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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 24, 2004

Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice on the President's Trip to Ireland and Turkey
The James S. Brady Briefing Room

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1:51 P.M. EDT

DR. RICE: Good afternoon. Before I take your questions let me just make a few brief remarks. This weekend's trip continues a period of important diplomacy that has begun to build an international consensus on Iraq and to support the President's broader Middle East reforms.

At the E.U. and NATO summits, the President intends to continue to build an international consensus on Iraq and generate European backing for his broader Middle East initiative. He will engage in discussions in NATO, this Alliance which has contributed so much to the spread of peace and freedom throughout the world. He'll discuss ways that the Alliance can help in the current period to deal with the threats of the 21st century, of course, first and foremost, in Afghanistan, where NATO has had a very important role and is in the process of force generation to make certain that role can be fully fulfilled. And he will also discuss what NATO can do to help the Iraqis in their quest for stability.

The President intends, at the E.U.-U.S. summit, to continue to demonstrate the strength of our relationship with the European Union, including discussions that have now been going on for a number of years on countering terrorism, combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and spreading prosperity through open and free trade.

The President experience looks forward to the visit to Turkey, the opportunity to strengthen our strategic partnership with a leading secular democracy within the Muslim world. And the President will continue at NATO to advance NATO's own transformation of its own capabilities, something that is much needed by the Alliance.

On Friday, President and Mrs. Bush will depart from Washington for Shannon, Ireland. On Saturday, June 26th, the President will meet with President McAleese of Ireland, followed by a meeting with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. The President will then participate in a U.S.-E.U. meeting.

After lunch, he will meeting briefly with the co-chairs of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue, followed by a press availability -- to which I'm sure you all will come -- with the E.U. leadership. At the conclusion of that press availability, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Ankara, Turkey.

On Sunday, June 27th, the President will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, followed by a visit to Ataturk's Mausoleum. The President will then meet with President Sezer, who will host a working lunch for him.

Following lunch, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Ankara for Istanbul, and that afternoon, the President will meet with religious leaders, and then with NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer.

On Monday, June 28th, the President will begin his day with a working session with the North Atlantic Council, followed that afternoon with a Council working lunch and a meeting with Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, June 29th, the President will participate in a working session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and a working session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The President will then deliver remarks at Galatasaray University, and following those remarks, the President will depart Istanbul for Washington.

If there are any updates to the schedule, we'll let you know. But with that, I'll take your questions.

Steve?

Q Does the President want a specific commitment from NATO for a NATO training role in Iraq?

DR. RICE: Let me start by saying that this is an historic opportunity for the Alliance to continue the progress that it's made in transforming itself from an alliance that was really there to resist the Soviet Union and to allow democracies to spread. It's transformed itself in remarkable ways over the last several years, including expansion to a number, now, of states that many people thought would never be possible to expand to peacefully, like the Baltic states.

It is also a process of transforming NATO's capabilities. And one of the problems, frankly, that the Alliance has is that it has big numbers, but a lot of those capabilities are not really there for the rapid movement of forces. It's one reason that the President has been a big proponent of a rapid reaction force for NATO, which is well underway to being developed.

The Alliance has gotten over any discussions that used to take place in NATO parlance about "out-of-area," and is now the primary means of security in Afghanistan through the ISAF. And the first thing that the President will ask is that the NATO fully generate its capabilities to support the mission in Afghanistan -- that has been a matter of concern -- and then to look at what can be done in Iraq to answer the request of Prime Minister Allawi for NATO's help -- "technical assistant," I think he called it -- as well as, perhaps, help in training -- because the Iraqis have been very focused on getting their own capabilities up and running.

I should just mention that while we'll be discussing what NATO can do to help the Iraqis in what they've asked for, it is already the case that NATO has 16 members on the ground, and that NATO is very active in supporting that mission, including significant support to the Polish forces, the Polish sector in the south.

Yes, Terry.

Q You said that there are 16 countries that have troops in there. But for the Alliance, is there a specific commitment for the whole Alliance in Iraq? And also, what is your understanding of what Prime Minister Allawi says by -- means by, "training inside Iraq, equipping and other forms of technical assistance"?

