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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine, Following a Meeting With Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada

August 27, 1990

The President. Let me simply say that, once again, Prime Minister Mulroney and I have had a very good discussion -- talked about bilateral matters, but also, obviously, about the situation regarding Iraq.

And Canada, a member of the Security Council, has been not only in a role of leadership there but side by side with the United States and others. I told the Prime Minister that I'm very grateful for Canada's position. As we all know, they've contributed to this -- I believe it's now 22-nation -- international force, both on the land and Canada's participation on the sea -- ours also -- as well as land. And so, we're very grateful to them.

And once again, as I say, we've had very fruitful discussions. And Prime Minister, welcome back to what -- when this was divined -- was to be a purely social event because we want to once again welcome Brian Mulroney and his wonderful family here. But we have some of that, but we also have had an opportunity to discuss in-depth world events.

Welcome, sir, and the floor is yours until we go to the questions.

The Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr. President. We've had, and will continue a little later on, some excellent discussions, both in regard to bilateral problems which are in the process of clearing up -- somewhat like the weather, although we have some important matters on our plate -- but also, principally, the matter in Iraq.

I, along with all members of the government of Canada and the people of Canada, were pleased -- very pleased -- with the decision of the United Nations Security Council to provide what I believe is quite unprecedented leadership. Certainly one of the most important days of the United Nations since its foundation have been the series of resolutions in respect of Iraq, where the United Nations as one -- Security Council -- dealt effectively and well with a rogue leader who sought to annex another nation and believed that he could conduct himself with impunity, both vis-a-vis his Arab neighbors and the world.

And the world turned against him in a quite extraordinary manner. And that is to the credit of the United Nations and those who -- pursuant to the lead of the United States under President Bush -- like-minded nations who participated in what we believe is a very important initiative to curb aggression in the Middle East.

And so, I'm happy to have this opportunity to review some very important matters with the President, thank him again for his hospitality. And I would be happy to take whatever questions come my way.

The President. Maybe we could set some ground rules here. What we did last time was to alternate the questions, and if that's agreeable with everybody, as it seems to be, why, we'll go ahead.

You're the guest.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Prime Minister, if I could start by asking you whether there was some discussion of the conditions under which Canada's military presence in the Middle East might be enlarged?

The Prime Minister. No. We believe that our contribution for the moment is adequate, but as the Minister of Defense has indicated in the past, we haven't ruled out or ruled in anything else either. We are firmly resolved to resist the aggression and to join with our friends and allies in pursuit of that objective. But we seek, obviously, a peaceful resolution of this; and we're very pleased with the initiatives that may hold some promise from the Secretary-General of the United Nations [Javier Perez de Cuellar de la Guerra]. And the President and I have had an opportunity to touch on that briefly.

Q. Mr. President, aren't you concerned, by the action that you took today against the Iraqi Embassy [expulsion of Iraqi diplomats from the United States], that you're increasing the tension and lessening the possibilities for a diplomatic solution and you're also possibly giving the Iraqis more of a rationale to take harsher action against our own diplomats and the hostages?

The President. No, I'm not concerned about that at all. This is an action that others are taking. Nobody will be held against their will. They're all free to go. In essence, we're kind of keeping some reasonable parallelism in terms of numbers. So, I don't think there's any chance for any misunderstanding on that account.

Q. Can I ask you, just to follow up, Mr. President: You said a couple of weeks ago that you didn't really see much prospect at the time for a diplomatic solution. Has that changed? Do you see more hope now?

The President. Well, I don't particularly see more hope now because it's so clear what the world is demanding of Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq]. Clearly the objectives remain the same: Get out of Kuwait and restore the rightful leaders to their place. But the Secretary-General, I understand, will be meeting with Foreign Minister of Iraq [Tariq `Aziz] -- I think it's in Amman, Jordan. I haven't talked to him yet. I have a call in to him and will probably get him. But the U.N. mandate is so clear and, on the other hand, Saddam Hussein has been so resistant to complying with international law that I don't yet see fruitful negotiations.

But the Secretary-General, knowing the U.N. mandate, is a very good man. And I might add, parenthetically, the Prime Minister and I both did talk about this, and we both agree that the U.N. has perhaps demonstrated its finest in recent actions. So, if Perez de Cuellar, an old friend of mine, wants to go forward and try to find some way to get the U.N. action complied with, so much the better.

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, in light of the U.S. decision today, would Canada consider similar action in expelling Iraqi diplomats or nationals from Canada or taking any sort of action against them?

The Prime Minister. We are going to -- this is a time-honored diplomatic practice, and if it applies to Canada, we won't hesitate to take remedial action. What you have is an abuse of -- one of the most fundamental privileges of democratic and civilized nations is, namely, to be represented in another's country without our representatives being harassed or intimidated or assaulted. Those assaults can take place in many ways, and we have to make sure that the fundamental rule of international law is respected. So, if there is a requirement for us to do so in Canada with our own Ambassadors and our own representatives, we will exercise reciprocity.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any assurances or will you seek any assurances from Perez de Cuellar not to try to negotiate something beyond the U.N. sanctions -- cut a deal that may undercut the sanctions themselves?

