George W. Bush photo

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

May 26, 2002

President Chirac. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome here. Welcome to all of you here this afternoon. Of course, I extend a special welcome to the members of the press who have come with President Bush.

Can I, first of all, say how pleased I am that we'll have the opportunity to welcome on his first trip to France the President of the United States and his wife. It's, of course, a great pleasure for me to welcome them, and I think it's also a great pleasure for all the people of France to welcome them. And that is something that I wanted to say in no uncertain terms.

We had this afternoon a working session. We'll meet again over dinner. Tomorrow, as all of you know, President Bush will be in Normandy. And I think it's very moving for me and for the people of France to know that, for the first time ever, if I'm not mistaken, the President of the United States will not be in the United States on Memorial Day, and that on this occasion the President will come and pay a solemn tribute to the great number of young American servicemen who gave up their lives to fight for France, for Europe, for freedom.

This fight for freedom, for liberty, is a constant fight, a fight that we all engage in, a fight that is a bond between the peoples of both sides of the Atlantic, a fight that is pursued still today under very specific ties, the fight against terrorism.

We exchanged views. We had an intense, candid, friendly exchange of views. And I think this echoes and epitomizes the nature of the dialog that we have had ever since President Bush's election, in the number of contacts we have had either in Europe or when I have been to the United States. I think the last time we met was when we both were in Monterrey, in Mexico, and also over the phone.

We mentioned a number of issues: the fight against terrorism—and in this respect, we have a similar understanding of what is being done and what should be done to fight and eradicate terrorism. We both know that terrorism still exists, that it can be active anywhere, at any time, and that, therefore, all the leaders across the world must pay great attention to this issue and be determined to eradicate terrorism.

We also mentioned strategic issues. In this respect, we paid special attention to the change and the developments in the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. And we welcome this change. Russia is a major nation, a great nation. And I think that the relationship between Russia and the U.S. are crucial in the world today.

On Tuesday, in Rome, we will have an opportunity to set in stone this change in the relationship, to act upon also the new treaty that has been signed between both Presidents in Moscow yesterday. We have an opportunity to make more concrete the relationship between NATO and Russia. And as you know, for a long time, the French position has been that the relationship between Russia and NATO should be strengthened. And you might even remember that the founding act was signed here in 1997, even though it didn't have quite the consequences that we could have expected. This being said, nowadays Russia— from now on, Russia will be closer involved. And this will be the results of the NATO council in 2 days' time in Rome.

We also mentioned, of course, the list of strategic issues, the fight against proliferation—proliferation in a number of regions across the world. We also mentioned the relationship between France and the U.S. and, of course, the relationship between the EU and the U.S. These relationships are very good at a political level. They are instrumental for the equilibrium and the balance of our world. At an economic level, they're essential, instrumental in the good health of the global economy. There can be, indeed, no balance in our world if there is no strong relationship between the U.S. and the EU.

We also spoke about issues where we have diverging views: trade issues, for instance; the farming bill, for instance. And in this respect, the President said that there might have been—there could have been a misunderstanding of what the goals of the farming bill was, a misunderstanding here in France and in other places, maybe. But I think that this means that we have to have more consultation, more consultation between the U.S. and the EU. We also, of course, mentioned steel.

These are, of course, very real issues, and real answers have to be given to these problems, after consultation and intense dialog. But can I just remind you that these differences, these diverging views only account for 5 percent of the trade between the EU and the U.S. Of course, that's important, but we have to have a look at the greater picture and have a sense of perspective.

We also mentioned a number of other issues in which we have slight divergence of views: environment, for instance; the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. And I, personally, stressed the fact that there was a very real danger, a very real risk in going on consuming more of our planet than the Earth can actually produce. And I think that all of us know that these are very real issues and that we have to go on talking, discussing, and working together on these issues. And I'm sure—I'm convinced that we will find the right ways to produce, to consume, new ways to do so. And I think all the new technologies that are being developed nowadays will enable us to do so, while at the same time, consuming less of our natural resources and better control of pollution. Of course, these issues are being discussed in other fora.

We also discussed globalization. And I said that, yes, of course, globalization is unavoidable and is positive, because it increases trade and thus production and thus wealth and thus the number of jobs that there are across the world. This being said, there is a necessity that we have to bear in mind, and that is controlling globalization so that the development of the people in other countries is protected. So what I am saying is that globalization in trade has to go hand in hand with globalization of solidarity.

