harder on Musharraf to stop it. And there's -- and now there's a new government in Kashmir. In three days there were three bombs and scores of innocent people were killed at the temples and in a bus. So how -- what President Bush is doing really to -- because we keep hearing that we have been pushing General Musharraf. But not enough.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the problems in Kashmir are, of course, very longstanding in their nature. And the President remains committed to working with both India and Pakistan to reduce the level of violence and to fight terrorism wherever it occurs. And he will continue to do that.

Q: A couple more on the Saudis. There are officials at Treasury and at Justice who say on a number of occasions that information has been passed on to the Saudis in which they have been asked to do things -- as David was saying, freeze assets, investigate people, close down charities or businesses -- in which the Saudis have not acted immediately and said that they dispute the findings of the United States government. Are those inaccurate statements from people at those departments?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I can't -- I'm not in a position to evaluate any one individual case unless you can give me the facts and specifics of the individual case. And I'll try to get more information from Justice or Treasury or the investigators to determine in the individual matter.

Q: You're not aware of any cases like that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can talk about the broad policy of it, which is that, as I indicated -- this is from the President -- the President believes that Saudi Arabia is a good partner in the war on terrorism. And they are a good partner who can and should do more with us so we can together fight terrorism. And that's a message that is repeated to many nations around the world, not just to Saudi Arabia.

Q: So we are aware now that there is a working-level group, staff group in the White House and other agencies that is debating the possibility of a number of potential sanctions against Saudi Arabia -- one, this ultimatum; others, communications through the ambassador, other steps the administration could take. The President and his principals are certainly aware of this debate. Has the President or any of the principals -- Dr. Rice, Secretary O'Neill, Secretary Powell -- have they taken any steps to shut this process down if they don't think that it might be necessary down the road to have sanctions?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the process is a very healthy one where people are working on ideas and recommendations, a variety of different things, not just the question of sanctions. But there's other ways to work well with our friends and allies so we can do more together through cooperation, not just sanction. And so whatever it is that working groups work on, once they reach conclusions, which this working group has not, at that point it moves up through the system to the deputies' level, to the principals' level, and only after to the President. So I think it's fair to say that a working group is doing precisely what they should be doing. They are working on a variety of options, none of which have yet been considered.

Q: But the President doesn't like people to waste their time. He would not have a working group debating potential sanctions against a country you've described as a good partner if he didn't think it was at least a remote possibility that down the line he might need a list of possible sanctions.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I don't think you can assume that you know everything the working group was working on. And so you keep limiting it to sanctions. There are a great many things that working groups work on to work in concert with our allies.

Q: So why don't you tell us about the working group, what its mission is, and who takes part so that we get the specifics of the story?

MR. FLEISCHER: As you can imagine, the National Security Council has a number of experts in a variety of issues, not only at the NSC, but they work at their agency, on a host of issues related to all kinds of actions around the world -- diplomacy, et cetera. They coordinate with State. They coordinate with Treasury. They coordinate with Justice, depending on the relevant information, the type of issue that they're involved in. These groups vary in size. And this particular one, I don't know the exact size of it. And they are working on --

Q: Specifically on Saudi Arabia? Specifically on terrorism issues? Which working group was it?

Q: Does it have a name?

Q: Does it have a name?

MR. FLEISCHER: To the best of my knowledge, it's on just the financial aspects of the war on terrorism. And it's not limited to any one country.

Q: Is it working -- and it was formed post-September 11th? Has it been in existence for two years? For two months?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me see if I can find out a little bit more specifically because, as you know, prior to September 11th, and prior to this administration, the issue of financing of terrorism has been something the American government has dealt with.

Q: Question on Iraq. Ari, the working inspectors have now been on the ground for a little bit of time in Baghdad. I wonder if, out of all that we've seen come out of Baghdad since the U.N. resolution was adopted, you have -- and since, perhaps, the Iraqis signaled their acceptance of the terms of that resolution, I wonder if there's been anything that we've seen out of Iraq that has led the President at all to change his view or modify his view that Saddam Hussein is not likely to comply with the resolution. Does he still believe that, based on everything we've seen since they got on the ground?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing that we've seen out of Iraq that changes the President's thinking about Iraq and the serious threat they make to world peace.