The President. It's inconceivable to me that the Secretary-General, an experienced diplomat, a good leader, would do that. I think it would be gratuitous for me to discuss that with him. He knows what the United Nations has done. He knows how unanimous the support has been for resolution after resolution. So, it's inconceivable to me that he would not have that message. He's a very sound man. Actually, as Brian Mulroney reminded me, he had a very useful role, I believe, in between Iran and Iraq. But, no, I wouldn't give any gratuitous advice of that nature. It's so clear; it's so obvious.

Q. Is there a danger once you go down this path of negotiations on one day and small peace offerings the next that this thing could be dragged out and world resolve will crumble?

The President. No. I've never seen the world community so closely aligned against this man. Somebody asked me the other day at a press conference here -- Saddam Hussein said he'd like to talk. We have a Charge there [Joseph C. Wilson IV, U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Baghdad, Iraq], a very able person. He could go talk to him, have his people talk to him.

So, I'm not saying we're not going to talk. But what, clearly, world opinion is saying and what the United Nations has said and what is now codified in international law is: Out, Saddam Hussein, Iraqi, out of Kuwait, and restore the leaders! But you have to talk to get there. But that doesn't mean there is to be compromise. Clearly, we would oppose any compromise on these fundamental principles that have been laid down by the United Nations.

Conflict Between the Mohawks and the Canadian Governments

[At this point, a question was asked and answered in French, and a translation was not provided.]

Q. Aren't you afraid, sir, there could be a bloodbath if the army goes in to take down the barricades?

The Prime Minister. The laws of Canada have to apply to all citizens equally. I indicated yesterday that the Government of Canada and the Government of the Province of Quebec had demonstrated what I thought was quite exceptional patience. And yet, in the end, the laws of a civilized nation must apply to us all. There can't be a double standard. They apply to all of us.

Persian Gulf Conflict

Q. Mr. President, President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union called on Arabs today to display their ability to consolidate very quickly to increase their presence in this conflict to avoid actual armed confrontation. He said it would be necessary for them to do that. Do you agree with that? is the first question -- do you agree that they have to interject themselves more forcefully into this?

The President. I think the Arab world has been responsibly united in opposition to Saddam Hussein's aggression. I did not see that particular comment by President Gorbachev; but since you've invoked his name, let me simply say I've been very pleased with the way the Soviets, for their part, have conducted themselves at the United Nations and elsewhere. But I didn't see that, so I can't comment. But I would simply say that I think both the Prime Minister and I are very pleased that a number of Arab countries have joined in the position that we've talked about here. And indeed, it's only a tiny minority that is in opposition.

And so, I keep coming back -- it is not as Saddam Hussein is trying to make it: the Arab world against the United States. It is the United States and most of the Arab world and Canada and other countries against this outrageous aggression. We've got to keep saying that so there will be no erosion -- the erosion that Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News] asked about. But it's true, and everyone knows it's true.

Q. Have you talked with President Gorbachev or do you plan to, if not?

The President. I haven't talked to him recently. As you know, the Secretary of State has been in very close contact with [Soviet] Foreign Minister Shevardnadze.

Q. Mr. Mulroney, can you say exactly how many Canadians are trapped in Iraq and Kuwait, and why you won't call them hostages, as George Bush does?

The Prime Minister. Well, I've indicated that President Bush has information and circumstances that quite appropriately allow him to describe American citizens held the way they are in the manner in which he has. There are large numbers of Canadian nationals being held -- I think the third largest number of foreigners held in Kuwait and in and around Baghdad. And we have not yet the kind of information that would allow me to apply that word to the Canadian citizens being detained. Which is not to suggest that it couldn't happen tomorrow, and it certainly is not to suggest that it shouldn't have happened at all.

It's quite an achievement when a leader of a state in 1990 can make himself a pariah not only with leaders around the world but with his immediate Arab neighbors. That's quite a piece of work to be able to do that all in a short period of time. And to provoke what is an extraordinary response of leadership by the United Nations and the allies in such a short period of time is in itself another good piece of work -- among the finest in the United Nations since its foundation.

President's Schedule

Q. President Bush, you've decided this morning to go back to Washington for 2 1/2 days. Some people consider that some kind of concession to the need to be in Washington during the crisis. Why shouldn't they think that?

The President. Think what?

Q. That the need to go back to Washington for 2 1/2 days, a need to be in Washington -- why shouldn't people believe that's some kind of concession on your part, to be in Washington at a time you need to handle a crisis instead of here?

