For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 14, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
5:47 P.M. (L)
MR. SNOW: Okay, a couple of things. First, you probably heard that at 8:15 a.m. eastern time, U.S. time, a bomb went off outside Karachi. We don't have a whole lot of details. I think most of it is on the wires already, but three dead, including a Shia cleric. This was near a university. No claims of responsibility. And, as you know, these things take a while to sort themselves out, so we have no comment; we're still trying to figure out what the facts are and we're in consultation.
Today on the plane, the President made some phone calls to foreign leaders regarding the situation in the Middle East. He talked to King Abdullah of Jordan -- I think your recorder just went off. Here's a quick tape pause. (Laughter.) He called king Abdullah of Jordan, they talked for, I don't know, 12 minutes or so. He also talked to --
Q I'm sorry, how long?
MR. SNOW: About 12 -- these are all approximate, because I didn't look at my watch. But all the calls were between 10 and 12 minutes. The second one was to Hosni Mubarak, and the third was to Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon. The topics were all the same. He thanked especially King Abdullah and President Mubarak for their help in trying to resolve the situation in the region.
Also expressed some -- he was pleased by a statement -- I don't know if you've seen it -- that came out yesterday by the Saudis that, among other things, pointed out that Hezbollah, acting independent of a government, had behaved in a manner that I will paraphrase as irresponsible. I would direct you to the Saudi statement because I'm sure I don't have that exactly right -- as a matter of fact, we actually did a print out of it. Let's see, "uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements in Lebanon without recourse to legal authority and consulting and coordinated with Arab nations."
In other words, what the Saudis were saying is that Hezbollah has been acting in a manner that's completely independent of the state of Lebanon. And we're looking forward to a foreign ministers meeting -- with Arab League Foreign Ministers tomorrow, and hope that their comments will reflect the same concern about Hezbollah's acting independently and thereby imperiling the democracy in Lebanon, which we support.
The President also reiterated his support for the democracy in his conversation with Prime Minister Siniora. They talked about ways to move ahead not only within the Arab League, but also the President encouraging his allies to speak out with everybody involved, including the Syrians and once again made the point that Hezbollah has been granted shelter in Syria, it is financed by Iran and both parties should be held responsible for some of the activities that are going on there.
He also reiterated the statement yesterday, that he believes that the Israelis have a right to protect themselves, and also that we think it's important that in doing that they try to limit as much as possible so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human lives.
So that is basically it.
Q Now, Siniora is describing the President's comments as promising to get Israeli to rein in its attacks. Did the President say anything like that?
MR. SNOW: No. What the President -- or, the President reiterated his position. Prime Minister Siniora at one point -- I think he's been public about this -- has wanted a ceasefire. It is unlikely that either or both parties are going to agree to that at this juncture, although we certainly hope that we get to a ceasefire soon and we hope that all parties work toward it.
But, again, as the President said, this began because Hezbollah crossed into Israeli territory, kidnapped two soldiers and, furthermore, has been engaged in a long series of rocket attacks on people in Northern Israel, although we have been focusing on it -- that is, "we" collectively, and especially the American press in the last couple of days -- this has been going on for a long time, it just hasn't reported. It's been a much keener and sustained interest in Israel.
The Israelis have decided to try to have targeted attacks against rocket launch sites, many of which are deliberately placed in civilian neighborhoods. And they regret the loss -- or they've expressed regret for the loss of innocent life, but they also pointed out that military necessity compels them to hit where the launchers are, but I will let the Israelis speak for themselves on this.
Q Did the President discuss with these leaders a U.N. delegation that's going into the region?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Well, we support the U.N. delegation. It really didn't go much further than that. As you recall from Secretary Rice's comments last night, she was actively engaged in helping put together the initiative and she certainly supports it and encourages it.
But as far as any specific directions, look, we think the United Nations is trying to helpful here, ad that's important, because the more pressure was can bring to bear on Hezbollah -- and there's an important point to note here: the attacks by Hezbollah, which, again, to reiterate -- I'll use the Saudi phrase once again, "without recourse to legal authority and consulting and coordinating with Arab nations" -- it is clear that the Arab nations -- that Saudi Arabia, that the Jordanians, that the Egyptians do not look upon Hezbollah as being a legitimate government entity, as a matter of fact, they look upon it as an active threat to the government of Lebanon.