Q: And their likelihood of compliance?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we will find out. I don't think the President is interested in guessing. I think the President is interested in actually seeing.

Q: The other question I had was about the 9/11 Commission that he's going to create with a stroke of his pen tomorrow. Will that commission have the mandate, or the right, shall we say, to interview anybody in the Bush administration if they decide that person's testimony is needed, including the President?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's fair to say that the protocols and the exact procedures that they undertake are going to be decided in a bipartisan manner by this commission. I don't think the commission itself knows quite yet exactly who they're going to talk to, what they're going go do. Typically, for these commission they get formed, they get up to speed, they take a couple of months to hire staff, et cetera. And then they try to figure out exactly what road map they're going to follow.

In all cases we are going to be -- that we welcome the commission. The President looks forward to signing it. The right thing to do is get to the bottom of all the circumstances that led to the September 11th attacks and to see how we can strengthen and improve the United States' ability to protect our country, and to look at aviation, to look at borders, to look at customs, to look at intelligence, to look at all items behind what took place. And that's what this administration is dedicated to doing.

Q: Can you conceive of any lines in the sand, evidentiary-wise that they would not be allowed to look at certain kinds of documents or interview certain kinds of officials?

MR. FLEISCHER: We look forward to a bipartisan commission. And that's the important thing for the country. I think the last thing the country wants is for a 9/11 commission to get off on a partisan start when it's so important to this nation that everybody puts politics aside when it comes to looking into 9/11 and work together.

Q: Ari, last week Presidents Bush and Putin issued a joint statement in which they vowed for the two countries to work more closely together on energy and oil issues.

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.

Q: I wonder if you can give us a sense of the course -- the conversations that the two leaders had on the oil issue, specifically. And in fact, just going forward, what would this mean -- anticipate some other contracts or deals in the works that this might be coming up in the next couple of months?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President and President Putin met for approximately an hour and a half in St. Petersburg. And the beginning of the discussion focused on the bilateral relations. And they focused specifically on energy, on export issues. And in the energy sector, as you know, there was an important meeting that took place in Houston that involved Russian energy experts meeting with American energy experts. And Secretary Evans has been very involved. He has traveled to Russia to further progress in energy development in Russia.

Russia is an increasing energy producer. Russia has increased its exports of both oil and natural gas not only to Western Europe, but to around the world as a result of the findings they are making in Russia and their increased development capacity. This is good for the world. The fact that Russia is going to be able to increase supply is good for diversification supply around the world. And it also underscores the need for the United States to make certain that we do everything we can to increase our own supplies because the President believes in energy independence at the same he welcomes efforts around the world to diversify supply.

So we look forward to continue cooperation with Russia. And one of the things the President stressed in terms of Russia now has a commodity and a product that much of the world, particularly when it comes to natural gas that Western Europe wants, the President stressed to President Putin the greatest prospects Russia will have to export this product is through reliable developments of law.

So that the trading partners of Russia know that they're dealing with a reliable partner who will have laws that can be understood and allow people to go in and make reasonable investments and get reasonable return without worrying about the laws being overturned or changed on the drop of a dime. That creates a favorable investment climate. So transparency and rule of law are very important to the future of Russia.

Q: -- made reference to specific involvement of a deep-water port in Russia for energy exports. Do you know, was that discussed between the two --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, it would be discussed at the Secretary level, but did not get discussed between the two Presidents.

Q: Ari, shortly before the President went to Russia he gave an interview with Russian TV -- NTV in Moscow -- in which he said he was aware of Russia's substantial economic and financial interests in the law, and that those interests would be honored. First of all, did that issue come up in the Bush-Putin meeting, issue of Russian economic interest in Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: What was addressed in the course of the meeting is the President's belief that Russia and the rest of the world would benefit from an Iraq in the future that is a partner and not a threat.

Q: But specifically, did the issue of Russian economic interest, the $8 billion Soviet --

MR. FLEISCHER: It came up in the context of what I just said. It came up in the context of the President saying that the world would benefit, including Russia, from an Iraq that is a partner, not a threat.

