George W. Bush photo

The President's News Conference With President Jacques Chirac of France in Paris, France

June 05, 2004

President Chirac. Very well, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, let me tell you how happy I am to welcome the U.S. President most warmly. He has come to Europe on the occasion, of course, of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of D-day. And tomorrow during the course of the ceremonies which will take place in Normandy and in presence of the veterans and, in particular, of the American veterans of Operation Overlord, I will have the opportunity to say to America and to Americans just how deeply grateful we are to them today, how grateful we are in the knowledge of the sacrifices they made, of the blood that they spilled—their own blood— for the liberation of our country and of Europe as a whole. And I will say to them that France says thank you and that France does not forget.

Now, on the occasion of the celebratory ceremonies, President Bush, who has come to Europe, went first to Italy, as you know, and today has joined us in France, which has enabled us to run through a certain number of issues, especially in light of the up-and-coming summits, major summits that are going to be taking place in June, the G-8 in Sea Island in a few days time and the Istanbul Summit, later summit at the end of the month.

As you can imagine, we had very open, earnest, confident discussions on a host of different issues pertaining to the world today. I say open and sincere and trusting, because from time to time, I read comments that are not actually very reflective of the truth. France and the U.S. have 200 years of shared history, and for 200 years now, for two centuries now, we have defended the same and upheld the selfsame values, which are the values of democracy, of peace, of human rights. And therefore, dialog has always been easy and made easy because of that, on those matters on which we see likewise and also on other issues. And there's a number of issues in which we are standing shoulder to shoulder, and we've discussed them and run through them, and that is all that pertains to peace and stability throughout the world.

We, of course, touched upon our very strong cooperation in terms of our fight against terrorism, and in that connection, we have, over the last 2 years, considerably strengthened our cooperation, our collaboration. Likewise, in combating proliferation, a subject and a dossier on which we have like-minded views and exemplary cooperation, as indeed evidenced by PSI program cooperation or the vote on Resolution 1540 of the U.N. Security Council.

We touched upon regional crises and, in particular, operations to maintain peace where French and American soldiers are working together. I think here of Afghanistan, where France is part and parcel of Operation Enduring Freedom; likewise also, still in connection with Afghanistan, the international force which is going to be commanded shortly by a French general in Kabul. We also have excellent cooperation in the Balkans, be it in Bosnia, be it in Kosovo. We have cooperated to avoid, to stem off the worst in Haiti, and that's also in quite exceptionally good ways.

We have expressed our common anxiety in light of what is happening in Africa and, in particular, what we see looming in Kivu—in the Kivu region, and all that this means in terms of threats to peace and stability in the region. And we're very worried about the peace and stability of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Now, on the subject of Iraq, where we all know that our countries have had somewhat different approaches and solutions and a vision of the situation which was not similar. That being said, we share one and the same conviction today, namely, that there is no alternative to restoring peace and therefore to restoring security and development in Iraq and that no effort must be spared in achieving this.

And evidently, the discussions taking place within the U.N. Security Council basically aimed at adopting a resolution which, given the present state of affairs in Iraq, must say loud and clear that the international community is hellbent on achieving one objective, which is returning sovereignty to an Iraqi government, which will give hope to Iraqis and the people of Iraq. So we are entirely like-minded on that.

And I believe that things are moving in the right direction. Discussions have been characterized by a very positive spirit, and I very much hope that very shortly, in the next few days, we will come up with a resolution which indeed reflects what to us is of the essence, namely, to give the Iraqis themselves the sense that they have recovered their own sovereignty and that their own destiny is in their own hands, because that seems to us a sine qua non for any future solution to the problems which this country necessarily faces.

Of course, we also touched upon the conflict in the Middle East because, as I said to the President, we are very worried when we see that this conflict is continuing to spread, with all the knock-on effects, regionally speaking and beyond the region. And we cannot ignore the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese dimensions of the problem. And on the subject of Lebanon, precisely, we have expressed renewed conviction and belief that Lebanon has to be ensured that its independence and sovereignty are guaranteed.

Within a few days, we'll be meeting again at the G-8 summit at Sea Island, where we will discuss decisions to be taken, talks to be entered into in respect of a certain number of issues having to do with growth, development, employment, security, obviously, the fight against terrorism, and proliferation, but also development in general and sustainable development in particular.

So, before I give the floor to President Bush, I should like to conclude by once again expressing to him my warmest welcome.

President Bush. Thank you, Mr. President. Laura and I are honored to be back in this beautiful country on the anniversary of a momentous day in the history of freedom.

