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 Home > News & Policies > June 2005

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 1, 2005

President and South African President Mbeki Discuss Bilateral Relations
The Oval Office

Play Video  Video (Real)

12:03 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, welcome back.

We've just had a wide-ranging discussion on very important issues. We spent time talking about our bilateral relations. I would characterize our bilateral relations as strong. We spent time talking about the continent of Africa.

And, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your leadership. South Africa is a great country. The President uses his position to not only better the lives of his own people, but to work to bring stability and peace to the region and to the continent.

President George W. Bush welcomes President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, to the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday, June 1, 2005.  White House photo by Eric Draper We talked about several situations that are of concern to our government, most notably Darfur. I want to thank you for your leadership there. The President has got troops there. Deputy Secretary Zoellick is on the way to Darfur. This is a serious situation. As you know, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, with my concurrence, declared the situation a genocide. Our government has put a lot of money to help deal with the human suffering there.

Later on today I'll be meeting with the head of NATO, who has agreed to help the AU position troops so that humanitarian aid can reach these poor folks, as well as giving -- bringing stability and hopefully some breathing room so there can be a political agreement. But the President gave me some good advice on that situation, and I want to thank you for that.

As well, we'll discuss, later on, ways to cooperate to make the world a more peaceful place. But, Mr. President, again, I really appreciate you coming. It's great to see you.

PRESIDENT MBEKI: Thank you very much, President. I must say thank you very much, Mr. President, for asking us to come. And again I must say I agree very much with the President about the state of the relations between our two governments and the two countries. It is very strong. And, Mr. President, I appreciate it very much the commitment you have demonstrated now for some years with regard to helping us to meet our own domestic South African challenges, as well as the challenges on the African continent.

They are -- I'm afraid you have -- I'm going to create more problems for you, President -- (laughter) -- because I'm going to ask for even more support.

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's all right. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT MBEKI: Because the contribution of the United States to helping us solve the issues that lead to peace and security on the continent, that contribution is very vital. The contribution, President, to helping us in terms of the economic recovery and development of the continent, particularly via NEPAD, is very important.

And I -- we believe very strongly, President, that the upcoming G8 summit in Gleneagles in Scotland has the possibility to communicate a very strong, positive message about movement on the African continent away from poverty and the development -- these conflicts. And clearly, your presence, Mr. President, in terms of the practical outcomes, your contribution to the practical outcomes of the G8 summit is critically important.

As the media looks on, President George W. Bush and South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki visit in the Oval Office Wednesday, June 1, 2005.  White House photo by Eric Draper But thanks very much.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks.

We'll answer a couple of questions, if that's all right. April.

Q Yes, Mr. President. First, for you -- what are your thoughts about the fact that Deep Throat has been outed --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes -- (laughter.)

Q -- and also the fact, Mr. President, is he a hero in your mind?

And, Mr. President, on the issue of Darfur, Sudan, a new survey came out by the Zogby International Poll that finds 84 percent of Americans polled feel that the U.S. should not tolerate an extremist government committing such attacks and should use its military assets, short of using military combat troops on the ground to protect civilians there.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me first say something. We are working with NATO to make sure that we are able to help the AU put combat troops there. And as a part of that, I believe a transport plane of ours, for example, will be a part of this mission.

I think later on today I'm going to speak to the Prime Minister of Canada, who has also been very strong about dealing with Darfur, and I will thank him for his contributions.

You know, there was an interesting revelation yesterday, Mr. President, about a news story -- a massive news story that took place when I was a pretty young guy. And to those of us who grew up in the late -- got out of college in the late '60s, the Watergate story was a relevant story, and a lot of us have always wondered who Deep Throat might have been. And the mystery was solved yesterday.

Q Is he a hero?

PRESIDENT BUSH: He was -- it's hard for me to judge. I'm learning more about the situation. All I can tell you is, is that it's -- it was a revelation that caught me by surprise, and I thought it very interesting. I'm looking forward to reading about it, reading about his relationship with the news media. It's a brand-new story for a lot of us who have been wondering a long time who it was. I knew it wasn't you. (Laughter.) You weren't even born during that period.

Q I was, I was born. I was old enough.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Barely. That's a compliment, Mr. President. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT MBEKI: No, we -- our view has been that it's critically important that the African continent should deal with these conflict situations on the continent. And that includes Darfur. And therefore, indeed, you will notice that we have not asked for anybody outside of the African continent to deploy troops in Darfur. It's an African responsibility and we can do it.

