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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 26, 2003
Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Middle School
12:00 P.M. CST
MS. BUCHAN: Good morning. I'll start out with just an announcement, then I'll be happy to take your questions.
President Bush will welcome Premier Wen Jiabao, of China, to the White House for an official visit on December 9th. The President looks forward to holding discussions with the Premier on a full range of issues on the U.S.-China agenda, and to continue building a candid, constructive and cooperative bilateral relationship.
Q Can you spell his name? (Laughter.)
MS. BUCHAN: W-e-n, J-i-a-b-a-o.
Q Oh, yes, him. (Laughter.)
MS. BUCHAN: Okay, no questions. (Laughter.)
Q Claire, can you tell us a little bit about the President's conversation with the interim Georgian --
MS. BUCHAN: Sure. The President spoke this morning with interim Georgian President Burjanadze, B-u-r-j-a-n-a-d-z-e. They spoke for about 10 minutes this morning. The President noted that the transfer of authority in Georgia was handled without resort to violence and that the new leaders moved quickly to call presidential elections in accordance with the Georgian constitution.
The President reiterated the United States support for Georgia's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as for Georgia's program of democratic and free market reforms. He also said that the U.S. will dispatch a delegation to Georgia, to assess Georgia's needs and what the international community can do to support Georgia's reforms.
Q Claire, did the U.S. think that Shevardnadze's government was corrupt?
MS. BUCHAN: President Shevardnadze did a lot to bring about freedom in Russia and -- in Georgia, and the President notes that the transfer of authority was handled without resort to violence.
Q Claire, there have been concerns in recent years about the level of corruption in Georgia --
MS. BUCHAN: I can't hear you.
Q There have been many concerns in recent years about the level of corruption in Georgia. Does the sending of an assessment team suggest that with new leadership, the United States government will be likely to increase aid to Georgia?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the assessment team will determine what's necessary. What it indicates is that we stand ready to help the Georgian people.
Q Can I ask some Thanksgiving-related questions?
MS. BUCHAN: Sure.
Q You know, what family members does the President have coming in? And also, are there -- does the President plan to call soldiers around the world on Thanksgiving? Or what are some of his other plans?
MS. BUCHAN: The President will spending Thanksgiving at his ranch here in Crawford, Texas. He'll be joined by family and friends, including his mother and father, former President Bush and Mrs. Bush. And if there are updates, additionally, to what he does on Thanksgiving, we'll try and keep you posted.
MS. BUCHAN: Menu. Menu will be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including free range turkey, turkey cornbread dressing, chipotle sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, asparagus, Texas grapefruit, toasted walnuts and greens salad -- that's all one item -- pumpkin pie and Prairie Chapel pecan pie made with pecans from the President's ranch.
Q Is the First Lady in the kitchen as we speak?
MS. BUCHAN: Are you angling to help cook Thanksgiving dinner?
Q You bet. I volunteer. (Laughter.)
MS. BUCHAN: I think Dick Keil needs your assistance, instead. (Laughter.)
Q Claire, is part of the long guarantee -- the reduction of the loan guarantee for the fence or not? Or is it just settlement --
MS. BUCHAN: Is it what?
Q Part of the reduction, the almost $300 million in loan guarantees, is part of that at all because of the building of the fence, or is it just settlement?
MS. BUCHAN: The deduction reflects issues of concern to the United States and the requirements that are spelled out in U.S. law, including settlement activities and the route of the security fence.
Q So it is -- the security fence was definitely a factor in the reduction?
MS. BUCHAN: As I said, it reflects the requirements in the U.S. law, and those include settlement activities and the route of the security fence.
Q Claire, can you explain why it is we're comfortable with not imposing sanctions on Iran for a nuclear program the IAEA has concluded had weapons in mind?
MS. BUCHAN: The resolution that was adopted today by the IAEA strongly deplores Iran's past failures and breaches. It calls for continued, thorough IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear programs, and it warns that should any further serious Iranian failures come to light, the board would immediately consider all options at its disposal.
