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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 12, 2006

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room

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1:05 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. The President looks forward to, here shortly, going to Annandale, Virginia, and participating in another conversation on Medicare. We continue the remind seniors that the open enrollment period ends on May 15th. We are pleased by the response so far. We now have some 29 million seniors who are enrolled in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Seniors are realizing substantial savings on their prescription drug cost. The average senior is realizing 50 percent or more in savings on the drug cost, some $1,100 or more a year. We are also pleased that the overwhelming majority of those who are enrolled in the program are expressing their deep appreciation for how well the program is working. And we will continue to reach out and travel across the United States, administration officials and the President, to talk about the importance of learning about what options are available if you choose to sign up for that new drug benefit.

And with that, I'm glad to go to your questions.

Q Scott, the administration has been talking to Iran and laying out in very clear language that they need to suspend all enrichment activities. And yet, out of Tehran today is the announcement that they want to build 54,000 centrifuges, certainly enough to build a nuclear weapon. A, what is your concern that what the administration and the international community is saying is not being heard? How is the message going to be sharpened and toughened? And where to now?

MR. McCLELLAN: A, let me correct you, first of all. It's not the United States that is saying that the regime needs to fully suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities, it is the international community that is saying to the regime, you must suspend your enrichment and reprocessing activities. This is a regime that has a long history of hiding its activities from the international community when it comes to its nuclear program. And --

Q Well, when the Secretary of State spoke today, she was speaking as much to the U.N. as she was to Iran. So, clearly, there can't be a great deal of comfort with how the international community is being heard.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the international community is united in our goal of preventing the regime from having a nuclear weapons capability, or the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons, or nuclear weapons. The President spoke to that earlier this week. The announcement by the regime only underscores its defiance of the international community and the united message of the international community. The international community, through the United Nations Security Council and through the IAEA -- the International Atomic Energy Agency Board passed resolutions in a statement saying, you need to fully suspend your enrichment and reprocessing activities. That's in order to start building some confidence with the international community.

Now, this announcement by the regime is only further isolating the regime from the world. And that's why Secretary Rice made clear earlier today that it is time for action at the United Nations Security Council, time for action on the diplomatic front. And we have continued to consult with the Security Council members and with our friends and allies, including Germany, about how to address the threat posed by the regime. And those conversations will continue at the Security Council. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency is looking at where the regime stands in terms of its nuclear programs and will be reporting back to the Security Council at the end of this month. But it is time for action. And what the Secretary was expressing earlier today. The President wanted to make sure she made that very clear to all who were listening.

Q Does the administration doubt at all anything that -- any of Iran's claims, as far as what it's managed to produce and put together by way of centrifuge --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not in a position to make a technical assessment of the announcement that they made yesterday --

Q But is the feeling among the administration that --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- but it does show the continued defiance of this regime of the demands of the international community.

Q Scott, one the President's senior foreign policy advisors is quoted today as saying that, with regard to Iran, the problem is that our policy has been all carrots and no sticks, and the Iranians know that. Is that the administration's assessment? And if that's so, why are you content to stay with that?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, this is an effort by the world to stop the regime from developing nuclear weapons or having the capability to develop nuclear weapons. So this is a world that is united in our message to the regime. And this regime was given an opportunity by the Security Council, in a very strong presidential statement, to come clean and make a commitment to complying with its obligations. And it was very clear in that statement, as well as the resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- this is a 35-member board saying, you must fully suspend your enrichment and reprocessing activities, you need to return to the Paris Agreement. The announcement by the regime is in clear violation of the Paris Agreement, which they made with the Europeans.

And so what the world is saying to the regime is, we are not going to tolerate it if you continue to defy us. And that's why it is -- that's why the Secretary was making very clear that it is time for action on the diplomatic front.

Q But is there no stick, it's all carrots?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're consulting with the international community about how we move forward and the appropriate steps to take to address the threat posed by the regime. The Secretary made it clear today, earlier, that the Security Council needs to act.

Q What does she want them to do? Sanctions?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get into speculating about what steps we'll be taken, but you can be assured that it needs to be more than just a presidential statement at this point.

Q Well, what's in your arsenal? I think we ought to know. Why should it be a secret?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because we're consulting with our friends and allies in the Security Council about the next steps to take on the diplomatic front.