We will be, this evening, mentioning a number of other issues, international crisis, for instance: the Middle East; the topical issues, the tension between India and Pakistan; be talking about Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Balkans, and Africa. We'll be talking about Africa in the context of the new relationship that is currently being developed in the relationship between rich and poor countries.

We've already, in a way, touched upon these issues. And I wanted to—I did stress when we were talking with President Bush that as a longtime advocate of aid to poor countries and relationship between poor and rich countries, what I stressed is that for a very long time, these issues haven't been considered properly and that in Genoa we had, for the first time, a very real discussion about Africa. And that will be what we should remember of Genoa, although people will remember other things of the Genoa summit.

And I think that this was partly do to the initiative taken by President Bush that gave us a real opportunity to talk about development—development at large and development of Africa, more specifically. And this also enabled us to move from a situation where we give assistance to Africa, to a situation where we have a partnership with Africa. And that also is one of the goals of our next meeting in the G- 7 format in Kananaskis, in Canada, where we will talk about the NEPAD. We also spoke of some local situations about in Africa.

So all that is what we've done today. We've spoken in a very understanding and friendly atmosphere.

President Bush. It's true. [Laughter]

I am honored to be here in France. It's my first trip as the President to this beautiful country and to this beautiful capital. I always find it a great joy to talk with Jacques Chirac. He's a—it's not hard to figure out where he stands on issues, and he's a good friend. He's a friend to me, personally. He's a friend to my country, and for that, I'm grateful.

I'm also looking forward to going to Normandy tomorrow. We do believe this is the first time a President has been out of the country for Memorial Day. I'm looking forward to giving a speech. Memorial Day in my country is a day to honor those who have sacrificed for freedom, given their lives. Many died in France, and I'm looking forward to the moment to share my country's appreciation.

And we—in the talk, I'm going to talk about—there's been current—modern-day sacrifices. We still fight people who hate civilization. It was—or at least, civilization that we love; they can't stand freedom— it was President Chirac who was the first head of state to visit me in the White House right after September the 11th. I was very grateful for that visit. As he, himself, said, that we're in a fight to defend civilization, and I couldn't agree more with him. And I want to thank the French people for not only the sympathy shown for my country after September the 11th but the strong support in the war against terror.

Jacques and I spent a lot of time talking about how to better fight this fight, and that's not just in military terms. I speak in terms of doing a better job of cutting off money to terrorists, denying them safe haven, and as we fight for a safer world, how to make the world a better world. And one of the things I really admire about—I guess I should call you President Chirac—President Chirac is that you've had this great compassion for the developing world, and I appreciate your compassion, and I appreciate your heart. It's important that we continue to work together to make sure that there is a strategy in place to help people develop and grow and prosper.

I'm looking forward to the dinner. He's always saying that the food here is fantastic, and I'm going to give him a chance to show me tonight. And I also look forward to continuing our discussions on important issues, like how to make sure NATO works better, how best to continue to work with our friends in Russia, how we can work together to—in the Middle East to bring peace to that part of the world. I appreciate this good man's advice. I listen carefully to it when he gives it, and I'm proud to call him friend.

Thank you for your hospitality.

President Chirac. Thank you.

Pakistan-India Relations

Q. Mr. President, you mentioned this morning that you had expressed strong reservations to President Musharraf about the missile test in Pakistan. I'm wondering, sir, whether your administration actually asked President Musharraf not to conduct those tests, and second, whether you regard the escalating conflict there as a threat to U.S. forces in the region? And finally, as tomorrow is the first Memorial Day since 9/11, can you say to the American people how this Memorial Day will be somehow different from those past?

And President Chirac, you mentioned in your opening comments that the response to the President's strategic initiative with Russia from a year ago had not been what you had anticipated. Do you think that perhaps the Europeans overreacted a year ago to what President Bush was proposing to do with Russia? And were you suggesting, sir, that perhaps you underestimated this President?

President Bush. Like everybody else. [Laughter] Pakistan—yes, we expressed deep concern, and we'll continue to express concern about testing and our—I'm more concerned about making sure that—insisting, along with other world leaders, that— including the President of France—that President Musharraf show results in terms of stopping people from crossing the line of control, stopping terrorism. That's what's more important than the missile testing, is that he perform.

I'm jet lagged—what's the first couple of questions?

Q. The second one, sir, was I was wondering if the escalating conflict posed a threat to U.S. forces in the region.

President Bush. I would certainly hope not. Third? Is that it? [Laughter]

Memorial Day

Q. Memorial Day.

President Bush. Oh, Memorial Day. Thanks. That's what happens when you're over 55. [Laughter] You know what I mean.