Tomorrow I will join the President and other leaders at the Normandy beaches to commemorate the Allied landing 60 years ago. We will honor the many thousands of veterans, living and lost, who took part in that battle. It will be a time to reflect on the sacrifices that helped to defeat fascism and to restore the liberty of France and of Western Europe.

We will also remember the timeless lessons that D-day teaches, that sacrifices must always be borne in the defense of freedom, that free nations working together can overcome danger, and that the deepest source of strength of any army is the values for which it fights.

I appreciate all the hard work, Mr. President, that went into planning this year's D-day ceremonies, and I congratulate you and all those involved. It's going to be a spectacular day.

I also appreciate the chance to talk to the President and to hear his views on a variety of issues, on the common challenges we face. Today we discussed the future of Iraq as a free and democratic state. Our coalition will soon hand over full sovereignty to an Iraqi government. Iraq's new Prime Minister Allawi and his cabinet are working hard to provide security and to prepare their country for national elections that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people. The interim government is the first step in a political process, outlined in the transitional administrative law, which will lead to the first democratic elections in Iraq's history, elections to take place no later than January 2005. At the request of the interim government, the request of the Prime Minister, multinational forces will remain in Iraq to help this new government succeed in its vital work.

Free Iraq deserves the full support of the international community, and I appreciate our discussions. The Iraqi people want and deserve freedom, peace, and prosperity, and the nations of the world have a responsibility to help them achieve that. Members of the U.N. Security Council are working with Iraq's new leaders toward a new resolution that will express international support for Iraq's interim government, that will reaffirm the world's security commitment to the Iraqi nation, and encourage other U.N. members to help in joining the Iraqi people as they establish a representative government.

The President and I discussed our common goals in the broader Middle East. We seek freedom and the peace that freedom brings. We seek political and social reform, the true stability that results when people are free to live and think and worship as they choose. We know that freedom cannot be imposed from abroad, but free nations can and must choose to ally ourselves with reformers wherever they are and with reform wherever it occurs.

I fully know that democratization is not the same as Westernization. Nations as different as Romania and the Philippines, Nicaragua and Senegal and Turkey show that freedom takes different forms around the globe and that new liberties can find an honored place amidst ancient traditions. Democratic governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures and their own traditions. America and France are working with many allies and friends in the region and beyond to support the increase of reform, which will serve as the antidote to terror.

As the President mentioned, we'll be going to Sea Island, Georgia, where we will discuss ways to build partnerships between the world's great democracies and the nations of the broader Middle East. I look forward to those discussions. Later this month we'll bring the same message and the same challenge to the NATO summit in Turkey.

The President and I also share—had discussions about the Holy Land. We seek two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I support the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent. And I realize that security is the foundation for peace and the starting point for all progress in the Middle East.

I believe that Israel needs a truly responsible partner in achieving peace. I believe the Palestinian people deserve democratic institutions and responsible leaders. So for the sake of peace, I'm committed to helping the Palestinian people establish a democratic and viable state of their own, and I look forward to working with President Chirac to achieve that objective.

The United States and France also agree that the people of Lebanon should be free to determine their own future, without foreign interference or domination.

Our two nations are working together to bring peace and security to other parts of the globe. We're in Haiti together. We're in Afghanistan together. We're working to ensure that Iran meets its commitments to the IAEA and does not develop nuclear weapons. The President talked about our mutual concerns on the continent of Africa.

We're proud countries with deep traditions rooted in freedom and equality and justice. These common values enable us to work together for the good of world peace, and I look forward to doing that with you, Mr. President.

Thank you for your hospitality.

Now—Jim Angle [FOX News].

Coalition Security Arrangement With Iraqi Interim Government/U.N. Security Council Resolution

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. As we understand, there has been an exchange of letters between the new interim government in Iraq and the coalition. I wonder if you could tell us a little something about that, Mr. President.

And President Chirac, if I may, sir, I assume you've been told about this. Do you now believe that the new Iraqi government will get full sovereignty? And do you have any remaining objections about a new U.N. resolution?

President Bush. One of the issues that I had been asked about quite frequently was whether or not the Iraqi government would be able to determine its security needs. And I said, "Absolutely. That's the definition of sovereignty." And I also assured the American people at several news conferences that we have entered into these kind of security agreements in the past that recognize the sovereignty of the host government. And the exchange of letters does just that. The exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the coalition lays out the parameters of security, of the security cooperation in Iraq. And this is a positive step forward.

President Chirac. On the subject of the resolution, again I repeat what I said earlier on. I think we have progressed. We have moved forward positively, and we should be able to put the finishing touches to this text very shortly. Now, yes, we still have to qualify the matter pertaining to security arrangements that establish relations between the Iraqi government—the government that, obviously, we wish to see sovereign and full authority—and the multinational force. And as you rightly said, an exchange of letters between the Iraqi government and the international force whose thrust has to be picked up in the language of the resolution is happening right now. And I hope all of this can take place very speedily.

