For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2001
Remarks by Ari Fleischer in Q&A with the Travel Pool
Rancho San Cristobal
San Cristobal, Mexico
1:36 P.M. (L)
MR. FLEISCHER: Since 1991, coalition aircraft have been enforcing the no-fly zone in Iraq. Today allied armed forces conducted a routine strike associated with enforcement of the no-fly zone. Coalition aircraft struck targets that were instrumental in providing air defenses that threaten coalition aircraft that were on patrol in the southern no-fly zone.
The President authorized the strike because of the risk posed to our aircraft. All coalition aircraft have returned safely.
Q Was this planned, Ari, or was this a spontaneous --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President authorized it yesterday.
Q When did he authorize it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yesterday.
Q Did something happen to provoke this, Ari, did some incident happen to provoke this?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was the existence of radar facilities that posed a threat to our aircraft, that identified our aircraft. There is a simultaneous briefing going on at the Pentagon as we speak. The Pentagon is briefing at 2:30 p.m. and will provide additional detailed information about the strikes and about the targets.
Q For the President to have specifically approved it indicates it's more than just a routine thing, though, because rules of engagement --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it is routine. In this case, the aircraft would be on patrol in the southern no-fly zone, and that's why it required the President's authorization. That has happened before; that is, unfortunately, routine.
Q Do we know whether these were newly-constructed radar?
MR. FLEISCHER: DOD will be taking that.
Q How was Bush informed today? Was there a note slipped to him in his meetings?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President authorized the strike and so he knew, of course, about what would result.
Q Yes, but wasn't he notified inside that the strike did take place?
MR. FLEISCHER: He was notified.
Q By a piece of paper being slipped to him?
MR. FLEISCHER: A routine notification -- whether it was paper or --
Q Anymore strikes planned, or is this a --
MR. FLEISCHER: We don't discuss that type of information.
Q When was he informed today that it had happened?
MR. FLEISCHER: He authorized it yesterday morning and he was informed this afternoon.
Q Did it interrupt the talks going on with President Fox, or when did it --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President, of course, since he authorized it, knew that it was going to happen.
Q How does he feel this affects the feel of this summit? I mean, does it ruin the good feeling that we've had in Mexico?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was a routine enforcement and it was part of protecting a coalition in Iraq.
Q You wouldn't say there is a message being sent here to Saddam Hussein or any other --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has always said that he takes seriously our responsibility to protect our coalition allies and to enforce the no-fly zone.
Thank you, everybody.
END 1:40 P.M. (L)