For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 16, 2004
President Bush, PM of the Netherlands Meet at the White House
Remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Balkenende of the Netherlands in a Photo Opportunity
The Oval Office
10:14 A.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: Here's what we're going to do. We'll have a couple opening statements. I'll call upon an American press, the Prime Minister will call upon somebody from the Dutch press; American press, Dutch press; and that's it.
Thank you all for coming. Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. I'm glad you're back. Thank you for a -- your friendship. Thank you for your clear understanding about the need for us to achieve a more free and peaceful world. I appreciate our bilateral relations are strong. We had a wide-ranging discussion, talking about a variety of issues, whether it be foreign policy or the economy. It was a good, frank discussion. And I appreciate my friend being here again. Welcome.
PRIME MINISTER BALKENENDE: George, thanks again for the hospitality. We had, indeed, a very good discussion. We talked about issues around Iraq, the role of the United Nations, by example. We talked about the cooperation in the economic sphere, developments in Afghanistan. We also talked about values in society, an important issue. And especially, we talked about terrorism, the fight against terrorism. And it is important that the world society, international community stands shoulder-to-shoulder and shows its solidarity to fight against these terrible attacks. And we share that same view and we will work together, also, in the second half of this year, when The Netherlands is taking over the presidency of the European Union.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
We'll answer a couple questions here. We'll start with you, Terry Hunt.
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, do you think terrorists have reason to believe they can influence elections and policy, given the outcome of what happened in Spain?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think terrorists will kill innocent life in order to try to get the world to cower. I think -- these are cold-blooded killers. I mean, they'll kill innocent people to try to shake our will. That's what they want to do. And they'll never shake the will of the United States. We understand the stakes. And we will work with our friends to bring justice to the terrorists.
They have not only killed in Spain, they've killed in the United States, they've killed in Turkey, they've killed in Saudi Arabia. They kill wherever they can. And it's essential that the free world remain strong and resolute and determined.
Q Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President, according to opinion polls, most Dutch people want to withdraw the Dutch troops from Iraq. Many Dutch people think the war in Iraq has little to do with the war against terrorism, and may actually encourage terrorism. How would you respond to those Dutch people who want to withdraw?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I would ask them to think about the Iraqi citizens who don't want people to withdraw, because they want to be free. And I would remind the Dutch citizens that al Qaeda has an interest in Iraq for a reason, and that interest is, they realize this is a front in the war on terror, and they fear the spread of freedom and democracy in places like the greater Middle East. They can't stand the thought of free societies springing up in the Middle East, because they understand a free society is against their very wishes. And so it's essential that we remain side-by-side with the Iraqi people as they begin the process of self-government.
And we're making good progress. The basic law that was written by the Governing Council was a substantial piece of work that talked about freedoms, the very same freedoms that we honor in America or in The Netherlands. And it's essential that we help Iraq -- and Afghanistan -- develop into free societies, which, in itself, will start changing the regions in which they exist.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You look fine today, Adam. The tie. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Candidate Kerry has suggested he has support of world leaders. Do you think he should -- that should be a factor in the campaign? Was that an appropriate thing for him to say?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it's -- if you're going to make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts.
PRIME MINISTER BALKENENDE: I won't talk about that issue.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay, fine.
PRIME MINISTER BALKENENDE: It has to do with the campaign here in the United States.
Q Mr. President, have you convinced the Prime Minister of The Netherlands to leave the Dutch troops in Iraq?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The Prime Minister will make a -- the appropriate decision. It's his decision to make. We both agree that a free Iraq is essential to a peaceful world. We both understand the stakes. We both know that al Qaeda is interested in fighting us in Iraq. How do we know? We know because they've said so publicly. Al Qaeda understands the stakes. Al Qaeda wants us out of Iraq, because al Qaeda wants to use Iraq as an example of defeating freedom and democracy. And so the Prime Minister has got issues at home that he'll deal with. But there's no doubt that he understands the stakes and the historic opportunity with which we're faced.
PRIME MINISTER BALKENENDE: It's good to add that we did not talk about the situation after the half of July. That is the responsible of the Dutch government and Dutch parliament and we'll talk about it, as I made it clear already, earlier. But I think it's very good to look always to the situation of the Iraq people and the international struggle against terrorism. Therefore, it's so important that countries are working together and they can draw the same lines. That's very important, but it has nothing to, at this moment, to the decision-making as far as the situation after the 1st of July is concerned.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks, good job.
END 10:20 A.M. EST