Q What do you have -- what do you have in mind?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of options available. If I start speculating about options, then you all are going to go run out there and start saying, well, the White House said this option or that option. So I'm not going to -- I'm just not going to do that.

Q I think you're obviously very limited in what you can do.

MR. McCLELLAN: The international community has a lot of options available on the diplomatic front.

Q Like what?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.

Q Karl Rove, in a speech in Houston today, said that the President of Iran is not a rational human being. Is that a view that's shared by the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we've spoken out about the President of Iran and some of the outrageous and offensive statements that he has made. We have a number of concerns about the regime's behavior. It's not just on the nuclear issue. But because of their behavior on other issues, it only increases the concern of the international community when it comes to their nuclear program.

Certainly, the statements that the President has made have only increased the concerns of the international community, particularly when it comes to the idea of that regime possessing a nuclear weapon, know-how, or capability. This is a regime that -- leader that has spoken about destroying an ally of ours. And the President has made very clear what our views are when it comes to that.

Q So you're -- you don't think he's rational either, then?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I haven't seen what Karl said earlier today, but you've got his comments.

Q Scott, were you surprised by the announcement yesterday and the clearly political nature of it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the regime has certainly been signaling that they're continuing to move in the direction of defiance instead of cooperation and negotiation. So I don't know if I'd describe it that way.

Q How would you describe it? And when did you first learn about the announcement? When they made the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they were making -- they were certainly signaling some of their intentions.

Q You've gone to great length to say this is an international pressure being put on Iran. Do you think that if it is viewed, especially by those in Iran, as the U.S. putting pressure on that government to stop what it's doing, that that would be, in effect, harmful to the process because of how the U.S. is perceived there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, it's not about whether or not they have the right to civilian nuclear power. We've made that very clear. In fact, the international community has provided them a way to move forward with civilian nuclear power, provided they put in place some objective guarantees that they're not developing nuclear weapons under the cover of that civilian program. And the President has talked about the Russia offer. But again, this is a problem the regime has with the world. It's not about the regime and the United States. It's about the concerns of the international community when it comes to this regime's continued defiance.

Q Do you think the U.S.'s role in that part of the world, though, given what it has done in Iraq and the way it's perceived in that part of the world, is in any way shaping --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the way we are perceived is that we are a country that stands for the universal value of freedom for all. And we stand with the people of Iran who want to live in greater freedom. That is our policy. We stand with them. We have a number of concerns about the regime -- their support for terrorism, their continued defiance when it comes to the nuclear issue, their support for groups like Hezbollah, their destabilizing behavior in the region. This is a regime that is moving in the complete opposite direction of much of the rest of the region, which is moving toward freedom. And by advancing freedom in the broader Middle East we are laying foundations of peace for generations to come. A free Iraq will help inspire reformers in Iran.

Q Scott, there were reports this morning that in late May of 2003 there were questions raised about whether or not the trailers were bio-weapons -- mobile bio-weapons in Iraq. When did the administration come to understand that those trailers were not mobile bio-weapons labs?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's a new issue. I mean, I saw the report. This is nothing more than rehashing an old issue that was resolved long ago. I cannot count how many times the President has said the intelligence was wrong. The Robb-Silberman Commission, which was the independent bipartisan commission that looked into this intelligence, said that the intelligence community's assessment of Iraq's biological weapons programs was almost entirely wrong.

Now, you bring up an issue that goes back to a time period when the intelligence community had assessed -- the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency -- that a couple of mobile laboratories that were found in Iraq were for the production of biological weapons. That was the assessment of the intelligence community that stood for some time period. And this was widely covered at the time. People looked at it; there were questions raised about -- some of those that raised questions about that intelligence. But the intelligence community's assessment stood for some period of time.

Now, we know that the Iraq Survey Group, which we had go into Iraq to search for the weapons of mass destruction, looked into this issue, and it was September 2004, I think, that they concluded that certainly this was not for biological weapons production. And what we have done since that time period is move forward on implementing important reforms so that the executive branch and the Congress have the best possible intelligence as they move forward to deal with the threats that face this country and face this world.

And that's very important. We appointed the Director of National Intelligence, restructured the intelligence community. We've taken a number of other steps to make sure that the intelligence-gathering process is better and that it's the best possible intelligence that is coming to the White House and coming to the Congress, so that they can make decisions.