The President. Well, I was in Washington -- what was it -- a week ago -- --

Q. Why are you going back to Washington for 2 1/2 days?

The President. Well, we've got -- wait until you see the schedule we've got back there.

Q. Well, tell us about it.

The President. A wide array of meetings. And they're all -- some of them have nothing to do with the Iraq situation. We've got budget discussions that are going to take place. I'll be talking about our energy requirements there. And it just seemed easier to accommodate others than rather bring all the people with whom I'll be meeting up here. So, you'll see as the schedule develops that it's, in my view, good; and I expect to get back here as soon as possible.

Q. The stories say that you're not enjoying this vacation. You don't look like it's any fun.

The President. Well, Ann [Ann Compton, ABC News], that's not true. Tied into four enormous bluefish today, having struck out earlier this morning, starting at 5:15 a.m. I've been able to keep in very close touch, and of course, we're making a lot of international phone calls that you wouldn't normally expect at the time of a vacation. But I've got a good team, and they've been supportive. A lot of them have been up here. And then I've been able to conduct international meetings of some importance up here. And again, I'm grateful, very grateful, that a meeting that was scheduled as pure R and R with Prime Minister Mulroney has turned out to be extraordinarily substantive.

So, I see people making these comments, but we're on top of the situation. I think the American people understand that. And when you see the schedule that works out over the next 2 1/2 days, I think it will be clear that it is wise to conduct that business there. I might have encouraged everyone to come here, but it seemed to be better to go down there, as we did last week. It's a mixture. But have I enjoyed this vacation? A lot of things about it I have, yes.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, how would you describe your policy for ousting Saddam Hussein right now, as of this moment? Would it be fair to describe it as wait and see?

The President. No. My policy is to do everything we can, working with other nations, to enforce the sanctions. We have moved forces, considerable forces, and I hope that that has safeguarded Saudi Arabia, which in my view was clearly threatened when Saddam Hussein moved his forces south from Kuwait City. So, I think it is now: Get plenty of force in place -- we're still doing that. Enforce the United Nations sanctions rigorously -- and for the U.S., we will do that and encourage others to do it. And that's about where we are right now.

Q. You were very effective, sir, in getting the U.N. to join in on this sea blockade. Are you now considering doing the same thing on an air interdiction policy?

The President. Well, I don't think there have been many examples of this net being penetrated, broken through, by air. But we have been talking to countries about not permitting overflight and tightening up in every way, all aspects of the economic sanctions that were called for by the United Nations.

Q. Prime Minister, have you discussed, the two of you, under what circumstances Canada could play a larger role in this? And, Mr. President, would you welcome a larger Canadian role?

The Prime Minister. We haven't discussed it, but I've indicated earlier that Canada hasn't added anything in or added it out. We will play it as circumstances develop. We think that our contribution is appropriate. As I said when I announced it, Canada is not a superpower. But we believe that we -- along with countries, for example, all the way to Australia -- have an obligation to stand with our friends and allies and resist aggression. And if more is required, the Government of Canada will consider that and make an appropriate decision. But for the moment, we're pleased with the leadership of the United Nations, very pleased with the skill of the President of the United States and the manner in which he has brought about quite a remarkable display of solidarity, both from our European partners and around the world.

I think that the achievement of the President, if I may say, in respect to the Arab world is certainly unprecedented in my memory. That this kind of action would be contemplated with the results of approval coming as strongly as they have from so many Arab nations is in itself a remarkable achievement of political leadership, and I think it's important to note that.

The President. Charles and Norm [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network, and Norman Sandler, United Press International], I've recognized both. So, if we can do, with your permission, those two; and then you take as many as you want. But I should do those. Marlin [Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President] is getting a little restless.

The Prime Minister. And I'm going for a swim.

Q. This is really a question for both of you, sir. For all this talk of unanimity, there seems to be divergences on tactics. You are content to use force. The Soviets say they won't use force to stop the blockade. You have hostages; Prime Minister Mulroney does not have hostages. Mrs. Thatcher doesn't think talking is such a good idea. Is there a divergence, and is it potentially undermining?

The President. I think any nuances of difference are so overwhelmed by the common ground that they are almost meaningless, is the way I view it. I mean, I think the thing of note is how together everybody is, not that there might be nuances of difference.

I don't know whether you want to -- --

The Prime Minister. Well, I've noticed the points that you make. If somebody had told you 2 years ago that this kind of crisis would emerge and the Soviet Union would repudiate Iraq and that the United Nations Security Council would stand in unanimous support of five resolutions and that you would see this kind of support emerge, as I say, from Canada to Australia, you would have bought him a ticket to the funny farm right away.

