The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 9, 2005

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One En Route
Columbus, Ohio

10:37 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. Let me begin with the President's day. The President spoke with Secretary General Annan this morning. The Secretary General initiated the call. He called to brief the President on his trip to Africa. He just returned from Africa. And the Secretary General talked about his visit to Sudan and the situation in Darfur. The Secretary General expressed his support for expanding the African Union security forces from -- I think approximately 3,000 to 8,000, is what we're all committed to doing, or helping the African Union forces do.

And the Secretary General also updated the President on the donor conference in Oslo; said that there had been an additional million dollars committed to help with the deployment of those additional forces. The President expressed our support for NATO helping with the deployment of the African Union forces. And the Secretary General talked about how the security forces are having a positive impact on the ground, and by expanding the forces, they will have even more of a positive impact in Darfur, and it will help encourage people to return back to their villages. And they both talked about the importance of continuing to press the government of Sudan and the rebels to sit down at the table in Abuja to resolve this in a peaceful way.

The Secretary General also -- and the President also discussed Ethiopia and the elections and the situation there. Both emphasized the need for the government and opposition to remain calm and await the final review by the electoral commission. Both the government and the opposition have claimed victory in the election and both have agreed to accept the review by the Carter Center and the electoral commission. And just, I mean, in terms of Ethiopia in general, we remain concerned about the violence. We call on all to exercise restraint.

Q This is you, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. The violence is unacceptable, the threat of violence is unacceptable. And we urge students and civil society leaders and opposition supporters and government -- members of the government and political leaders to refrain from violence and maintain a peaceful atmosphere in Ethiopia. Any concerns relating to alleged electoral irregularities need to be addressed through the electoral commission and the legal process. And it's important, also, for the federal security forces to respond in a like manner and to exercise restraint, and act in a way that is in accordance with international standards on human rights. It's important that there be due process. And we have been in contact at the highest levels with government officials, opposition leaders and the international community.

Q Who is at fault here? Are you saying it's okay for the Ethiopian government to open fire on these people?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, I think you just heard what I said. I said all parties need to exercise restraint and maintain an atmosphere of calm. We are concerned about the violence, and I said the threat of violence and violence is unacceptable.

Q Can you talk a little about the President's speech today?

MR. McCLELLAN: I pretty much previewed it yesterday at the briefing. I don't know that there's a whole lot more to add to what I previewed yesterday. You're going to hear from him shortly. I think it will be of interest to you all. There are 16 provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of this year. And the President will be calling on Congress not only to renew those provisions, but to make them permanent. The Patriot Act has provided our law enforcement community and intelligence community with vital tools to help us disrupt plots and better protect the American people here at home.

And one of the reasons we're going to Columbus is to thank those who are on the front line in the war on terrorism here at home, our law enforcement officials, for the great work they're doing, and highlight the case of Iyman Faris, and how the Patriot Act was -- played an important role in helping capture him. And he has since provided cooperation to us and provided us very valuable information.

Remember, the Patriot Act, what it helped us do, was break down the wall that existed between the intelligence community and law enforcement community. Now they can share information better, so that they are able to better protect the American people. It also -- many of these provisions are provisions that law enforcement can use in other criminal matters. And it just makes sense that they would be able to use this -- use those tools to go after terrorists, as well. And that's what the President will be talking about in his remarks.

Q Is there anything you can give us on the situation in California, with the alleged al Qaeda plot?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's best referred to the authorities right now, and the ongoing investigation related to it. The President gave your station some of it yesterday.

Q Can I go back to Ethiopia for just one minute? You said that there was contact at the highest levels with opposition leaders, but I didn't hear you say that there was contact with the Ethiopian government. Are you --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said government, opposition and the international community.

Q And by highest levels, do you mean the President himself?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. The President talked with Secretary General Annan. I think that's at one of the highest levels, in terms of the international community, when I talk about that part. But the State Department might be able to provide you additional information.

Q And when you talk about asking all sides to restrain from violence, are you suggesting that you think that there is some fault on the part of the opposition side?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying that everybody needs to refrain from violence and exercise restraint. That is our message. We are concerned and troubled by the situation. And that's why I said what I did at the beginning.

Anything else?