DR. RICE: Well, I think we have to have a discussion of precisely what the Iraqis need. As you know, the Iraqis are in the process of putting together their own plans for the structuring of their security forces with General Petraeus on exactly what they will need. But it is clear that Iraqi forces will need equipment. It's clear that they need trainers to help them with everything from civil military training to combat training, and I'm sure that -- and, perhaps, counterterrorism training. And I'm sure that all of those elements will be discussed. NATO has some people who would be particularly capable in that.

I don't know how many member states can actually participate in the training, but we would hope that this would be something that would be done as a NATO contribution, that the Alliance would be contributing, even though, obviously, a lot of the training will have to be done by member states. NATO doesn't have a multinational training facility and a lot will have to be done by the member states.

Q Condi, it sounds like the initial reaction to the prospect of an expanded NATO role got a cool reception from some European leaders, like President Chirac, who spoke out about this at Sea Island. You've also got a situation where insurgents in Iraq are being very targeted and coordinated in their attacks. I'm wondering what the President's frame of mind is about all of this. And to the extent that the bombings in Turkey today were a message, as well, to NATO countries not to get involved, his frame of mind about it, and what he's prepared to argue at this summit -- to say, look, this is what we're up against and this is what we need.

DR. RICE: Well, it's very clear that what the terrorists are trying to do, the terrorists and insurgents, is that they're trying to derail the process of building a stable Iraq. They are -- this is an affront and a challenge to the transition to sovereignty to the Iraqis. This is, I think, meant to be a challenge to the new Iraqi government. And we've said all along that we fully expected that there was likely to be an uptick in violence as they try to derail this transition.

Nobody has been stronger than the Iraqi Interim Government in saying that that is not going to happen, that they are prepared to fight for their freedom. They appreciate very much what the United States and the other coalition members have done, the sacrifices that have been made to liberate them from Saddam Hussein, but that, in fact, Iraqis' democracy -- Iraq's democracy is going to have to be defended by Iraq -- by Iraqis.

And so what they're asking now of NATO is that they get help in doing that. And the beginning of this is for NATO to answer the request for some help on the training side. What else NATO might be able to do as this goes forward, as the Iraqis get a better sense of where they're going, I think we'll have to continue to discuss.

But NATO is involved in a lot of things, including in Afghanistan, but NATO needs to respond to the Iraqi's request. This is about the spread of freedom and liberty. That's what NATO has stood up for from the very beginning. It is consistent with NATO's values. Many of the members of NATO would not be free and at liberty themselves had it not been for the sacrifices of others, including sacrifices of the United States. And I think what the President will challenge NATO to do is, in much the way that he challenged the G8 and much the way that he will talk to the E.U., that this is an historic opportunity to continue the forward march of freedom and liberty. And NATO needs to play a role in that.

Q Can I just follow on one point? The President has been very clear that after June the 30th, that it's -- Iraqis will be primarily responsible for their own security. Those were his words at Sea Island. At this point, does he also need to level with the American people about the real prospects that this government could be derailed, that as a matter of security, it may not be able to take these initial steps forward after June 30th, and describe what the U.S. role is going to be if, and when that happens?

DR. RICE: Well, David, I think that what you've heard the President and everyone else say is that Iraqis will be responsible for their future, they get political control of their future. We understand fully, as Prime Minister Allawi has said, himself, that the Iraqis do not have the capability to secure themselves. That's why they asked for a multinational force; that's why the U.N. has mandated a multinational force. And, of course, a lot of the security will have to be provided by that multinational force, as it has been in the last several months.

The key, though, is to improve Iraqi security capabilities -- whether it's police forces, or what they will turn into, kind of a national guard, their civilian defense forces -- or the army, to improve those forces as quickly as possible. That takes training, that takes resources, that takes equipment. The Iraqis have some ideas about how to bring people back who have security expertise into those forces. And so, working together, you can get these forces, the Iraqi security forces ready to play a bigger role in that security. But nobody is -- nobody believes that the Iraqis can do this on their own for quite some time. I think the Iraqis are the first to say that.