Let me say one quick thing about Memorial Day. All Memorial Days are solemn days, particularly for those who mourn the loss of a loved one. All Memorial Days are days in which Americans ought to give thanks for freedom and the fact that somebody sacrificed for their freedom. This Memorial Day is the first Memorial Day in a long time in which younger Americans know firsthand the price that was paid for their freedom.

President Chirac. On that very last point, can I maybe just say that it really is very moving for all the people of France and Europeans at large to see that President Bush—that the President of the United States will be for the first time outside the United States on Memorial Day and that he come to Normandy to pay tribute to all those—many American—who gave their lives for freedom. This, I think, is a very strong gesture that we will not forget.

Maybe a question for a French journalist? Yes.

France's Role in the War on Terrorism

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Bush, after your trip to Russia, what would be for you a more decisive ally in your war against terrorism? Would it be Russia or this little corner of this continent which is called Western Europe? And please, Mr. President, don't say "both"—this wouldn't be the beginning of an answer.

President Bush. Both. [Laughter] What was that? I didn't get the full question. I got "Russia," and I got "this little corner of Europe." But what was the question? Who do I rely on more?

Q. What is for you the more decisive ally in your war against terrorism?

President Bush. Decisive ally? Ally? Decisive ally? Of course, Jacques Chirac. [Laughter] I—listen, thank you for the trick question. Let me talk about this ally. The phone rang the day after the attack—the day of the attack. I can't remember exactly when, but it was immediately. And he said, "I'm your friend." On this continent, France takes the lead in helping to hunt down people who want to harm America and/or the French or anybody else.

We've shared intelligence in a way that is really important. One of the most important things in fighting the war on terror is to understand how the enemy thinks and when the enemy might strike. And make no mistake about it, they'd like to strike again. You know, some people would wish that their thoughts go away. These are cold-blooded killers, and it requires strong cooperation to protect our citizens. My most important job—and I suspect Jacques feels the same way—is to protect our citizens from further attack. And it's—we've got no stronger ally in that task. I mean, he is willing to take steps necessary, obviously within the laws and Constitution of this country, just like I'm within the Constitution of mine, to protect our people. And for that, I'm very grateful, Mr. President.

I'll call on the Americans.

President Chirac. An American journalist, maybe?

Russia and Iran

Q. Yes, sir. You said in Russia that President Putin had offered some assurances about Russian sales of nuclear energy technology to Iran that we would find comforting. Aside from his statement that Russia doesn't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, what did you find comforting? And secondly, President Putin also argued that the plant he's building there is quite similar to the one and others have offered to build in North Korea. Is that accurate, sir?

And President Chirac, you mentioned that the two of you were talking about proliferation matters. Do you also have concerns about Russia's relations with Iran?

President Bush. Well, first, I think it's important to understand that President Putin understands that an Iran that's got the capacity to launch a missile is dangerous for him and his country. He understands that.

Secondly—and we had a very frank discussion about the potential—or the development of a nuclear powerplant that he is convinced will not lead to the spread of technologies that will enable Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction, and is willing to allow for international inspection teams to determine whether that's true or not. And we're thinking about what he told us.

Q. And the plant in North Korea, sir, is that different from the one he's building in Iran?

President Bush. As I say, we're thinking about what he told us.

Q. President Chirac?

President Chirac. I share, unreservedly, the position outlined by President Bush, by George.

French journalist?

Regime Change in Iraq/Situation in the Middle East

Q. France would like to see the Middle East peace conference convene the quickest possible, and the U.S. to do—to act for it. May we know, what are your forecasts for this Middle East conference, and when do you think it will happen, and if president Arafat will be participating in such a conference? Also, I would like to know, if possible, what are your plans for the Iraqi regime? Are you really willing to change the Iraqi regime, and how?

President Bush. Okay. Whew, a lot of questions here. Let me start with the Iraqi regime. The stated policy of my Government is that we have a regime change. And as I told President Chirac, I have no war plans on my desk. And I will continue to consult closely with him. We do view Saddam Hussein as a serious, significant—serious threat to stability and peace.

In terms of the Middle East, this week we will be sending American officials back into the region to work with the parties, to have a political dialog, start a political dialog, as well as develop a security force within the Palestinian Authority that can— will function like a security force, actually do what they're supposed to do.