Q We have, apparently, some new developments out of North Korea, the South Koreans saying that the North Koreans are saying that they've now developed more bombs; they won't say how many. Do you have any reaction?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think there was an official on an ABC news report. I think ABC is in the country, and --

Q Another report --

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, okay, a separate one. The President is strongly committed to a diplomatic solution through the six-party talks. We are hopeful that North Korea will come back to those talks at an early date, without any precondition. That's the message that we're all sending to North Korea. All the other parties want to see North Korea come back to the talks so that we can talk in a serious way about how to move forward.

In terms of statements coming out of North Korea, or actions by North Korea, I mean, such steps and comments only further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community. All parties in the region are saying to North Korea that we want a nuclear-free peninsula, a de-nuclearized peninsula. And that's what -- the goal that we're all working toward, and the six-party talks are the way to get there. And that's why we put a proposal on the table. And we want to see North Korea come back prepared to talk in a serious way about how to move forward on the proposal.

Q Have you guys reached any consensus about whether you think North Korea's offer to come back is sincere? Is there anything new on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll leave it where I did yesterday. We will see. They have not given us a date yet. They did express their commitment to the six-party talks, but we have yet to receive a date. And the President looks forward to meeting with President Roh tomorrow to talk about our shared goal of a de-nuclearized peninsula.

Q Is he pleased with reports that the South Koreans are now looking forward to maybe actually doing a little bit more, anything up to a military response?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think let's let the meeting take place tomorrow, but we all have a shared goal and we're all working together toward that shared goal. And we express -- we appreciate President Roh's commitment to the six-party talks and a nuclear-free peninsula.

Q What's he doing when he gets back?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, thank you for reminding me. I forgot the rest of the schedule. I said I was going to go through his day to begin with.

We've got the speech, then when we get back, he's got some policy time on his schedule that he will welcome some Democratic leaders to the White House. He will be meeting with them over in the Residence to talk about CAFTA and the importance of passing that free trade agreement.

Q What time is that?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's mid-afternoon. I didn't bring my schedule with me, but we'll try to --

Q What Democrats?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you names later. I mean, I think they're probably still finalizing who all is coming. But we'll get you the names later.

Q Do you think Pelosi and Reid are supposed to be there?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have the list on me.

Q Is he meeting the Pakistani Foreign Minister?

MR. McCLELLAN: I imagine someone might go to the stakeout. And, oh, yes, the -- I'm sorry, the -- you know the schedule. You keep reminding me.

Q I wasn't sure, but --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, that's before the meeting with the members of Congress, he'll be meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Minister.

And one other thing that I just wanted to mention today, there is additional good economic news coming out this morning on the unemployment insurance claims. The four-week average is below 332,000 and the unemployment insurance claims are one of the best indicators for job growth. And today's report shows that we should -- or is consistent with continued solid job creation. And we are continuing to urge Congress to take additional steps to build upon our growing economy.

Q Could I ask you one thing on Guantanamo? The President seemed to kind of leave the door open to possibly closing it, but then Rumsfeld said there was no talk at all of closing down Guantanamo.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, what the President said was that we're -- essentially what I said in the briefing yesterday, that we're -- well, one, I want to back up, because talking about these detainees -- these are enemy combatants who were picked up on the battlefield and are either involved in plots to do harm to America or -- well, they are people that seek to do harm to America and to the civilized world. They're there for a reason, and we must remember that we are a nation at war. That's one of the messages the President will talk about today in his remarks, that the terrorists are patient and they want us to grow complacent. We will not, under this President. And that's why not only are we staying on the offensive abroad to go after those who seek to do us harm, but we're also taking -- doing everything we can at home to protect the American people here.

In terms of Guantanamo Bay, the President said that we're always looking at all alternatives when it comes to dealing with these detainees and how we protect the American people. You recall that a number of these detainees have been returned to their country of origin. That is when we either thought that we had -- they were no longer a threat and we had obtained all the information we needed from them to be able to disrupt plots, or we had assurances from that government that they would look after those individuals.

Q So the bottom line is --

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's all the President was saying, is that we're always looking at all alternatives.

Q Bottom line is he's completely ruled out closing down Guantanamo?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q The bottom line is that he's completely ruled out --

MR. McCLELLAN: I would leave it -- I would say what the President said, that we're always looking at all alternatives for dealing with detainees. That's what he said yesterday and that's where we are.

Q Okay, thanks.

END 10:50 A.M. EDT

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