The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 21, 2003

Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Portland, Oregon

9:47 A.M. PDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, poolers. Let me start by running through the President's day. The President had his usual briefings this morning before departing. At noon in Portland the President will deliver remarks at a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception. And then we will depart for Redmond, Oregon, where at about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon the President will participate in a briefing on the Bear Butte and Booth fires in Deschutes National Forest. Following that briefing -- and that is pool coverage -- the President will participate in an aerial tour of the fires aboard Marine One. And then the President will deliver remarks on his Healthy Forest Initiative back at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds and Exposition Center.

Q What time will that be?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's following the aerial tour, so as soon as that's done.

Q How many fires is that, two?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. In his remarks the President will talk about his plan for sound, common-sense forest management policy, and the steps that we have already taken to prevent catastrophic fires that threaten life, property and habitat. The President will also talk about the results that we have been achieving working with local communities, conservationists and state officials. And the President will call on Congress to act.

The President will also, toward the end of his remarks, touch on the importance of passing comprehensive energy legislation, with mandatory and enforceable reliability standards that can help prevent future blackouts, like the one that occurred last week.

And then we overnight in Bend, Oregon. And with that, I'm glad to open up to questions.

Q Scott, on Iraq, what additional steps now might need to be taken in the wake of the bombing at the U.N. in terms of maintaining security in Iraq? And are there any early estimates about how much more that might cost?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that I've made it -- I made the point previously that there are a lot of variables involved, in terms of the cost, that are involved. And we will always address those in a timely matter, in a manner to make sure that all the resources that are needed are there. And that's something we work very closely with Congress on. There's already been talk about moving forward on an additional supplemental at the appropriate time.

But I think that the bombing on the United Nations' headquarters the other day refocuses the world's attention on fighting terror in Iraq and on making sure that we are doing everything we can to help the Iraqi people realize a better future.

Q Do you think it will put pressure on other nations, maybe, to bear some of the brunt of that cost?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we are always in close consultation with others about ways that they can participate in the reconstruction. And so that's something we continue to discuss with other nations. That's why I said there are a lot of variables involved when you're talking about the cost. And as we know what the costs are, we have been outlining those costs and making sure that all the necessary resources are provided.

Q What's the administration looking for in the way of a resolution at the United Nations?

MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Powell and Secretary General Annan had a good discussion earlier today. There are some countries that have expressed concern about what they feel, you know, about what they believe -- that they believe may be needed -- that they may need additional authority to help in Iraq. A number of nations, under Security Council resolution 1483, are already participating in reconstruction. We've been in discussion with others, that some are preparing to help out. And there are a number of ongoing discussions about other nations to come -- I think there are some 30 countries that are already participating. But we are in dialogue with those countries that have expressed concerns. Secretary Powell had a good discussion with Secretary General Annan earlier today about how we can move forward, so that some of those countries that want to participate can participate.

Q Are you willing to give the U.N. a larger political role of some sort in Iraq? Are you willing to look at that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the United Nations has an important role to play. And they have been playing an important role in the reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Iraq. So those are discussions we continue to have with the United Nations. I think Secretary General Annan reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to help with reconstruction in Iraq.

Q Right, but some said a broader role is needed, a broader political authority, political endorsement of the occupation is needed from the United Nations.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and that's -- if you're going to the countries that have expressed some concerns, saying that they feel like they need additional authority to participate, help the people of Iraq, those are discussions that were held earlier today. They're discussions that have been going on with some of those countries previously.

Again, 1483 we have always said provides sufficient authority for countries to participate and help in Iraq. And a number -- some 30 countries already are participating in our efforts in Iraq, and there are several others that are preparing to send troops. And then there are a number of others, beyond that, that we are in discussion with.

Q Are these concerns that have been raised since the bombing this week or -- I mean, are there additional and new concerns, or are these ongoing concerns?

MR. McCLELLAN: What are you talking about -- I'm sorry?

Q You talked about countries raising concerns and needing more authority. Are these new --

MR. McCLELLAN: This is something I've expressed previously, when we've talked about -- when this issue has come up. You all have asked questions about other countries participating in the reconstruction efforts. I've always pointed out that there are a lot of countries already participating with the coalition in the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.

But there are some countries that feel like they might need additional authority beyond 1483 so that they can participate. And those are the discussions that Secretary Powell and Secretary General Annan had earlier today. Those are discussions that Secretary Powell has had with other -- those countries, as well.

Q New concerns that have been raised since Tuesday, is what I'm asking.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Are there new concerns that have been raised by other countries since Tuesday?

MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to ask the countries those questions. If you're asking about security, that's something that's always discussed, that obviously all nations look at their own individual security concerns. But the coalition is working very closely with them to address any of those concerns.

