For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 12, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Heiligendamm, Germany
2:35 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right, here we go. Questions?
Q What is the most important message the President would like the world to hear coming out of this summit?
MR. SNOW: I think that the United States and its allies are working in concert on the key building blocks of the freedom agenda. Number one is to avoid nuclear confrontations, especially involving Iran and North Korea, and doing it in a way that reflects multi-lateral consensus and cooperation. The second is to move forward on the cause of free trade, which not only opens markets, but opportunities for people around the world. And to continue to push for the cause of freedom.
In addition, international cooperation on the sorts of things that affects us all: contagious diseases, natural disasters and the like.
So those are going to kind of form the backbone. Obviously, there will be specific attention to North Korea and Iran, but also if you take the longer-range view there certainly are going to be continuing talks -- and let's face it, there are disagreements on all of these things. But it's important for the industrialized nations to remain engaged and working together to solve them, whether it be in areas of economics or security.
Q Do you expect Guantanamo to come up in his meeting with Merkel, and what are the issues with Germany?
MR. SNOW: Really, in terms of Germany there's a lot of cooperation. The President certainly understands that there's been considerable controversy involving Guantanamo, and it very well may come up in the conversations. But as you know, the administration is -- the White House is now working with Congress to try to come up with a means of providing justice for detainees at Guantanamo in a manner that's consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hamdan case.
Q What's the strategy now for dealing with Iran, now that they appear to -- have they actually rejected the proposal or -- I mean, do you interpret it that way?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm going to leave that -- Secretary Rice and the other foreign ministers are meeting today. Speaking of multi-lateralism, we will let them provide their own interpretation. We had hoped that Mr. Larijani yesterday would transmit an answer. He did not.
Q Anything so far today on it?
MR. SNOW: No, the ministerial, as far as I know, may still be ongoing. We have not gotten any readouts yet from the ministerial.
Q Will the President be urging Chancellor Merkel to get involved in this, to step up and do anything with this latest reaction from Iran?
MR. SNOW: Well, I mean, to the extent that you -- look, we welcome anybody's participation. We already have the EU-3 involved in this and certainly -- I think you're going to find out that the people who have already been involved in the negotiations are stepping up and they're working as aggressively as possible. I think you heard some signals of frustration on the part of our European allies on the non-answer they received yesterday from Mr. Larijani.
Q Was the President frustrated, too?
MR. SNOW: No, the President doesn't give into frustration. To be frustrated is to waste your time stomping and fuming, and when you're President of the United States your chief objective is to get things done. So as the facts on the ground change, you try to figure out proper ways to get people working in concert to get the result you desire.
Q Response to the situation in Lebanon and the Israeli soldiers?
MR. SNOW: A couple of things. Number one, the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers -- we saw this in Gaza, but also in Lebanon -- is simply unacceptable. And that the governments of Iran and Syria implicated in this; Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. We are hoping that the Lebanese government is going to be able to get control of the situation. But certainly Israel has the right to defend itself and it has assured us that it is trying to proceed us in a way as to avoid civilian casualties.
But the most important thing is we have another act of terror. In addition, as you know, they've been firing rockets into Israel from these areas of Lebanon, as well.
Q So the U.S. isn't really troubled by Israelis going into Lebanon?
MR. SNOW: We believe that Israel has the right to protect itself.
Q Any progress on the WTO talks; do you know?
MR. SNOW: No updates today. I know that -- you know, we're hurdling toward the deadline on the Doha round generally, and also on issues of Russian accession. That's stuff that we're -- these are talks that are very busy on the ground. I think we're just going to have to wait until we get there, Tom.
Q There was a desire to announce something in St. Petersburg, isn't there?
MR. SNOW: Look, what we would love to be able to announce is that the Doha round has been settled and everybody now can march together in extending the blessings of free trade to the developing world and to enhance prosperity there. We would love to be able to announce things, but they have to be agreed upon first.
Q -- letting Russia in?
MR. SNOW: Again, those are conversations that are ongoing. You announce agreements when the agreements are acceptable, and we hope to be able to reach an agreement as soon as possible. But you can't let such things be dictated in all points by schedule. When you have a hard deadline, as you do with the Doha round, that's a little different.
Q Speaking of Russia, 14 months ago the President visited with President Putin in Russia. What's changed from then? Should President Bush still trust President Putin? We haven't had reforms that we'd like to see, some things haven't been done. What's changed in 14 months?
MR. SNOW: That's a gigantic question and it also happens to be unanswerable, but let me try to reshape it a little bit.
President Bush and President Putin still maintain a friendship. They also have made it clear that they have their own interests and that their chief obligation is to their publics. And so President Bush and President Putin I think have a very clear understanding of the ways in which they operate and how they can work together. And I think they're going to work very hard to get constructive results. I think it's important to President Putin to have a successful summit. We would like to help him have a successful summit.
But to try to encapsulate, oh, I don't know, in a gaggle what's gone on in the last 14 months is beyond my powers.
Q On Iraq, the sectarian violence there -- has the President had any conversations with Prime Minister Maliki or military folks about new ideas or ways to stabilize the situation?
MR. SNOW: He has been in conversations, obviously, in continuous conversations with officials in Iraq. He has not had a direct talk with Prime Minister Maliki in recent days. However, as you know, Zal Khalilzad, our ambassador, has been in Washington and we have been in close contact with the embassy. And General Casey is working with the government of Iraq and also with -- as you know, the defense and interior ministries have been called before parliament.
It's pretty much agreed upon that they need to find effective ways of going after people committing acts of terror, principally in Baghdad, but throughout the country. And that remains to be a top priority. General Casey is doing what he can to help the government put together a plan and an approach that will succeed.
Q Steve Hadley said the other day that some of these bilats hadn't yet been worked out. Do you know if there's a bilat with President Hu, or is that still not worked out?
MR. SNOW: Yes, I know. (Laughter.) And when we announce the bilats, we will announce the bilats.
Q Back on Jeff's question. Did you guys notice this pro-democracy meeting, that some people were arrested by Russian police, apparently --
MR. SNOW: Yes. We are, too, and we did see the press report and I know that Steve has been talking to the ground trying to get verification. We don't have details.
It is worth saying, and it's obviously one of the things the President wants to stress, is that we believe in the importance of developing civil institutions within a democracy, which is why the President wants to meet with representatives of civil society within Russia. It is important for people to be able to express themselves and to be able to be constructive members of a society. So we certainly understand the concerns.
Q And do you have an update on North Korea? Is China getting anywhere with the North Koreans, do we know?
MR. SNOW: No update to this point, in terms of China's talk. As you know, the delegation has been in Pyongyang; they are going to be reporting back. It is our hope that they are going to be able to persuade the government to meet not only its obligations under the September 19th agreement, but to begin taking active measures to dismantle its nuclear program so that they can return to the tables in the six-party talks and being availing themselves of some of the opportunities that were placed before them last September.
Q Has the President ever had wild boar, as far as you know? Apparently that's going to be part of the barbecue in Germany.
MR. SNOW: No, nor do I know if he's going to be called upon to catch it. (Laughter.)
END 2:45 P.M. EDT