Q So, insofar as in May there was a 122-page report filed by DIA that said that these trailers were not bio-weapons, but it was -- or bio-weapons labs, and then we heard from the Vice President and Colin Powell after that period suggesting that they still were -- that information hadn't --

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, intelligence is -- when an assessment is made, it looks at a lot of different intelligence and it takes time to vet that intelligence, go through it, debate it, discuss it with the intelligence community, look at all the different intelligence coming in, whether it's human intelligence or signals intelligence or open-source intelligence. And they pull that all together and the intelligence community makes the assessment. The White House is not the intelligence-gathering agency. And the assessment that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the arm of the Pentagon, made initially was that those -- in this report that was released on May 28, 2003, was that the labs that were found were for producing biological weapons. And that assessment remained in place for quite some time, as you just pointed out.

Now, I will point out that the reporting I saw this morning was simply reckless and it was irresponsible. The lead in The Washington Post left the impression for the reader that the President was saying something he knew at the time not to be true. That is absolutely false and it is irresponsible, and I don't know how The Washington Post can defend something so irresponsible.

Q Scott, two questions. One, going back to Iran, one. As far as diplomacy is concerned, it has been going on for a long time. And second, according to the State Department, now we know that A.Q. Khan was the one who helped Iran to this point, but at the same time, so far, international community never had any access to A.Q. Khan, and also A.Q. Khan cannot run this big project on his own without the knowledge of somebody in --

MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about which project?

Q Iran -- Iranian --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the A.Q. Khan network has been broken up. We worked with the international community and made some significant progress in stopping the proliferation of nuclear programs and weapons of mass destruction. That was a great success story of the intelligence community that we're talking about now -- working with others. And we saw the announcement made by Libya and the direction they chose to take. They made a strategic decision that they were going to get rid of their weapons of mass destruction program and send a message to others that they can realize better relations if they make that strategic decision.

But in terms -- I don't know what your specifically asking about Iran. I mean, we're well aware that there was involvement there of the A.Q. Khan network. But what's your question?

Q My question was really, how do we know how much they have it now, because since we don't have any direct access to A.Q. Khan?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we work very closely with Pakistan and we will continue to do so when it comes to intelligence matters.

Q Do you have any insight into this Scottish plane diversion this morning?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't have any more information. I've seen the reports.

Q Also, with Holy Week here and the influx of tourists in Washington, is there any particular terrorism alert going out?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any announcement beyond what the Department of Homeland Security has made or shared with appropriate officials.

Q Can I just follow up on what Carl was asking about sort of the time line? When did the President know -- after that intelligence was vetted and debated, when did he know --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, as I held out a short time ago, the intelligence assessment was provided by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency on May 28, 2003. The President was asked a question on the very next day, and the President's statements were based on the joint assessment of the CIA and DIA that was publicly released the day before. So this was publicly provided to the American people, it's what the White House had. That was the assessment of the intelligence community. So I think it's important to keep that in mind.

And the suggestion, or impression that was left by some of the reporting was that the President was saying something he knew not to be true. No, the President was saying what the intelligence community assessed to be right, based on their intelligence-gathering. And so that was the very next day; it was in response to a question. I saw some reporting saying he had gone out and given a speech about it, and that's not true. In fact, the very day that he was talking about it, numerous papers were reporting on the briefing by the intelligence community. The intelligence community said that they were "highly confident" that they had discovered a "mobile biological production plant."

And in terms of your specific question in terms of if and when the White House became aware of this particular issue, I'm looking into that matter. I've asked the -- the White House has asked at CIA and the DIA to go and look into that issue. But it's not the point. The Washington Post even acknowledges in their article that the intelligence community continued to stand by that position for quite some period of time.

Q Can I ask just a follow-up? The President said earlier -- just in talking about the rest of his presidency, that he intends to charge hard in his final two-and-a-half years --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. He's a hard charger.

Q -- and sprint to the end. But when you have to come up here and acknowledge and discuss front-page reports that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Acknowledge and discuss something that has been stated for quite some time, Elaine? No, no, this is a media issue that you're getting into. Go ahead, though.