Q Can you talk about what the White House knows about the capture of Chemical Ali and what you guys see is the significance?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President was informed earlier today in his briefing this morning. Obviously -- I think Chemical Ali exemplified the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime. It is another important step in going after the remnants of the former regime, and it's further reassurance to the Iraqi people that we continue to hunt down those remnants of the former regime and make sure that they are brought to justice.

Q Was he found because of cooperation from Iraqis?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to talk to -- talk to our military leaders in the region about the specifics of the capture.

Q Scott, has the problem changed now, though? Is it people like Chemical Ali that are still the problem in Iraq, or is it this -- new forces coming in? Is it al Qaeda? Has the problem changed from the former regime to --

MR. McCLELLAN: There's both. There's remnants of the former regime, and there are foreign terrorists in Iraq that are enemies of the Iraqi people, that are enemies of peace and freedom. And we continue to be on the offensive, our coalition forces, going after these remnants and going after these killers, to bring them to justice. We will continue to hunt them down and we will defeat them.

Q Middle East -- more air strikes. Is the President concerned that the cycle of violence is repeating itself?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q The Middle East, is the President concerned the cycle of violence is repeating itself?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think what is important to emphasize is the need for the parties to work together to resolve these matters. We remain fully engaged in the Middle East peace process. Secretary Powell and Condi Rice have continued to talk to parties in the region. Ambassador Wolf was meeting with parties in the region. All parties have responsibilities, including the Arab nations, to do everything they can to help end terrorism.

But it's important for the parties to get back -- both parties to get back talking to one another. It's important for the parties to work together to resolve these matters. But the foundation for moving forward on the peace process to a two-state solution is the dismantlement of terrorist organizations and the dismantlement of terrorist infrastructure. That's the way forward. That's the foundation for moving forward in the Middle East.

Q It looked like Abbas was ready to take some significant new steps toward some of the terrorist groups, and then the Israelis came in and had one of their pinpoint strikes. Is that helpful, in the view of the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things there. One, the parties need to work together to resolve these matters.

Q You're not saying anything toward the Israelis?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Israelis, or Israel has a right to defend herself. But Israel needs to take into account the effect that actions they take have on the peace process. So we're continuing to talk with the parties, continuing to urge them to work together to resolve these matters.

Q It sounds like you're saying it's not helpful.

MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm saying is that they need to take into account the effect of the actions that they take. That's why it's important for the parties to work together.

Q To work together --

MR. McCLELLAN: To work together, to be talking with one -- that's right, to be talking with one another to resolve these matters.

Q Rather than go it alone and do it alone?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Rather than go it alone and launch a strike --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you mean by go it alone, but in terms of --

Q Israel didn't work with Abbas on this pinpoint strike today, they did it on their own.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said what I said, that Israel has a right to defend herself, but they need to take into account the effect of their actions.

Q Does today's action constitute Israel defending itself, or did it go beyond that, in your judgment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what our focus is on is talking to the parties and getting the parties to get back together, so they can talk with one another and resolve these matters. That's what our focus is.

Q How do you want to increase the chances of that happening?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q How would you like to see that happen, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's the discussions that we have with the parties in the region. That's the discussions that are ongoing as we travel here on Air Force One.

Q Back to the U.N. I didn't quite understand the answer on Randy's question. Is the United States willing to cede political control to the U.N. -- some political control over Iraq, in other words, perhaps an official of the stature of Ambassador Bremer from the U.N.? Not just a humanitarian mission for the U.N., but a governing --

MR. McCLELLAN: Keep in mind that the United Nations had a representative there, Sergio de Mello, who was working very closely with Ambassador Bremer. And the United Nations has been and will continue to work closely with us in Iraq, as Secretary Annan said earlier today and said yesterday when he reaffirmed the United Nations' commitment to helping the Iraqi people. This is an effort that is led by the coalition provisional authority, and that's where it stands.

Q But this wouldn't even be a question if it weren't for the fact that some people feel like the role that the U.N. had wasn't enough. I mean, otherwise we wouldn't even be asking this question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q We wouldn't even be asking this question if some people didn't feel like that role that you keep talking about was enough.

MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to -- and Secretary Powell said earlier today that the United Nations has a vital role to play. They've been playing a vital role and they will continue to. And we will continue to work closely with the United Nations.

Q But that role, now, is defined as strictly humanitarian. Is there any -- are you saying -- does it have to remain that way?

MR. McCLELLAN: They've been helping with reconstruction and humanitarian efforts.

Q But not political.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the U.N. is working very closely with us and we appreciate their help.

All right, thanks.

Q How much is the fundraiser?

MR. McCLELLAN: Check with the campaign.

Q Is the fundraiser tomorrow night kind of a different animal than the ones we've had so far?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's at a residence.

Q But it's still the same structure, $2,000 a plate?

MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to double-check with the campaign. It is a campaign reception. It's just at a private residence, which when we do those, that's why it's not open.

END 10:02 A.M. PDT

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