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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 28, 2003

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One En route
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

10:12 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. Let me walk through the President's day. The President had his usual briefings this morning before departing. Before departing, the President also spoke with Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. The two leaders talked about a number of issues, including Iraq and North Korea. The President thanked the Prime Minister for Japan's continued support and commitment to helping with reconstruction in Iraq. They also discussed their shared commitment to seeking a diplomatic solution as we move forward on North Korea, and the importance of the next round of talks, including Japan and South Korea.

The Prime Minister also updated the President on economic development in Japan, and Japan's economic reform agenda. And that call was about 15 minutes long.

Q Who called who?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's always set up, it's a mutually agreed to time. Then at 11:15 p.m. in Pittsburgh, the President will make remarks to the 2003 National Urban League Conference. The National Urban League was founded in 1910, headquartered in New York City, it leads a nonprofit, nonpartisan community-based movement to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity and civil rights. The National Urban League has affiliates in 100 cities and 34 states and the District of Columbia. The President last spoke to the National Urban League Conference on August 1, 2001, in Washington.

The President, in his remarks, will talk about our nation's commitment to opportunity for all in America, where every person has the opportunity to succeed and realize his or her dreams. He will talk about his jobs and economic growth initiatives, expanding homeownership, a good education for every child.

The President will also talk about how we must be a compassionate society at home and abroad. He will talk about the importance of reaching out to faith-based and community groups to help people in need. He'll talk about his mentoring and drug treatment initiatives. And I also expect he will touch on his emergency plan for AIDS relief, targeted at the most afflicted countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

So his focus today will be on a society based on opportunity for all, and a society that is committed to compassion. I also expect he will talk about the war on terrorism.

Then we go back to Washington, D.C., where this afternoon the President looks forward to signing the Burmese* Freedom and Democracy Act.

Q What was the first word there?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Burmese.

Q Burmese.

MR. McCLELLAN: We worked closely with Congress on this legislation, and this legislation sends a clear message to the regime in Burma. The regime's continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and continued oppression of its people is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to stand. The U.S. is fully supportive of the people of Burma in their struggle for freedom and democracy. And we will have a photo release from that.

And that's pretty much the readout of the President's day.

Q When is the next round of talks on North Korea?

MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to have discussions with -- as he did this morning, continue to have discussions with our friends and allies in the region about the next round of talks. It's important that they are multilateral talks that include Japan and South Korea, but there's nothing set at this point to announce.

Q Scott, a couple questions. One, how close are we to catching to Saddam? And, two, how significant is it that the Israelis announced they're going to release about 540 prisoners, some of them Islamic militants, former Jihad types?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there continue to be attacks, as is to be expected, by loyalists to the former regime, foreign terrorists and other killers who are enemies of the Iraqi people and enemies of a free and democratic Iraq. And we will -- our coalition forces will continue to search for those remnants of the former regime, including Saddam Hussein, and we will defeat them and we will destroy those former --

Q Military officials say we're --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- regime, but I think in terms of military operations, those are things that are best addressed by the Department of Defense or Central Command, in the region. But the search --

Q Are you getting the sense --

Q I'm sorry, let me ask --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the search continues.

Q My other question was the Israelis said they're releasing more than 500 prisoners, some of them Islamic Jihad types. Is this significant?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we welcome steps like this, that improve the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And improve the relations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority and help facilitate progress toward peace. The President made clear his views the other day in the news conference with Prime Minister Abbas, that these are issues that need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and that no one would want anyone released that had blood on their hands. But we welcome steps like this. And the President looks forward to visiting with Prime Minister Sharon tomorrow, about how we can continue to move forward on our shared vision of two states, living side-by-side in peace and security.

Q Is there an other message tomorrow -- is there a specific message customized for tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you'll have an opportunity to hear from the two leaders after the meeting. So let's let the meeting take place and then you'll hear from them.

Q They're going to do an appearance afterwards?

MR. McCLELLAN: You will have an -- the pool will have an opportunity.

Q What's the status of Afghan aid? There was a State Department official saying that you would ask for $1 billion. Other stories are more tentative. Where are you on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, we were successful in the battle of Afghanistan, which was part of the war on terrorism. And as a result, you have 20 million Afghans who live free from the oppression of the Taliban, in a world that is safer because Afghanistan is no longer a safe harbor for terrorists. And in freeing the Afghan people and eliminating the safe harbor for terrorists, we've also been successful in helping the Afghan people build a better future for themselves, through such efforts as rebuilding roads and reopening schools. We want to build on those successes, to cement a better, more hopeful future for the people of Afghanistan. And part of that effort is to ensure that all the necessary resources are devoted to achieving that goal.

But right now, in terms of where we are, we're working with the Afghanistan government, the international community and Congress to ensure that we devote the necessary resources to Afghanistan. I'm not in a position to announce anything at this point. That's where we are.

Q That's --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's where we are right now.

Q But you are -- you're considering extra resources or extra aid?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those discussions are continuing. I'm not going to announce anything from my end, this morning.

Q Are we ever going to hear from Dr. Rice, to sort of close the loop on her role on the Africa uranium in the State of the Union?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think some of this was addressed in the briefing last week --

Q Hadley had to speak on her behalf.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- addressed these issues. But Dr. Rice is doing an outstanding job as National Security Advisor to the President. And I think that Steve Hadley addressed those issues last week in the briefing.

Q So there are no plans -- Steve had to speak for her, because she was out of town at the time.

MR. McCLELLAN: She was traveling.

Q Yes. So there are no plans --

MR. McCLELLAN: But he made clear her views. I think Steve Hadley made her views known.

Q The President has confidence in Rice, in other words?

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. Condi Rice is one of, if not the most outstanding, National Security Advisors this nation has ever had. She has been strongly committed to -- strongly committed, along with the President, to making America safer and making the world safer. And she's doing a great job in that respect.

Anything else?

Q Has the President spoken to members of Bob Hope's family?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't --

Q Can you give a little bit of detail on how he learned about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he was informed by -- he was informed by senior staff aboard Marine One. If there's anything else to update you on, I will.

Q Did he ever meet him?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me find out. Let me find out. We'll add it to the end of the gaggle.

Q Do you happen to know what he told Lance yesterday in their conversation?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President did call Lance Armstrong to congratulate him on an impressive fifth Tour de France victory. That was shortly after he won his fifth Tour de France. And of course I think we all look forward to him going for an unprecedented sixth Tour de France victory.

Q Will he visit the White House again?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have anything to update you on this point, but we would certainly welcome that opportunity. And if there's something to update you on, we certainly will.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.

END 10:23 A.M. EDT