Q Dr. Rice, regarding the trip to Ireland, is the President and you, yourself, aware of how much political capital the Taoiseach put up by allowing the U.S. military to use Shannon Airport during the war with Iraq? And are you aware of the potential thousands of protesters who are planning to greet the President when he arrives?

DR. RICE: First of all, in terms of protesters, that's what democracy is about. And I -- every time, I'm asked this question, I remind people that actually now people in Baghdad and also in Kabul have the right to protest. They were under the most brutal regimes where you had your tongue cut out for protesting. So the people who protest anyplace in the world, Ireland, or wherever else, when they protest I hope will just remember that what has been delivered as a result of this war effort is the freedom to exercise the very liberties that they are exercising to other people who were denied that for so long -- and not just denied it, but punished for it, oppressed by it, killed by it, tortured for it. It's very important that people who live in freedom not assume that it is their gift alone to live in freedom, but understand that sometimes that gift has to be extended to others. And that's the only point that I would make.

Now, in terms of the Taoiseach and Irish support, I think the Irish, perhaps as well as anybody, understand political processes when you've been through periods of great violence and terrorism, understand what it means to try to rebuild a society, to have economic prosperity spring from what used to just be considered a chaotic situation. And I very often find myself when I'm talking to groups of Europeans, in general, to ask people to look back at their own histories and to look at the darkest points in their own history, and to ask what it would have been like if people had abandoned them in those dark moments. The Iraqi people, as Prime Minister Allawi said in his opening line, are going through a difficult period now. They need those who are lucky enough to be on the side of -- who live in freedom to stay with them and not abandon them.

Barry.

Q Americans, Poles, the British, a few other people are, for want of a better phrase, putting their bodies in harm's way. Will the President be satisfied if -- that NATO has fulfilled its obligations by training troops and doing nothing muscular?

DR. RICE: Well, NATO is an organization of member states -- let's remember that.

Q Yes, and 16 of them are there.

DR. RICE: And 16 of them are there and contributing. I think that the organization NATO qua NATO can do a lot to help by the training mission. People are putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan. And we need to remember that, as well.

We will see what other contributions come from where. One of the issues is whether or not there might be other states -- perhaps Muslim states that are not border states that might wish to contribute. But there's no doubt that there needs to be, over time -- we understand people can't make these decisions immediately. We've just now come to an international consensus about Iraq with the U.N. Security Council resolution. It's going to take some time. But I do think people will ask -- or the President will ask people to consider this historic opportunity and to consider the sacrifices that others have made on their behalf and whether they can see their way to make greater sacrifices.

Q It sounds as if you expect Morocco and some others to come in. Can you verify --

DR. RICE: I do not know who else will come in. I said there are just discussions that we believe are underway.

MR. McCORMACK: I'm sorry, the President is about to start speaking, so we're going to have to break the briefing off.

DR. RICE: Yes. I'll try to get back to you, I'm sorry.

Q On Iraq debt relief, can you talk about --

DR. RICE: Just real quick. We have the Iraq debt sustainability study from the IMF. The IMF has said that the range is somewhere between 67 to 95 percent that is sustainable. We're going to work this now with people -- again, people need to be clear that Iraq is not going to be capable of recovering if it has to pay a crushing debt burden. Eventually, this will go to the Paris Club, but we're still in discussion with members.

A lot of people have been very generous in saying that they are prepared to write off the vast majority of Iraqi debt.

Q Do you expect to get that 67 to 95 percent?

DR. RICE: This is going to be quite a long process. We still have to go through an IMF program negotiation with the Iraqis, and this is going to take some time.

Q -- the religious leaders, the meeting -- what about that?

DR. RICE: This is to demonstrate how Turkey is a place in which all the great religions are actually functioning, and functioning in an atmosphere of tolerance. And the President looks forward to meeting the heads of churches -- of several churches in Turkey. It's going to be very exciting.

Thank you.

END 2:03 P.M. EDT