This is an historic achievement by the United Nations, by members of the alliance, and by the President of the United States. This is a remarkable achievement. There are few parallels for it, certainly, in modern history. But there are differences of opinion. Sure there are. You better believe it; they happen all the time. The story is not that. It's that there are so few of them and so modest in nature, given the profound dimensions of the challenge. There will be others ahead of us, and it's going to require this kind of cooperation and consultation to make sure that they all mesh together and that we try and bring about the end that is sought.

The President. Norm?

Q. Mr. President, if Saddam Hussein is in a box, as General Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs] said yesterday, are you willing to give him any way out short of unconditional surrender? Which is to say, if there are going to be negotiations, what's negotiable here?

The President. Well, certainly not the U.N. position. The position of the international law is not negotiable. I think that's what Prime Minister Thatcher was addressing herself to. I would agree with that. The United Nations has spoken -- country after country supporting the action taken by the Security Council. So, there's no room for compromise or negotiation on that point. But I don't think you should ever say you'll never talk about anything. But I'm not saying that there's any flexibility, is what your question is. And there is no flexibility on Iraq getting out of Kuwait and the rulers being permitted to come back to Kuwait.

Q. But is there any flexibility on the future composition of the Kuwait Government, which is to say -- --

The President. No.

Q. -- -- is the United States firmly committed now to restoring the Al Sabah family, to keeping that family in power?

The President. That's a matter for the Kuwaitis to decide. Of course, they should be restored. I suppose that you might say that's true of any country -- leadership, whether it's the United States or Iraq or Kuwait or anyplace else. But there's no compromise on the question of getting legitimate government back and getting the illegitimate invaders out. And so, that's where we stand. And I haven't heard one single country that has been supportive at the outset suggest that we should back off from the principle so clearly stated, certainly, by the United Nations and, hopefully, by the United States and Canada and many others.

Q. Mr. President, you've been pretty fortunate in that Congress has been on vacation all this time. Tomorrow aren't you opening a Pandora's box by meeting with 150 of them?

The President. Is that all that will be there, only 150 out of 450, 465, is it? No, what is it, 450? Look, the Congress, I think, has stayed in close touch. I'm very grateful to the leadership for the almost Vandenbergian support for the actions that we have taken. Indeed, in this case, differences have seemed to end at the water's edge. And so, if this briefing is helpful to them, and I hope it will be, so much the better. And I again might just take this opportunity to thank the leaders on both sides of the aisle for the support they've given us.

But I don't think there's any Pandora's box involved in briefing the Congress. They'll have an extensive briefing period, because not only will I brief them and tell them what's on my mind but I believe the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State -- and, Brent, I don't know if you're scheduled to brief or not -- but they'll have adequate briefing. And it is most understandable that they want to know what is going on and get up to speed on things. Some, indeed, will be going there. So, I welcome this, and I don't worry about any Pandora's box aspect of it at all.

You can always dig around and find somebody that will want to fine-tune it or have some little criticism. But look, the support has been overwhelming, and I think the American people see that. They know that this isn't a Republican or a Democrat policy, but it's the policy of their country. And to the credit of the Members of Congress, I think they have helped convey that.

Meeting of the Canadian Parliament

Q. Prime Minister Mulroney, why do you not see any need to recall Parliament, facing the situation in Oka and also in the Persian Gulf?

The Prime Minister. Well, I'd indicated that I'd be happy to recall Parliament if the government were of the view that it would be helpful and appropriate. We haven't arrived at that view yet, but should that change, I'll be happy to call the House back. Wouldn't hesitate at all.

Conflict Between the Mohawks and the Canadian Governments

Q. Prime Minister, is military intervention now the sole option of resolving the Oka situation?

The Prime Minister. Pardon me?

Q. Do you consider further military intervention as the sole option now to resolve the Oka situation?

The Prime Minister. All I've said is that we have negotiated now for some 46 or 47 days, demonstrated, I think, quite remarkable patience. And we've sought a negotiated settlement of this. And if the settlement is elusive and we are getting these demands at the table which can only be construed as bizarre, then obviously the law of Canada must be applied to all of us and will be applied to all of us in exactly the same way.

Thank you very much.

President's Dogs

The President. I'd like to just clear up one thing. And this is just if the Canadian press would drop all notebooks and not write this down and consider this off the record. This is just for the American press.

The other day our dog Ranger appeared at the press conference, and he was called "Millie." He's a strong male dog here, as you can see, and his feelings were slightly hurt. And some decreed that because Ranger looked so frisky that Millie was well -- calling Ranger "Millie." So, I'd like to clear it up as best I can. Knowing my way with the English language, I hope that's got it all clear for you guys. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 3:33 p.m. outside his home. In his remarks, the Prime Minister referred to a conflict between Mohawk Indians and the Quebec and Canadian Governments that began when police tried to remove barricades erected by the Indians to prevent commercial development of land they considered to be sacred. Prime Minister Mulroney and his family arrived in Kennebunkport at noon and returned to Canada the following day.

George Bush, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine, Following a Meeting With Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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