So what we've asked for is the necessary logistical and other support to be able to ensure that we discharge our responsibilities. I should say that. Even the first troops deployed in Darfur were from Rwanda and Nigeria. The U.S. military forces sent the planes that actually did the airlift of those forces to Darfur. That's the kind of support I would ask for, and indeed, as the President has indicated, we even went to NATO, who also agreed to support.

So I don't think it's -- certainly from the African perspective, we wouldn't say we want deployment of U.S. troops in Darfur -- on the continent. We've got the people to do this -- military, police, other -- so long as we get this necessary logistical support. I think that's what's critically important.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Do you want to call on somebody from your press corps?

PRESIDENT MBEKI: Anybody?

Q President Bush, with about four weeks left to go to the G8 summit, do you still -- do you have any reservations about British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa report, especially with reference to the international finance facility?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We have made our position pretty clear on that, that it doesn't fit our budgetary process. On the other hand, I've also made it clear to the Prime Minister I look forward to working with Great Britain and other countries to advance the African agenda that has been on the G8's agenda for -- ever since I've been the President.

And the President and I were talking about the positive steps that have been taken. The NEPAD agreement was presented as a result of G8 meetings; commitment to trade, as well as humanitarian help have all emerged as a result of the conversations through the G8, and commitments as a result of the G8. And I hope to advance the agenda, what I call the compassion agenda.

And by the way, the thing I appreciate about the President is he understands it's a two-way street we're talking about. I mean, countries such as ours are not going to want to give aid to countries that are corrupt, or don't hold true to democratic principles, such as rule of law and transparency and human rights and human decency. That's where the President has played such a vital role, because South Africa has been a stalwart when it comes to democratic institutions.

But, no, we've got more work to do. I'm looking forward to sitting down not only at the table with the leaders from the G8 countries, but, as well, with leaders from the continent of Africa -- and other countries are coming. So it's going to be quite a meeting.

Keil.

Q Mr. President, looking back over the last year, you talked an awful lot about the importance of free and fair elections in Iraq, which most international observers now believe is what took place. Given the lesson that you say that that leaves for the region, do you think that Egypt is now on pace for the same free and fair elections? And, if not, what do they need to do to get there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's an interesting question. I spoke to President Mubarak today, and I -- he talked to me, by the way, about him calling his attorney general to -- calling upon his attorney general to investigate the disturbance around one of the polling sites. And I urged him once again to have as free and fair election as possible, because it will be a great legacy for his country. It will be a -- he's publicly stated he's for free and fair elections, and now is the time for him to show the world that his great country can set an example for others. He assured me that that's just exactly what he wants to do. And I will, to the best of my ability, continue to try to convince him that it's in not only Egypt's interest, but the world's interest, to see Egypt have free and fair elections.

Listen, the definition of free and fair, there's international standards, of course, but people ought to be allowed to vote without being intimidated; people ought to be allowed to be on TV, and if the government owns the TV, they need to allow the opposition on TV; people ought to be allowed to carry signs and express their displeasure or pleasure; people ought to have every vote count. And those seem like reasonable standards.

Q My colleague will ask the question.

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's a relay. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, does your administration still regard Zimbabwe as an "outpost of tyranny"?

And, President Mbeki, do you still regard that as an unhelpful characterization?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I brought up Zimbabwe. It's -- obviously, we are concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles, and, obviously, concerned about a country that was able to, for example, feed herself, now has to import food, as an example of the consequence of not adhering to democrat principles.

The President, who has been very much involved in this issue, gave me a briefing on, for example, different ways that the people are trying to reconcile their difference of opinion within Zimbabwe. But it's a problem.

PRESIDENT MBEKI: Yes, you see, the critical challenge, as I'm sure you are aware, is to assist the people of Zimbabwe to overcome their political problems, their economic problems. There's problems even now of food shortages because of the drought.

And so what is really critically important is to see in what ways we can support the opposition party, the ruling party in Zimbabwe to overcome these problems. And, clearly, one of the critically important things to do is to make sure that you have the political arrangements that address matters of rule of law, matters that address issues of the freedom of the press, issues that address questions of freedom of assembly; a whole range of matters which require that the Zimbabweans have a look at the constitution and look at the legislation.

And this is a direction in which we're trying to encourage them to move, so that they create this political basis where everybody is comfortable that you've got a stable, democratic system in the country, which is critically fundamental to addressing these other major challenges of ensuring the recovery of the economy of Zimbabwe, and really improving the lives of the people. So that's the direction we're taking.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, thank you all for coming. I owe the President a lunch.

END 12:17 P.M. EDT