We welcome that resolution and believe that it underscores the international community's serious concerns with Iran's nuclear activities and the urgent requirement of Iran to come into full compliance with nuclear nonproliferation obligations.
Q I'm not sure that answered my question. I'm wondering why we don't feel it's necessary to put the pressure on Iran that would come with sanctions?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we feel that this is a strong resolution, we welcome it and there is no doubt that it means referral to the United Nations if there were further failures.
Q Does "referral" mean sanctions, then?
MS. BUCHAN: "Referral" meaning referral to the United Nations to be dealt with.
Q Are his daughters going to be spending Thanksgiving dinner there?
MS. BUCHAN: We don't talk about his daughters.
Q Good economic numbers today, I think durable orders, though, were off; a slight decline in jobless claims, I think the lowest since he took office. Does he have any reaction to that, is he aware of the reports?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President has taken strong and aggressive action to get the economy growing again and to help create an environment where jobs can be created. We welcome the reports today, the economic indicators, which show that the economy is picking up steam. And we're cautiously optimistic. The President does believe that there's more to be done, and he isn't satisfied, and won't be satisfied, until every person who wants to find a job can find a job, which is why he is so aggressively promoting his six-point plan.
Q Did you see Garner's comments to BBC radio, do you know?
MS. BUCHAN: No.
Q I was just wondering if there was any reaction?
MS. BUCHAN: Anything else?
Q Claire, does the administration believe that the energy bill is dead for this year?
MS. BUCHAN: I believe that the Senate has indicated that they'll take it up next year. The President believes it's a very high priority, and we are disappointed that the Congress didn't act to complete action on a comprehensive energy plan. It's important to America's national security, it's important to our energy security.
And the bill that had been under consideration would have increased renewables, would have increased conservation efforts, would have increased production, modernized energy grid. So it would have taken some very important steps toward a comprehensive energy plan. And we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on it.
Q Next year?
MS. BUCHAN: As soon as it can be taken up.
Q I know we've been asking you about this every day, but there is a deadline coming up, and without asking you to speculate on when the President is going to announce what his decision is, can you talk about whether that deadline is something that the administration is concerned about and wants to meet, or just -- are you operating on your own timetable, altogether?
MS. BUCHAN: The President will make a decision when he has reviewed all of the facts and all of the issues, and I'm not going to speculate on when that will be.
Q On a lighter note, are there any traditions or anything you can tell us about the -- for Thanksgiving, that the First Family is doing?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything on traditions. If there's anything, I'll see if we can find anything.
Q Do you know what they're going to do tomorrow, other than eat?
MS. BUCHAN: They will be spending time with their family and friends on the ranch.
Okay, thank you all. Wait, wait, the abbreviated week ahead. I can give you Monday and Tuesday, and we'll fill you in for the rest of the week on Friday on paper. On Monday, the President will travel to Detroit, Michigan, where he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon. He will then participate in an event on the economy with employers and employees. He will then travel to Newark, New Jersey, where he will participate in a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception.
On Tuesday, the President will sign HR 3182, the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003, at the White House. He will travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he will then attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon. And then back at the White House, he will participate in a photo opportunity with the 2003 NASCAR drivers.
Q Does that mean no Medicare signing Monday or Tuesday?
MS. BUCHAN: Right.
Q Will you gaggle on Friday and Saturday?
MS. BUCHAN: No.
Q This is the last time we'll see you?
MS. BUCHAN: It won't be the last time you'll see me, but I will not gaggle on Friday or Saturday.
Q Okay, well --
MS. BUCHAN: Do we hear a call for a gaggle on Thanksgiving?
Q Claire, do you have anything on when the President might sign Medicare?
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry?
Q When the President might sign Medicare?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll keep you posted.
Q Thank you.
END 12:11 P.M. CST