Q Well, this is exactly what I'm trying to get at. When you're having to discuss stories which focus attention once again on how the President took this country to war, does that make it more difficult for the President to --

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, the President is focused on victory in Iraq, because a free Iraq will be an example for the rest of the Middle East and it will help lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.

You know, I saw some reporting talking about how this latest revelation -- which is not something that is new, this is all old information that's being rehashed -- was an embarrassment for the White House. No, it's an embarrassment for the media that is out there reporting this. I brought up with some of you earlier today some of the reporting that was based off this Washington Post report, and I talked to one network about it and they have publicly -- well, they've expressed their apologies to the White House. I hope they will go and publicly apologize on the air about the statements that were made, because I think it's important, given that they had made those statements in front of all their viewers. And so we look forward to that happening, as well.

Q Is it a distraction, though, to have to come up and talk about this, answer questions about how the U.S. went to war when these kinds of stories do appear?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's where the debate is now. The debate is on how do we succeed in Iraq. And the President is focused on victory. That's what the American people want. They want to see our troops succeed. They want to see our troops achieve victory, and then return home with the honor that they have deserved and that they earned.

Q Do you think in any way, shape or form, his credibility has been --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll continue to press it -- no, I think the credibility of those who are making these wild accusations has been affected. And, in fact, the President of the United States has spoken very clearly to these issues multiple times, as have other administration officials over the course of the last couple of years.

Q Going back to Iran for a moment. The problem in Iran is not the nuclear weapons program. Everybody agrees that -- on the intelligence that they clearly are working on weapons and not peaceful nuclear use. The problem is --

MR. McCLELLAN: Iran is a non-transparent society.

Q The problem is the existing government, the mullahs and the President. And that government is probably going --

MR. McCLELLAN: You said "elected"?

Q No, I --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry -- oh, existing. My apologies.

Q That government is undoubtedly going to be impervious to any kind of international U.N. sanctions. It took 13 years to come up with a strong sanction against Saddam Hussein. So how long is the President willing to wait and allow Iran to continue to build nuclear weapons before conducting a surgical strike to take out those weapon sites and weapons?

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for trying to get me into all this wild speculation that's come up over the last couple of days, but we've made very clear we're pursuing a diplomatic course. The President responded to some of those news reports the other day. But it's time for the United Nations Security Council to act on the diplomatic front.

Q But even with that -- trying to pick up on what Helen said, but I mean, if you look at what the --

MR. McCLELLAN: You can pick up on what Helen said. She doesn't mind. (Laughter.)

Q I consider it an honor to pick up on what Helen says. But, anyway, the Security Council is limited in what it can do. And if you look at the possibilities, without you having to enumerate them, it is seemingly without any kind of real basis for success that the diplomatic effort is going to work. And in the meantime, Iran will continue to build nuclear weapons. So how long will the President run out this diplomatic --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a speculative question. We are working with the international community to prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons capability or developing nuclear weapons. We're pursuing a diplomatic course. There are a number of steps that are available to us, and that's what we're discussing.

Les.

Q Scott, a two-part.

MR. McCLELLAN: What words of wisdom do you have today?

Q Thank you very much. Virginia's Congressman Moran has called for making legal citizens out of those who are illegals, to which Sarah Laurie, an immigrant who was legally naturalized, wrote The Washington Post this morning, "It is unfathomable that the Senate would consider assisting those who have ignored U.S. laws." And my question: Does the President believe she's wrong? And if so, why?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll have to take a look at it -- I haven't taken a look at the specific report you're referring to. Maybe I missed it this morning. But if you're getting into the whole immigration discussion, let me make a couple of points. The President -- I'll come to your second question.

Q Good.

MR. McCLELLAN: Got plenty of time. I'm not rushing off. The President last week spoke about the promising agreement that was reached by a bipartisan group of senators on comprehensive legislation. But you have the Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid using procedural gimmicks to prevent the will of the American people from being heard. The American people have said, we want comprehensive immigration reform. We want to see our borders strengthened, which we're acting to do, and the American people, I think, have clearly said that if we're going to fix this system, you've got to have a guest worker element to that, as the President has called for.

So the Senate Minority Leader is signal-handedly using procedural gimmicks to thwart the will of the American people and stop this legislation from moving forward -- comprehensive legislation. There is a bipartisan agreement. He is stopping the will of a bipartisan group of senators from moving forward on legislation that is important and that will help us fix our immigration system.