Q: Did President Putin respond to that? Did he raise any issues, concerns of his own in that regard?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, that was about the extent of that conversation.

Q: What precisely did the President mean when he said Russian economic interests would be honored? Can you put some flesh on those bones for us? In what way will they be honored?

MR. FLEISCHER: Iraq currently isn't honoring anybody's economic interest because Iraq is under sanctions as a result of Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction, and their violations of the commitments they made as a sovereign nation to end the Gulf War. And the world responded by saying, we will punish you economically as a result of sanctions. There are sanctions that have been imposed through the United Nations on Iraq. And many nations have, and had, economic issues with Iraq that sanctions have affected. And these nations haven't forgotten about these issues that were between those nations.

The President's point is that the world benefits when Iraq behaves the way we expect nations to behave around the world, which is peacefully, and as a result of engaging in peaceful behavior, the people of Iraq will be better off because their economic life will be improved, and that improves trade with other nations.

Q: So once those sanctions are lifted, are you saying -- what exactly are you saying? Are you saying that the Russian oil contracts that they've signed --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's no level of specificity to it. I don't think anybody can predict what the future will be with that level of specificity. This is why what the President has said is that with world will benefit when Iraq is a partner and not a threat.

Q: Russia has very specific financial interest in Iraq. It's not general at all, it's very specific.

MR. FLEISCHER: The specifics didn't come up, Ken.

Q: Ari, back on the Saudis for a moment. Concerning all the revelations of the past few days, isn't this a logical time for the United States to be putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to, as you say, do more about terrorism?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I want to make this clear. The President believes Saudi Arabia is a good partner in the war on terrorism. And we will work with Saudi Arabia to help them to do more, because when Saudi Arabia does more, it benefits all of us. And that's the message that the President carries.

Q: Does the relationship with the Saudis, particularly our need for bases there, our dependency on oil, does that prevent the United States from taking strong action if, indeed, it turns out that there are Saudis who are financing -- obviously, we had the story over the weekend that drew some questions. Does our relationship prevent us from taking strong action?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I don't think it does. I think the United States continues to urge all nations around the world to do everything in their power to fight the war on terror. And that is a constant message that the President and his diplomats stress in dealing with these nations around the world, regardless of what other issues are involved in the relationship between the United States and sovereign countries.

Q: Regarding Iraq, does the White House expect to provide compensation to the Israeli government should they hold of on responding in the event of an attack, another attack, if there is a military confrontation?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me share with you something that took place this week -- and this is not directly related to compensation in the event of attack. We have a relationship with Israel that, regardless of the circumstances about whether Israel is attacked or not, is a strong relationship, one in which the President has a deep and abiding interest in. Israeli officials were here this week and they met with senior White

House officials. They described the economic impact of Israel of the ongoing war on terrorism which is currently underway in Israel, as well as the impact of continued uncertainty in the region. In this context, the officials indicated that Israel is preparing a proposal for assistance. And the United States, with this long-term commitment we have to Israel's security, prosperity, and economic development, is putting together a team to address with the Israelis their economic situation.

In this meeting, no commitments were made to a specific level of assistance, but we are cognizant of the economic conditions in Israel, and we want to work with Israeli authorities on this issue. And, of course, any decision that would be made on this would be subject to congressional approval.

Q: Now, is the President's father --

MR. FLEISCHER: We'll come back, Terry --

Q: Can I follow on that --

MR. FLEISCHER: We've got a lot of people with their hands up who might want to follow on it. We'll come back.

Q: What if they don't?

Q: And switch subjects?

MR. FLEISCHER: Do a mind meld with Terry so --

Q: I can't. He's too far away.

MR. FLEISCHER: We'll come back, Terry.

Q: In his comments this morning, the President said he was working with the Congress on that growth and jobs package next year. Does making the tax cuts permanent constitute a jobs and growth package, or are there more specifics he'd like to see done to stimulate the economy?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think there is no question from an economic point of view, given the fact that the economy was in recession for the first three quarters of 2001, and after the tax cut was passed and people got their $300 rebates, the economy started coming out of the recession -- after that period of time and after the economic stimulus was provided in the form of that tax cut, it gave a boost to the economy which helped create jobs. There's no question that tax cuts are stimulative to the economy and create jobs.

