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Remarks Following Discussions With King Mohamed VI of Morocco and an Exchange With Reporters

April 23, 2002

President Bush. It's my honor to welcome His Majesty the King of Morocco to the Oval Office. We've had a really good discussion about a number of matters. No question that Morocco is a great friend of the United States of America, and for that, Your Majesty, we are very grateful. I appreciate your steadfast support when it comes to the war on terror. I appreciate your leadership in the region.

Today I've informed His Majesty that our Government will work to enact a free trade agreement with Morocco. It's in our Nation's interest that we do so. His Majesty believes it's in his nation's interest that we have a free trade agreement as well.

To this end, it's very important that the United States Senate act on free trade, to give me the trade promotion authority, as well as to work on an extension of the Andean Trade Preference Act. Trade is an important part of good foreign policy; it's an important part of making sure Americans can find jobs. And the Senate needs to act, and it needs to act now.

We will continue our discussions over lunch. I look forward to those discussions. His Majesty brings a lot of knowledge, a lot of vision, and it's my honor to welcome him here to the Oval Office.

Your Majesty.

King Mohamed. Thank you. Well, as I told you, I will ask that—[inaudible]—to translate me. It will be easier for me and safer for you. [Laughter]

[At this point, King Mohamed spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows.]

His Majesty wishes to thank you, Mr. President, for the words you have just expressed about Morocco and words which honor His Majesty personally, the royal family, as well as the entire Moroccan people.

We are honored for—with the relations we have enjoyed so far with the United States. But I think it's time that we have to shift the gear to go on higher speed. And we have also—we are determined to carry out all kinds of programs dealing with our cooperation, our collaboration, all fields.

With respect to terrorism, Mr. President, we are also determined to go ahead with you in fighting terrorism. And this is something of concern to Morocco as much as it's of concern to the United States and all the democratic people in the world.

With respect to the free trade zone which you have just announced, Mr. President, I would like to thank you and to tell you how much we appreciate this initiative coming from yourself, Mr. President, and from the United States. We will work closely with your collaborators, in particular, Mr. Zoellick, who I have met twice and who will be visiting Morocco together with his colleagues. We will work very closely with them in order to bring about the concretization of this great program of cooperation and friendship between the United States and Morocco.

His Majesty wishes, Mr. President, to praise the efforts you personally make, and your administration, to promote peace and understanding in the world. He wishes also to thank and to praise Mr. Secretary of State Colin Powell for what he has done so far and especially the effort he just deployed lately and the visit in the region of which we are beginning to see the results.

And His Majesty wishes that the Secretary of State would have recovered by now from the trauma he has had when he first met with His Majesty in Agadir. [Laughter]

And I would like to thank also Mrs. Tutwiler for the excellent work she has been doing since she arrived to Morocco.

Situation in the Middle East

President Bush. Thank you, Your Majesty. We'll answer a couple of questions, or I will. Barry [Barry Schweid, Associated Press].

Q. Mr. President, on that trip, the Secretary came home with an Israeli idea, but others said similar things, for an international peace conference. And since he's been home, the White House reaction seems to be a little lukewarm. Is that something you think is a viable idea, a foreign ministers conference, perhaps?

President Bush. Well, what's first important to know, that our Government means what we say, and we said that the only way for there to be lasting peace is for there to be two states living side by side, at peace with each other; and secondly, that in order to achieve that vision, all parties have responsibilities. The Arab world has responsibilities, and we will work with them to delineate those responsibilities and to encourage them to accept those responsibilities. Mr. Arafat has got responsibilities, and that is not only to renounce terrorism but to fight terror. Mr. Sharon has got responsibilities, and that is to continue his withdrawal.

There is a strategy in place. We're analyzing all options to help achieve this vision. And I look forward to visiting with His Majesty about ideas such as a conference. The key is, however, for the leaders of the world to work toward that vision by assuming, accepting, and acting on the responsibilities necessary to achieve peace.

Holland [Steve Holland, Reuters], are you here?

Q. [Inaudible]

President Bush. Who? Oh, there he is. There you are, sorry.

Resignation of Karen Hughes

Q. Mr. President, are you concerned that the long hours and the pressure of working in this building will drive away more people, like Karen Hughes? And would you be here without her?

President Bush. Well, first of all, Your Majesty, one of my close friends and adviser has informed the White House today that she is moving back to Texas. And the reason why is, is because her husband and son will be happier in Texas, and she had put her family ahead of her service to my Government. And I am extremely grateful for that approach and that priority. And Karen Hughes will be changing her address, but she will still be in my inner circle. I value her judgment, and I will have her judgment. I value her advice; I have her advice. And I value her friendship, and I will have her friendship.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, President Bush referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. King Mohamed referred to Robert B. Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative; and Margaret Tutwiler, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With King Mohamed VI of Morocco and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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