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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 13, 2002
President Bush Discusses Iraq with Reporters
Remarks by the President in Meeting with Central African Leaders
The Waldorf Astoria
New York, New York
8:15 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. First, I'm honored to be able to meet with my colleagues from Central Africa. The Secretary of State and I look forward to a very frank and constructive dialogue about how to continue our common pursuit against terror, and how we will work together to promote prosperity. I look forward to constructive dialogue. So thank you all for coming.
Before we begin our discussion, let me answer a few questions. Are the interpreters working right now? They are? Yours isn't working, okay. Before we begin our dialogue, I'll take three questions from the American press corps, starting with Mr. Fournier, who writes for the Associated Press.
Q Thank you, sir. Knowing what you know about Saddam, what are the odds that he's going to meet all your demands and avoid confrontation?
THE PRESIDENT: I am highly doubtful that he'll meet our demands. I hope he does, but I'm highly doubtful. The reason I'm doubtful is he's had 11 years to meet the demands. For 11 long years he has basically told the United Nations and the world he doesn't care. And so, therefore, I am doubtful, but nevertheless, made the decision to move forward to work with the world community. And I hope the world community knows that we're extremely serious about what I said yesterday, and we expect quick resolution to the issue. And that's starting with quick action on a resolution.
Q Yes, sir, how soon are you expecting the resolution from the United Nations? In a week, month, days?
THE PRESIDENT: As soon as possible.
Q And how -- what kind of deadline would you perceive within that resolution?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there will be deadlines within the resolution. Our chief negotiator for the United States, our Secretary of State, understands that we must have deadlines. And we're talking days and weeks, not months and years. And that's essential for the security of the world. This man has had 11 years to comply. For 11 long years, he's ignored world opinion. And he's put the credibility of the United Nations on line.
As I said yesterday, we'll determine -- how we deal with this problem will help determine the fate of multilateral body, which has been unilaterally ignored by Saddam Hussein. Will this body be able to keep the peace and deal with the true threats, including threats to security in Central African and other parts of the world, or will it be irrelevant?
Q Mr. President, thank you. Are you concerned that Democrats in Congress don't want a vote there until after U.N. action? And secondly, have you spoken with President Putin since your speech yesterday?
THE PRESIDENT: I have not spoken to President Putin since my speech. I did speak to his Foreign Minister, as did Colin Powell. I'll speak to President Putin, I'm confident, soon. I'll have -- I think we've got a scheduled phone call, actually.
And the first part of the question was, Democrats waiting for the U.N. to act? I can't imagine an elected United States -- elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision. It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States. If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.
And so I -- we'll see. My answer to the Congress is, they need to debate this issue and consult with us, and get the issue done as quickly as possible. It's in our national interests that we do so. I don't imagine Saddam Hussein sitting around, saying, gosh, I think I'm going to wait for some resolution. He's a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.
Thank you all.
END 8:20 A.M. EDT