And the President does think that it is right and it is fair for tax cuts to be permanent. After all, why, after the marriage penalty was removed from a couple would anybody want to reimpose it?

Q: What other steps can he take in this jobs and growth package --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President, if he has anything further to say on it, will share it, about what specific ideas he may have in mind. I'm not going to prejudge what the President may ultimately conclude. But the President is thinking about a number of options, and if he has something to conclude he'll share it.

Q: So you're saying that making the tax cuts permanent would constitute a jobs and growth package?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not indicating to you that that will or will not be something that the President may or may not propose. But I am saying, from an economic point of view, there's no question that tax cuts stimulate the economy and stimulate growth.

Q: Ari, can I go back to the U.N. weapons inspectors? Tomorrow they're going to be actually doing the first of their inspections. Is there any message to the inspectors? Is there any message to the Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President's message to both the inspectors and the Iraqis is that the Iraqis need to disarm for the sake of peace. And the President is pleased that the United Nations has passed a strong resolution that will allow the inspectors to have more tools to do their jobs to verify that Saddam Hussein has disarmed. Iraq has until December 8th to list the weapons of mass destruction for the United Nations Security Council resolution, and after December 8th that will begin a process where we will find out whether the Iraqis told the truth or not. So they have this date that is approaching. After that date a process begins. And the President wants to make certain that process leads to two things -- one, the truth, and the truth must lead to disarmament.

Q: They're actually going to be beginning some visits, at least starting tomorrow. I guess what I'm looking for is, what happens? What happens the first time -- you guys have made no secret of the fact that you expect that as sure as the sunrise, inspectors are going to show up at the gate of someplace and be given the run-around. What happens then?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President expects so that the world can know that Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction, the President expects for Saddam Hussein to allow the inspectors unlimited, unfettered access, any time, anywhere, to any site. And he hopes the inspectors will take their responsibilities very seriously, and he knows they will, to find out whether or not Iraq has indeed disarmed. And the President thinks this is a healthy process.

Q: What happens if tomorrow the very first inspector goes in and doesn't get the cooperation he needs?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said he has a policy of zero tolerance, and Saddam Hussein will have to figure out exactly what zero tolerance means.

Q: Ari, The Washington Post has recently reported that the President is opposed to partial-birth abortion, and in the same article it noted "many antiabortion activists believe there are two key preliminary steps to overturning Roe v. Wade -- establish that a fetus is a human being, and get more conservative judges appointed, particularly to the Supreme Court." And my question is, does the President support repeal of Roe v. Wade because he believes a fertilized egg is a human being and a citizen?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes we need to welcome a culture of life into America that respects life and honors life. And on the two specific issues I want to point out that on both -- you mentioned one specific, partial-birth abortion, as well as another issue that involved penalties for killing pregnant women. Both those measures passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. And the President supports that, as well.

Q: But does he support a repeal of Roe v. Wade?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes we need to welcome a culture that -- create a culture that welcomes life.

Q: What about Roe?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?

Q: What about Roe?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President is pro-life, and that is his position, and it goes back to the campaign.

Q: Ari, page one of The Washington Times reports our new ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, announcing in Mexico City that the Bush administration wants to give amnesty to thousands of illegal Mexican aliens who are now in the United States. And my question is, why does the President so encourage law-breaking by Mexicans, and Haitians, who have not received such amnesty that I'm aware of, as well as some of the 911 terrorists? And wouldn't it be a good idea to recruit, train and deputize the Citizens Border Patrol Militia of Arizona, the American Border Patrol of California, and the Texas Ranch Rescue? (Laughter.) There's three of them out there, Ari. And we -- they still come across the border by the thousands.

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, I think I have your question, Mr. Kinsolving. One, I don't think you've accurately characterized what Mr. Garza has said. But in terms of --

Q: I was just quoting.