Q In the same week as your strongly specific answer to my question about Homeland Security Brian Doyle's arrest, Newsweek reports another Homeland Security sexual violator, Frank Figueroa, charged with exposing himself to a 16-year-old girl. And my question: What is the President's reaction to this latest very bad news from Homeland Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: My reaction would be just the same as it was for the first gentleman that you brought up if it is true. And I don't know the specifics on that matter --

Q -- any change can be done about this? This is Homeland Security --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- I don't know the specifics on that matter.

Go ahead, Roger.

Q The Assistant Secretary of State in Moscow today said that Iran, in developing its centrifuges at the current pace or at the industrial scale that they say they're going to, they could have a nuclear bomb within 16 days. Is that right?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen what the Assistant Secretary of State has said in Russia today. I'll have to take a look at it. I'd refer you back to what our intelligence community has said about that assessment. That is the standing assessment of the United States government. And I'm not going to speculate -- I've told you, I don't have a technical assessment of the latest announcement by the regime, so I'm not going to engage in that kind of speculation.

Q Okay, more broadly, how will you --

MR. McCLELLAN: More broadly speculate.

Q More broadly, how immediate is this threat of a nuclear weapon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the intelligence community has spoken to it, and so I would leave you, in terms of -- but this is a threat that the international community must address and must act on through the diplomatic front. That's what the Secretary of State spoke about earlier today.

Rick, go ahead.

Q Scott, going back to -- on the Iran question, given China's --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're still on it. We didn't go off it.

Q Well, there you are. Given China and Russia's reluctance for imposition of sanctions and tougher diplomatic methods in dealing with Iran, to what extent does the administration believe this has been playing an encouragement factor in Iranian behavior --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, those countries you bring up have been part of a united message and have expressed concerns about the regime having a nuclear weapon. And so I think we're united in our message and our objective of preventing the regime from having the know-how or the capability to develop nuclear weapons. And we are continuing to discuss how we move forward. There is -- there have been consultations that have been ongoing since the last Security Council meeting on this subject. Secretary Rice just returned from Europe recently. She had a number of high-level discussions there. I know that our Under Secretary of State has continued those discussions at that level with his counterparts. So those continue, and they continue with the countries that you bring up.

Go ahead, did you have a follow-up?

Q But it's pretty well seen across-the-board that both countries are reluctant to impose sanctions or stricter diplomatic language when dealing with them, at least in the past. And I'm wondering how much does that actually encourage the Iranians? They know they have the Chinese --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the concern of the international community only grows at the regime continues to defy what we have all called for it to do. So that's why we're going to continue to consult with them about it.

Ken, go ahead.

Q Scott, you said the President remains focused on victory in Iraq. What is the current definition of "victory in Iraq," and does the President expect to see that before he leaves office?

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, and he's talked about victory in Iraq. Victory in Iraq will be when the terrorists and Saddam loyalists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy. He's talked about it as being when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the defense of the Iraqi people. And he's also said that victory will be achieved when Iraq will not become a safe haven for terrorists. The terrorists have made it clear that this is the central front in the war on terrorism. They recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. So the President has spelled out when victory will be achieved.

And we are making important progress, despite the violence. There are a lot of difficulties and challenges that remain, and we've got to continue to adapt and adjust to circumstances on the ground, and that's what we're doing. But if you look at where things are, the Iraqi people -- just in December, some nearly 12 million Iraqis showed up, 75 percent of the registered voters, to say, we want to chart our own future. And they elected a representative government under a constitution that they had approved previously.

And the Iraqi security forces -- there are more than 250 [sic]* Iraqi security forces now -- they are assuming more and more of the lead in the fight and they are controlling more and more territory. So we've got a very clear strategy for how we move forward. And we are going to continue to stand with the Iraqi people as they move forward on building a lasting democracy.

Q Does he expect to see this victory before he leaves office?

MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, the President has never put a timetable on achieving our objectives. We will stay there as long as necessary, not a day longer, is what we have always said. But we will succeed. We will prevail. The terrorists want to shake our will, and they think that we will lose our nerve. The President will not. We will complete the mission and our troops will return home with the honor that they deserve.

