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Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One

June 08, 1990

Middle East

Q. Are you going to make a decision on the PLO, or have you made one?

The President. Well, we're discussing all of that. No decision has been made.

Q. Do you want to override the veto?

The President. Incidentally, I had a very interesting phone call from [Egyptian] President Mubarak just a few minutes ago. We discussed a wide array of subjects of interest to the Middle East, and both of us still committed to getting these peace talks going forward. And it's been complicated, as you know. But we're going to keep on trying. So, there's no answer to your question right now.

Q. Have you ascertained the responsibility for that attack?

The President. Well, I just said, I don't really want to say anything more about it now. I've expressed my outrage about the attack. And indeed, I'd like to -- maybe I could take this opportunity to express my outrage about all violence in the Middle East and in this troubled area of the world. But this one was horrendous. There was no rationale for it, other than, in my view, terror, and that is clearly something that is unacceptable to us. So, we're trying to figure out a little more about this and see where we go. But I'm not prepared to make an announcement of policy at this point.

Q. When you say the Middle East is more difficult -- --

The President. Well, everything there. Every time you get something started, why, there seems to be some outbreak. I'm still outraged by the holding of American hostages, and I understand that -- what is it -- Sutherland's -- --

Q. Five years.

The President. Five years as of tomorrow, or today.

Q. Terry Anderson.

The President. Well, Anderson -- no, but the other -- --

Q. Seven.

The President. Yes. And so, I have this on my mind all the time. All of these things have a way of coming together, but on this one, why, we just haven't made a final decision.

Q. How do you approach [Israeli Prime Minister] Shamir forming a right wing government?

The President. Well, that's an internal matter for Israel. But they know the policy of the United States. The policy of the United States is firm: that we want the peace talks to begin, to get going. After all, Shamir, to his credit, was one of the originators of this; Mubarak with his points helping, Jim Baker actively involved with both sides on this. So, it has to go forward, and that is the answer. And I'm not going to -- I mean, Israel can do what it wants in its government, and I'll work with whoever the country puts forth as the government. But they know the policy of the United States in terms of peace talks. So, we're going to stay -- --

Q. Is the peace process harder because of this, sir?

The President. Well, I'm not going to say that. Let's see. Maybe it will go forward, but I've read speculation on that. But I think it's not really officially done yet, either. So, we've got a little time there to see what happens. But the world is crying out for negotiations on this question. It's happening in many other places around the world, and it's essential that it go forward. So, we'll see what happens. We'll keep going on it.

But anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this swing through the Midwest. It's good to get out of Washington, DC.

Veto of Amtrak Bill

Q. How about the veto on the Amtrak? Do you think you can -- --

The President. I don't know. I think it's going to be very close in the Senate, and we'll see what happens.

Condoleezza Rice

Q. Have you gotten a report on the Condi Rice incident yet?

The President. Not yet, except I have great regret about it any time a staffer is handled in that nature. But I'm satisfied from what I do know about it that it was a big, big mistake. And nothing egregious -- or singling her out -- of any kind. But it's not good -- I mean, to treat staff people -- and I have great respect for the Secret Service and the way they do their job. But there was an excess here, and she understands it, and she understands how upset I've been with it. But we'll get to the bottom of it, and just make every effort to see there's no recurrence.

Cold War

Q. Gorbachev says the Cold War is over, sir. You just say it's the beginning of the end. Do you have a difference of opinion with him on that?

The President. I don't know. We've got a difference of semantics, don't we?

Q. Is the Cold War over?

The President. As I say, I don't know. We've got to wait and see how we resolve all these problems out here. There's plenty of them around. I felt that the summit moved in the right direction regarding that question.

Soviet-U.S. Relations

Q. Did Baker report any progress in the [Soviet Foreign Minister] Shevardnadze meeting?

The President. Yes, he did, as a matter of fact. I talked to him a couple of days ago, Lori [Lori Santos, United Press International]. I didn't talk to him yesterday. He'll be back tonight. I'm having this dinner for [West German Chancellor] Helmut Kohl, which will be interesting in the wake of the Baker trip. I think Jim will be -- if he can keep his eyes open, he'll be there.

Q. What kind of progress?

The President. Well, we'll wait and see. But I think he felt a certain degree of optimism. I'll tell you one thing, that all these leaders that I talked to around the world were very encouraged with what they thought happened at the summit and the tone of it. I just talked a few minutes ago with Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Michael Manley

Q. How is he feeling?

The President. Well, I don't know. He sounded pretty good, but I think he's been quite sick because they told me he was not routinely taking phone calls. But I was impressed with his spirit, certainly been impressed with what he's trying to do for his country. But my point is, he was very generous in his assessment of the summit from their standpoint, a small country in the Caribbean. But I'm afraid he's had some health difficulties, and he's -- mainly pulmonary at this point.

Soviet Union

Q. Gorbachev faces much more ethnic turmoil back there. Did he get into that with you?

The President. Yes, we talked about it. We talked about that, we talked about the federation -- the republic's problems, but he was determined to go back and lead. And I think there will be a meeting coming up soon of the republics, and that will be very interesting and hopefully productive. We want to see this evolution of democracy and freedom and openness inside the Soviet Union as well continue. And that's what's at stake here.

Q. Sir, could you foresee a solution where there would be a Soviet military enclave in Lithuania?

The President. I don't go to any hypothesis on something of that nature. Let's just hope the process continues, so that self-determination is fulfilled. That's our aspirations. Really is -- comes back to freedom. Freedom. Choice. But we can't fine-tune all the individual decisions that they might work out -- with agreements they might work out with each other. It's not our role.

Terrorist Raid in Israel

Q. Sir, are you disappointed that the PLO has not spoken out following that attack?

The President. I would like to see Mr. Arafat [Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization] speak out. One of the members of the PLO council spoke out very strongly against it. But I'd certainly like to see Arafat speak out and denounce it because part of our discussions and dialog was predicated on the renunciation of terror. In my view, this is sheer terror. So, I'd like to see that happen.

Q. But you're not ready to assign responsibility?

The President. I'd like to see that happen.

Note: The exchange took place shortly after 10:40 a.m. en route to Omaha, NE. An early question referred to a terrorist raid on an Israeli beach on May 30, and a later question referred to an incident in which a Secret Service agent reportedly shoved Condoleezza Rice, a Director of European and Soviet Affairs for the National Security Council, while she was attending the departure ceremony for President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

George Bush, Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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