And in terms of meetings, conferences, our view is, is that we need to develop a strategy, to continue working with our Arab friends on that strategy, and then the Secretary will be convening a ministerial conference sometime this summer. Obviously, depending upon the progress being made and how much progress we are making toward establishment of the institutions necessary for a Palestinian state to evolve, that progress will determine how many conferences are necessary until we eventually get to, hopefully, the end of the process.

My Government and I, personally, strongly believe that it's in everybody's interest that there be two states living side by side in peace. And that's the vision we work toward. The good news is, is that many in the Arab world are now working with us to help create an environment so we can get to that—to those two states. And to that end, I viewed the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia's declaration of a— declaration that Israel should live in peace with its neighbors is incredibly important breakthrough. And we're seizing that initiative and seizing that opportunity to work together.

President Chirac. Last question, for the American press, maybe?

President's Visit to Europe

Q. You said in reaction to demonstrations against you and your administration during this trip in Europe that it's simply a healthy democracy exercising its will, and that disputes are positive. But I wonder why it is you think there are strong—such strong sentiments in Europe against you and against this administration? Why, particularly, there's a view that you and your administration are trying to impose America's will on the rest of the world, particularly when it comes to the Middle East and where the war on terrorism goes next?

[At this point, the reporter asked the rest of his question in French, and the interpreter translated it as follows.]

Q. And Mr. President, would you maybe comment on that?

President Bush. Very good. The guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's intercontinental. [Laughter]

Q. I can go on.

President Bush. Yes, I'm impressed. Que bueno. Now I'm literate in two languages. [Laughter]

So you go to a protest, and I drive through the streets of Berlin seeing hundreds of people lining the road, waving. And I'm—look, the only thing I know to do is speak my mind, to talk about my values, to talk about our mutual love for freedom and the willingness to defend freedom. And David [David Gregory, NBC News], I think a lot of people on the continent of Europe appreciate that, appreciate the fact that we're friends, appreciate the fact that we've got—we work together, that there's a heck of a lot more that unites us than divides us. We share the same values; we trade $2 trillion a year. I mean, there's—so I don't view hostility here. I view the fact we've got a lot of friends here, and I'm grateful for the friendship. And the fact that protesters show up, that's good. I mean, I'm in a democracy. I'm traveling to a country that respects other people's points of view.

But I feel very comfortable coming to Europe. I feel very comfortable coming to France; I've got a lot of friends here.

Q. Sir, if I could just follow——

President Bush. Thank you.

President Chirac. Look, the demonstrations you've been referring to, sir, are indeed, as the President has just said, healthy and normal in democracies. That is one of the means of expression that people have. And it's only normal and important that people should respect that. Of course, there are limits; there are constraints that have to be enforced, and that is what is being done. But I think that it is only normal that, in the face of a very important political event, those who have a different understanding of things should express their diverging view.

The right to demonstrate is a fundamental right intertwined with democracy. And there's no need to tell Americans about that; they know it. But what I just wanted to say is that these demonstrations are really marginal demonstrations, that you shouldn't give too much credit to these demonstrations. They do not reflect a so-called natural aversion of such-and-such a people in Europe to the President of the United States or to the U.S. people as a whole.

Yes, we do have diverging views on this or that issue; it's only normal. And that is the result of interests, of our national interests, and they're not always converging. And I think it's only healthy that these demonstrations should occur, that we should express our diverging points of views, and that we should find democratic answers to these questions.

As for the relationship between Europe and the United States, it is a very old relationship, as you know. It is a fundamental relationship for the balance—for the equilibrium of our world. But I would also add that it's an increasingly important relationship, and it's—it would be the sign of short-sightedness to refuse to acknowledge that.

The United States and Europe are the two major economic powers in our world. And in our world the economy drives social progress. Economic power helps express political power. So I think that there is a very real, a deep-rooted link between Europe and the United States, and that's— the bedrock of that link, the roots of that link is the shared values that we have together. And that must be used to guarantee the balance of our world, the stability of our world.

And that's precisely why we welcome the trip of an American President in Europe— President Bush, in this case. But generally, a statement of generalities would be to say that we welcome a visit by the President of the United States because it shows the solidarity between the two sides of the pond, the two sides of the Atlantic, something that is fundamental for the stability of our world.

Well, thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 5:03 p.m. at Elysee Palace. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan; President Vladimir Putin of Russia; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. President Chirac referred to NEPAD, the New Plan for African Development, a G-8 backed plan for the development of African nations. A reporter referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. 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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