MR. FLEISCHER: But in terms of what the President has said, the President believes that immigrants enrich our culture and make America a better and stronger country.

Q: Illegal --

MR. FLEISCHER: And he wants to make certain that immigration is done the right way, that it is done legally. And we look forward to continuing to work with Mexico on this important topic.

Go ahead.

Q: Ari, Secretary of State Powell warns Pakistan of consequences if it continues to help North Korea with its nuclear program. What consequences -- if they are continuing?

MR. FLEISCHER: And I think if you take a look what the Secretary said, he also made clear that it is not continuing. And he did not define what that would be. We will continue to work, press that message with Pakistan, as well as other nations around the world about the importance of making certain they do not take any steps that could destabilize that region.

Q: Ari, back on Saudi Arabia. How can a country that was the home to most of the 9/11 hijackers and has continued to allegedly be the source of money for terrorist groups be called a good partner in the war on terrorism?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the fact that many of the hijackers came from that nation cannot and should not be read to be an indictment of the country. It is also possible they were picked for that mission because the people who picked them thought it could be used as a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

And Saudi Arabia has taken numerous steps of assistance in the war on terrorism, including their work with Pakistan, the cutting off of relations with Taliban in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the fact that they are the ones who themselves expelled Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in that sense.

The President, however, continues to say that Saudi Arabia, our good partner, can do more. And we want to work with them to help them to do more. And that's the way the President approaches this.

Q: How would you characterize his latest level -- his level of concern on the latest allegations involving a possible link to the embassy itself here, in terms of financial ties to --

MR. FLEISCHER: The President knows that that is a matter that is being investigated. And he doesn't offer opinions about matters that are under investigation. He lets the investigators do their work and come to their conclusions.

Q: As part of a growth and jobs package next year, is the administration contemplating any change in international tax policy? Specifically Glenn Hubbard, from the Council of Economic Advisors, earlier this week suggested that the United States businesses are put at a competitive disadvantage under our current worldwide system of taxes and we should consider more territorial --

MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's too soon to say, Paula. At the time that the budget is submitted to the Congress early next year, there will be a chapter in there that has revenue provisions, per the Treasury Department. And many of those will get worked up through Treasury and discussed with the White House. But this is November and I think it's too soon to say.

Q: Do you believe the current international tax policy that the United States has adopted puts us at a competitive disadvantage and should be changed?

MR. FLEISCHER: International tax law is probably one of the most complicated of all the complicated tax laws there are. It's not a topic that I've discussed directly with the President. I know that there's a group of economists and others who have strong thoughts about our nation's foreign tax laws. But since I haven't talked about it with the President, I don't think I could evaluate it.

Q: Ari, in terms of the growth and jobs package, is the White House factoring into its calculations the possibility that, in fact, the current trajectory of the economy might outstrip the need for that kind of a package?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, these are the types of judgments that always have to get weighed. And as the President said, the economy is growing, but it's not growing as fast as he would like. He will continue to evaluate all the data that comes in, in terms of what can affect growth and the long-term growth, and make judgments based on that, to help people to find jobs and to keep the economy growing at a strong rate. I want to keep moving because there are a bunch of --

MR. MCCLELLAN: We have a turkey pardon.

MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, yes. All right --

Q: Does he have in mind --

MR. FLEISCHER: We are going to make this -- I'm sorry. Terry is going to get the last question because we've got a presidential event in five minutes.

Q: Does he have in mind a specific solution for the economy?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President does not.

Q: And just -- who is on this team that's going to address the Iraqi -- or the Israeli aid request?

MR. FLEISCHER: This will be done through the National Security Council and the State Department.

Q: All right. And then the President has called now for months for a halt to all settlement activities. His father denied loan guarantees to Israel on that condition, paid a very high political price for it. Is this President willing to do that, as well?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President will look at the totality of our relations with Israel on making any judgments and determinations that he makes.

Q: It's not going to have linkage to settlements?

MR. FLEISCHER: We've got a presidential event.

END 2:19 P.M. EST



Citation: George W. Bush: "Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer," November 26, 2002. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=47455.
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