In my view, in my view, what is important here, in all the technicalities of all of this, what is important is to ensure that the Iraqi people—that the Iraqis truly have the sense that they have recovered their independence, their sovereignty, and that they hold their own destiny in their hands. I think that that is the only way forward if we want to solve the considerable problems that are arising in this country and to be able to contain the very strong forces in situ, as it were. And I feel it's very important that we send no negative signal to the Iraqis in the sense that we might in any way be undermining their sovereignty, because that would undermine their confidence.

Yes, a question?

France-U.S. Relations/Abu Ghraib Prison

Q. Thank you, sir. I would have a question for Mr. Bush. Once, President Kennedy said, "Everyone has two countries, their own and France." And why is it that your policy tends to be pushing your country and France to divorce?

Second point, some in public opinion have accused you of state terrorism, and do you not believe that what has happened in Abu Ghraib has put you in the same basket, as it were, as Saddam Hussein, especially in the eyes of an international tribunal and especially in light of the unfound weapons of mass destruction?

President Bush. To paraphrase President Kennedy: There's America, and then there's Texas.

We have great relations with France. We work closely with the French Government on a lot of issues. I just laid out a lot of the issues that we're working together on, as did the President. We're working to stop proliferation. We're working in Haiti. We're working on the continent of Africa. We're working to feed the hungry. We're working to make sure that the pandemic of AIDS gets—that the people get the help they need to arrest the pandemic of AIDS in Africa. No, there are a lot of issues we work on.

As for the prison abuse issue, I am— I was humiliated, as was most of my country. Those soldiers didn't reflect the character of the American people. They didn't—they stained our honor, and the world will see a full investigation of those— of that humiliation, which will stand in stark contrast to what takes place in states run by tyrants. And there will be a full investigation in a transparent way, and those that violated rules will be held to account.

Gregory [David Gregory, NBC News], Monsieur Gregory [Laughter]

France's Role in the Middle East/Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction

Q. President Chirac, given the fact that your Government also believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the war, do you believe that there was a worldwide intelligence failure? And despite your opposition to the war, do you believe that Iraq is better or worse off today?

Mr. President, what role specifically would you like the French to play in Iraq going forward? Merci.

President Bush. Listen, the French are going to provide great advice. President Chirac has got good judgment about the Middle East, and he understands those countries well. The French are going to work together to put out a U.N. Security Council resolution that sends a clear signal the free world is united in helping Iraq. And those are great contributions, for which I am grateful, and so is my Nation.

Q. President Chirac—Monsieur le Presidente?

President Chirac. Yes, you said that the French Government, if I've understood you rightly, prior to the war had stated that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that is not correct. I have always said that I had no information that would lead me to believe that there were or were not, for that matter, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That's a fact. All the information available to us at that time and on that subject did not allow us to take a stand or to reach any conclusion, which is why I said to President Bush that I, personally, was incapable of saying whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction.

Conditions in Iraq

Q. Do you believe that—despite your opposition to the war, do you believe that today Iraq is better or worse off?

President Chirac. Well, one thing is for certain sure, which is the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, and that is a positive thing. It's a positive step. What's less positive is that there is a degree of chaos prevailing, and our problem today is to try and contain—or build upon what has been achieved in positive terms. In other words, open the way to what could be a form of democracy and ensure that the forces which are in a confrontational mode be pacified. But this is something we will see further down the road. We have certainly not put the difficulties behind us. Do not believe that. We are in a situation which is extremely precarious.

A question from the back? I saw a hand going up.

Q. Mr. President, to what extent is the comparison made by President Bush between the liberation of Europe from nazism 60 years ago, which you're celebrating today, or tomorrow rather, and the liberation of Iraq by American forces a year ago—to what extent do you feel that this comparison is just and justified?

President Chirac. I fully understand what led President Bush to establish or to make this comparison, if only for reasons of circumstance. I mean, what are we celebrating today and tomorrow? And I think, nonetheless, that history does not repeat itself, and it is very difficult to compare historical situations that differ, because history is not repetitive. And there is a situation which we defined earlier on in Iraq, prevailing in Iraq, which has to be contained and has to be mastered. There's a lot to be done. We are going to have to roll up our sleeves and put a lot of our hearts and our minds into doing this. And perhaps—perhaps, we will succeed.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 7:41 p.m. at the Elysee Palace. In his remarks, President Bush referred to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi interim government. President Chirac referred to former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. President Chirac spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With President Jacques Chirac of France in Paris, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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