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Remarks Following Discussions With President Jacques Chirac of France and an Exchange With Reporters

November 06, 2001

President Bush. Good morning. It's my honor to welcome our close friend and my personal friend back to Washington, DC. President Chirac, thank you for being here, sir. We've had a good discussion about our common efforts to fight terror. I thank the French people, the French Government for their strong support. And I appreciate your help on the military front, Mr. President.

We recognize that our war against terror is more than just military action in Afghanistan, that we have an obligation to help feed the innocent people in Afghanistan, and that we've got to make sure that there is a post-Taliban government that reflects the values of both our countries. And so we had a good discussion and it's—I value the advice of the President. I value his friendship. And I'm so glad he came back to the country.

Mr. President, welcome.

President Chirac. Well, thank you, Mr. President. I must say, it's always a pleasure and a delight to be here and to be at your side. And I must say that I admire you. I admire your calm and your determination in the difficult circumstances that we have to face together.

The ultimate responsibility of any political official, be he head of state or head of government, is to ensure the safety of his people. And that is exactly what President Bush is doing, what I am doing, what all our colleagues are doing. And to ensure the safety of the people, we have to use all the tools at our disposal, the domestic tools and also the international tools. And by "international tool," of course, I refer to the eradication of the current terrorism.

In this spirit, we talked about the military operations, about French support, about the political actions that we must take to establish in Afghanistan all the trappings of a modern state, and also the urgent need for humanitarian aid, both for refugees and all the people of Afghanistan. And also, we mentioned the crises across the world, crises that can fuel terrorism. And of course, by that I mean that we mentioned, amongst other things, the Middle East and the need for the peace process to be restored there.

And on all these issues, I wanted to contribute a few thoughts in the general debate, and that is what I did. And I'd like to thank him for welcoming me here.

President Bush. We'll take a couple of questions. I'll take two; the President's agreed to take two, starting with Mr. Fournier [Ron Fournier, Associated Press].

Al Qaida and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Q. Sir, this morning you said that the terrorists—Al Qaida terrorists are seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Can you tell us how close they are to getting a nuclear bomb, or even a bomb that would distribute deadly nuclear waste across the country?

And to President Chirac, your government says about 2,000 of your troops will be involved in the U.S.-led effort. How many of those will be on the ground in Afghanistan?

President Bush. This morning I did say that Usama bin Laden, Al Qaida were seeking to develop weaponry that—weapons of mass destruction. And the reason I said that is because I was using his own words. He announced that this was his intention. And I believe we need to take him seriously. We will do everything we can to make sure he does not acquire the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction. If he doesn't have them, we will work hard to make sure he doesn't; if he does, we'll make sure he doesn't deploy them. And that's why it is so important that we continue our search for Al Qaida in Afghanistan, to hunt them down, to get them on the run, and to bring them to justice.

But this is an evil man that we're dealing with. And I wouldn't put it past him to develop evil weapons to try to harm civilization as we know it. And that's why our coalition is—that's why I work hard to keep our coalition bound together. And that's why we're going to keep relentless military pressure on him in Afghanistan. And that's why we must prevail. That's why we must win.

And I told my friend the President, there's no doubt in my mind we will win. The question to Mr. Chirac.

France's Role in the War on Terrorism

President Chirac. I didn't say that France was ready to put 2,000 men at the disposal of the military operation; on the contrary,

I said that we already had 2,000 men of all three forces involved in the operation.

President Bush. Question from the French press. No, only one question, Mr. Fournier. This is the old two-question trick; you say you've got one question, and he has two questions.

Would you call on somebody from your press?

Future of Afghanistan

Q. We are—I'll ask the question in French, a question that is directed to both Presidents. And we are already involved in the military phase. Have we already—have you already started thinking about the political phase and the possible increased involvement of the U.N. for the future in that phase?

President Chirac. Of course, we have mentioned all this. And I must say that the military aspect is necessary, yes, but there are other aspects. And the U.S. and its allies are currently making efforts to speed up the political process and the quest for a political settlement in Afghanistan. And in this respect, we do support Mr. Brahimi and what he is doing. We are all also involved in increasing and stepping up the humanitarian aid, and we mentioned that this morning.

We spoke about all these issues because they are all closely intertwined, as are other issues that haven't yet been mentioned in front of you ladies and gentlemen: for instance, the financing of the fight against terrorism, or financial measures to fight against terrorism; and also the havens that are offered to terrorists in some countries because of national legislation; and also the fight against the opportunities that our democratic societies give these terrorists.

President Bush. Yes, I have nothing more to add to that. I'm in agreement with what the President said.

Patsy [Patricia Wilson, Reuters].

Nature of the Coalition

Q. Mr. President, you said this morning that you wanted more than sympathy or words from other countries. What nations were you specifically talking about, and what do you want from them?

President Bush. I am going to the United Nations to give a speech on Saturday. And I am going to praise those nations who have joined our coalition. But a coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy; a coalition partner must perform. And our coalition partner here has performed; we work together.

And that means different things for different nations. Some nations don't want to contribute troops, and we understand that. Other nations can contribute intelligence sharing, and for that we're grateful. But all nations, if they want to fight terror, must do something. It is time for action. And that's going to be the message of my speech at the United Nations.

I have no specific nation in mind, at least as I stand here now. Everybody ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. But over time, it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. You are either with us or you are against us in the fight against terror. And that's going to be part of my speech at the United Nations.

Last question.

President Chirac. Just one comment. I would just like to remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that through Resolution 1373, the Security Council of the United Nations acknowledged the legitimacy of U.S. action and also outlined the obligation for all countries to join the fight against terrorism. So, of course, all nations and countries contribute according to their capabilities. But there is no way they can get out of this commitment. It is the legitimacy and the legitimate reaction of the U.S. that was endorsed.

President Bush. The soup is getting cold. Do you want one more question from the French press?

President Chirac. You are the—you're the boss.

President Bush. I'm the boss? Well, let's go eat, then. [Laughter] Thank you, Mr. President.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:44 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization. President Chirac referred to U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi. President Chirac spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With President Jacques Chirac of France and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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