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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 25, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Vienna, Ohio
12:31 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Hello, everybody. Let me go through the President's day. As you heard in the President's press avail, he spoke with President Chirac earlier this morning. The President offered our condolences to those injured and the families of the victims in the collapse of the roof of Charles DeGaulle Airport. The two leaders also discussed the Security Council resolution on Iraq and the way forward in Iraq -- you have some comments from the President on that already. They noted that there was broad agreement on the resolution in a number of areas, and they also talked about adjustments to be done in other areas of the resolution.
Q Who noted that, the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: They noted that there was broad agreement on the resolution in a number of areas, but that there are adjustments to be done in other areas. And the President emphasized the importance of the United States, France and the international community working together to support the Iraqi people as we move forward.
And the President -- the two Presidents also talked about the greater, or broader Middle East and the progress we are making in preparation for the G8 summit. And the President thanked President Chirac for his efforts in the broader Middle East, as well.
And the Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival is Sidney, or "Sid" Harris. He has been an active volunteer at a local hospital for the past 15 years, where he performed more than 4,000 hours of service assisting patients and comforting their friends and family.
And then the President looks forward to participating in a conversation on health care and community health centers at Youngstown State University. He will be joined by the administrator of the Health, Resources and Service Administration, the CEO of a health care system, an OB/GYN doctor and two community health center patients. And we'll get you background information on that, as well. You also have a fact sheet that I think Josh -- oh, Josh has in his hand, he'll get to you here momentarily.
And with that, I'll go to your questions.
Q What sort of adjustments need to be made in the resolution?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, those are the consultations that we're continuing to have with member nations on the Security Council, and others. I think -- well, one, we had an initial round of consultations before moving forward with the draft resolution yesterday. And there is a general consensus about the importance of moving forward on a resolution and showing our support for a free and peaceful and democratic Iraq. And, obviously, when resolutions are put forward like this, there is always likely to be some changes made as we move forward.
But we appreciate the support from members of the Security Council for moving forward on a Security Council resolution.
Q Scott, one of the tricky issues seems to be what the relationship will be between this multinational force and the Iraqi forces that would be under the new Iraqi interim government. Prime Minister Blair said some things this morning that have been read as indicating that the Iraqis would have veto power over the multinational force -- in other words, the Iraqis could say, "No, we don't want you to do an operation," and the multinational force wouldn't be able to go ahead.
Is that -- is that accurate? Is that what he meant to say?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the way you should look at it is that we'll be working in partnership and in cooperation with the interim government. As the President said in his remarks earlier today, or his comments to the pool earlier today, he talked about that we're there to help the Iraqi people when they assume -- when they are given sovereignty back June 30th, and that we will be there to work with Iraqi security forces.
So I think you should look at it in that context. The resolution talks about how the multinational force will be in Iraq with the consent of the interim government. And it talks about how the relationship between the interim government and the multinational force will be spelled out in a letter.
Q But the multinational force doesn't have to have the consent of the Iraqis to go ahead with any individual operation, do they?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I emphasized that we're going to be working in cooperation and partnership with the Iraqi security forces. We're there to help them as we move forward to a free and peaceful Iraq. And I think it's important to note that we have experience in addressing these matters. We do this on a daily basis in Afghanistan. We certainly have experience in Bosnia in working on these matters. So we'll be there working in partnership with the Iraqi security forces and working in coordination with the interim government, and I think that's the way to look at it.
Q Do we have to have their consent, yes or no?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, the Security Council resolution points out that we'll be acting in Iraq with the consent of the interim government -- that's spelled out in the Security Council resolution draft that's been put forward.
Q Do you think that's the same as veto --
MR. McCLELLAN: Frankly, in terms of all the details about the relationship, that's going to be spelled out more in a letter that will be presented to the Security Council, as well.
Q A letter from whom to whom?
MR. McCLELLAN: It will be presented -- in a letter that will be presented to the President of the Security Council.
Q I just want to be really clear on this. You're saying that we have to have the consent of the Iraqis to be there, to have a multinational force. What I'm asking is, does the multinational force have to have consent for everything they do?
MR. McCLELLAN: Essentially, I'm saying two things. One, we will be there with the consent of the interim government, because sovereignty will be transferred by June 30th -- we've already made that very clear, they will have full sovereignty. And then the second point I'm making is that we are going to work in close cooperation with that interim government. We will be there to partner with the Iraqis as they move forward to assume more responsibility for their security and for their future.