Q The issues that you just spoke of are very noble and ambitious. However, the kidnapings, the random violence and bombings of women and children, of civilian officials in Iraq seem to be getting worse, they seem to be escalating to create more chaos. Is there any --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what do you base that on? I mean, I think the military --

Q -- news reports --

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, there are certainly dramatic images when those things take place, and they rightly should be covered. And that's part of the tactics of the terrorists and Saddam loyalists. That's part of their tactic for trying to shake our will. But I think the military has spoken to the level of violence, and I would look at what they have said.

I mean, there continues to be violence. That's why it's so important that the Iraqi leaders continue to move forward and get a government of national unity in place as quickly as possible, because that will help derail some of the efforts of those who want to stop the transition to democracy.

Q My question is do you think that the random violence right now is escalating or subsiding?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll leave that to the military to talk about, in terms of what the latest assessment is on the ground. They're in there best position to do that, and they've spoken to that repeatedly.

Q Scott, a different topic, Italian elections. Do you have any reaction to the victory by the center left party?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, my understanding is that the election is being contested -- we've seen that here in our own country, I remember. But, look, Italy is a strong partner and good ally, and that's not going to change. We will work closely with the government once it is in place, whatever government that may be. But we're not going to get into commenting on the results until everything is official and it's gone through that process.

Q A further point on The Washington Post report, which I know you're agitated about today. This final --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's reckless reporting. Everybody should be agitated about it.

Q They describe the final technical engineering exploitation report on Iraqi suspected biological weapons associated trailers as still being classified. And given the fact that the President and you have said that Mr. Bush has declassified other reports -- namely, the NIE, which had historical content -- in order to further public debate, and you said it was in the national interest, would it make sense to declassify this report --

MR. McCLELLAN: Kelly, this issue has been looked at by an independent bipartisan commission. They've looked at all these issues. They have looked at the intelligence that was used as the basis for all the different aspects that were talked about. And they determined that the intelligence was wrong. This is rehashing something that is very old. But the lead of that article is just reckless reporting, and it's irresponsible.

Q But that specific report is still classified?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look at the intelligence community report on these very matters, and look at the recommendations they made, and look at the progress we're making on their recommendations. That's where --

Q But would the President consider reclassifying --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that's where our focus is.

Q I just want to clear up one thing. Iran has signed the Nonproliferation Treaty. Does it have the right to do what it's doing, to enrich fuel? I'm a little unclear about -- legally, are they on solid ground --

MR. McCLELLAN: Here's the problem -- that's a very good question. Iran may be a party to --

Q I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q You said it was a very good question. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: You have a few.

Q Can you repeat that, please.

MR. McCLELLAN: For a new guy. (Laughter.) You sound like what I do to my wife when she says, you're right. "Huh?" (Laughter.)

Q She's right often.

MR. McCLELLAN: More than I am. (Laughter.)

Going back to your question, Iran may be a member to the -- or be a party to the NPT, but let's look at their history. For some 18 years, the regime hid their nuclear activities from the international community. They failed to comply with their obligations. And so it became an issue of trust with the rest of the world. The regime showed that they cannot be trusted. And that's why the world is concerned that they are developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program.

So we supported the efforts of the European 3, to enter into negotiations with the regime to resolve this matter. And what they said was that there needs to be an objective guarantee in place to show that you are not developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program. And remember, the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors passed resolutions calling on Iran to reestablish suspension of its uranium enrichment efforts, and formally found the regime in noncompliance with its international obligations. So this is a matter of the regime restoring confidence with the rest of the international community.

And then, of course, the Security Council, on March 29th, adopted a presidential statement unanimously calling on Iran to reestablish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, and to resume cooperation with the IAEA under the additional protocol. And so that's where things stand at this point.

Q But, Scott, hasn't that battle been lost? If Iran is now enriching uranium, all of these resolutions become academic. The battles -- they have marched forward, and yet the administration is still talking about diplomatic resolutions to a major step that, as of a few days ago, wasn't accepted --

MR. McCLELLAN: There are options at the disposal of the international community. And that's why it's time for the international community to act. That's why Secretary Rice said it's time for the Security Council to act on the diplomatic front. And we're talking about the appropriate steps to take in response to their continued defiance.

Thank you.

END 1:38 P.M. EST

*more than 250,000 Iraqi security forces