Q When does that letter go?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's all being -- the draft has been put forward; this is all being discussed with the Security Council and we'll let that all be worked out amongst the Security Council.
Q From President Bush to the Security Council?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it will be a letter that will be part of -- it will be part of the resolution going forward. Obviously, you have to get the first step in place, first, which is the naming of the interim government. And Mr. Brahimi is continuing to work on those efforts. We need to let that interim government be named, and then we'll move forward on the resolution after that time.
Q Two other quick questions for you. One, does the President know the names of the interim government leaders that Brahimi has already selected?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, Mr. Brahimi has been working closely with Iraqi leaders as he moves forward to form that interim government. He's also been in close consultation with Ambassador Bremer and others. He's been in -- obviously, he's been in contact with Secretary General Annan, I'm sure, on these issues, as well. I'm not going to get into talking about those conversations or discussions, but Mr. Brahimi is the one that will be moving forward on naming who the members of the interim government are. And then, there's a process after that for getting them in place.
Q I'm not asking you to detail --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I understand, and I'm not --
Q I'm just wondering, "yes" or "no" if President Bush knows the names.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's very well aware of the process that is going on. And he's received updates from his team in Iraq on that process. And that team has been in close contact with Mr. Brahimi.
Q You've said in the past the Democrats are exploiting what you call "loopholes" by using 527s. Now Republicans are forming their own to promote President Bush's reelection. What's the difference?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think everybody understands the importance of playing by the same rules when it comes to the campaign. But we have previously expressed our concerns about the loopholes in the campaign finance reforms that were passed. But in terms of what's being done, I don't know what other groups or outside people are doing.
Q So you can't say whether the President knows about these new 527s that are being formed to help his reelection?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we can't coordinate with any groups that may or may not be formed. I think that, under the law, these groups already have to be in place prior to when the law was passed.
Q -- the guy who started the Pioneers --
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to -- you might want to check on that.
Q I'm asking you, because the same guy who started the Pioneers is starting a new 527 for President Bush. But you're not aware of it?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q Scott, I don't understand the letter that Bush is -- or somebody is sending to the U.N. What's it going to spell out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's --
Q Why do you need this letter?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's part of -- it will spell out more about the relationship between the multinational force and the interim Iraqi government that will be in place. Like I said, we have a lot of experience in working in close cooperation with others on things of this nature -- on security situations. Like I pointed out, we do this on a daily basis in Afghanistan. We work in close cooperation with the government in Afghanistan.
Q Who's going to write it? Who puts it together, the coalition, or the U.S.? Who writes it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that that's going to be worked on. You have to first get the interim government in place, I think, before you can work out some of those -- some of those relationships. But we're going to -- we'll work in close partnership with the interim government.
Q This letter won't go anywhere until after June 30th, then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that -- like I said, the interim -- no, no, I wouldn't put that time frame on it. The interim government, we expect, will be announced soon by Mr. Brahimi. And then those issues will be discussed more -- then those issues will be discussed more with the interim government at that point. And that relationship will be worked out in further detail.
Q Isn't it meant to be sort of an exchange of letters that follows the U.N. Security Council --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that -- look, all that's going to be worked out with the interim government. We've got to -- the interim government needs to be put in place first. So let's let --
Q So you don't know when the letter will be written or when it will submitted?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- let's let that happen first. Well, the first step is to get the interim government in place, get those people named and Mr. Brahimi is working on that. And as we pointed out yesterday when we put forward the draft resolution, we would come back -- we would work on passing that resolution once that interim government is named.
Q Anything on Sanchez? Sanchez? Does the President has confidence?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh yes, absolutely, and our President talked about him earlier today, said he's done a fabulous job, and the President believes he's served admirably and with distinction in Iraq and appreciates the job he has done. He thinks he's done -- he thinks he's done a terrific job.
Q Why doesn't he think --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get into speculating or talking about any announcements, that if they happen, they would come out of the Pentagon. If there are any announcements to make, they'd be coming out of the Pentagon. But I think people have talked about how you always have to look at some of the planned rotations that are in place. And I think the Pentagon has pointed out that some of the questions that have been raised about Abu Ghraib, that there's no relation there to any decisions that may or may not be made.
END 12:42 P.M. EDT