And U.N. Resolution 1559 made it pretty clear that foreign powers ought to stay out of Lebanon and let the democracy itself take root. And so the United Nations is going there to work with strengthening the provisions of 1559. Prime Minister Siniora also wants help, and we support his aim, in making sure that his government acquires effective control over all Lebanese territory, including the southern regions where, in many places Hezbollah holds sway. And the President certainly offered his support for that goal. And, again, it's consistent with 1559.
Q Following up on something that came up last night with the Condi briefing -- is the President -- is the White House working with the G8 on a draft resolution to address this issue? Because she talked about how important it was to speak with one voice.
MR. SNOW: There were some draft resolutions underway before everybody headed over here. But I think it's safe to say that with the pace of events -- and I did speak to some of the people involved in negotiations -- they're going to have to redraft them. It is certainly going to be a topic of much concern and so I expect them to talk about it a lot. I don't want to make any promises about draft resolutions, but it is important for everybody to speak one voice.
And I think the one area of common agreement is that Hezbollah cannot act independently of the government of Lebanon. What it has done is deliberately place in peril the people of Lebanon, as well as the government. And the President has also made it absolutely clear that we want that government to survive and thrive and we are going to do what we can to help them do that.
Q So there will be one kind of resolution or another, it's just that they have to be reworked?
MR. SNOW: I can't -- look, I don't have a crystal ball. We'll just have to see what happens.
Q Okay. There may be resolutions.
MR. SNOW: Well, you don't call it "resolution." I think you have a statement or whatever. But, again, no promises on that; we'll just have to see what happens when the leaders get together.
Q The President didn't make any promises or anything to the Lebanese Prime Minister? Did he give him any idea of what he might try to do with Israel, as far as making them hold back a little bit on attacks?
MR. SNOW: The President is not going to make military decisions for Israel. What he said is that -- look, there have been ongoing conversations. As a matter of fact, today Secretary Rice -- let me pull out my list. I mentioned the three heads of state the President has talked with. Secretary Rice has talked to David Walsh, [sic] she's talked to Kofi Annan, the Qatari foreign minister, she talked to Mahmoud Abbas, she talked to Siniora, and she is working on trying to get -- well, I won't tell you who she's working on getting through to.
Q Who's David Walsh?
MR. SNOW: He's our -- Welch, I'm sorry. Welch. Sorry, can't read my own writing. David Welch.
Q Who is he?
MR. SNOW: He's our Assistant Secretary of State. He is traveling with Eliot Abrams through the region.
Q So the President has not -- you know, Condi last night was talking about Israel should exercise restraint. The President has not called any Israeli officials to make that point?
MR. SNOW: He has not spoken with Israeli officials. However, Secretary Rice and National Security Advisor Hadley have had a number of conversations.
Q Those conversations with the Israelis escalated over the last 24-48 hours or are we talking kind of over this 17-day --
MR. SNOW: Well, of course we've been talking through the 17-day period. But you must understand that what Hezbollah did -- look, there were active negotiations between the Israelis and other partners on the kidnapping. Hezbollah steps in, what, five days ago, six -- whatever. I mean, that is when you get a real escalation point. And the moment that happened, obviously, it became a matter of greater concern because it was pretty obvious that what Hezbollah is trying to do is to destabilize the situation. It has an interest in renewed violence at a time when Arab nations have been speaking out more and more about the importance of a two state solution; they agree with us on that.
And what is heartening to note is that a number of Arab nations are, in fact, saying to Hezbollah, sorry, you're on your own. And, in addition, they've been talking with the government of Syria because it is pretty clear that Syria has considerable influence over what goes on there.
Q Does the President have any plans to talk any Israeli leaders? Or at this point, no?
MR. SNOW: At this point -- look, I think -- the Israeli leaders have been consulted, and they've been consulted by the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor. And they'll continue their conversations and there is no -- I don't want to say there's no need, I'd just say the President has not expressed any plans to speak with the Prime Minister, but should it become necessary, he will.
Q Who is the President riding with here, do we know?
MR. SNOW: I think it's one of the Secret Service agents.
Q Okay, no --
MR. SNOW: I don't believe so. No Lance Armstrong.
Q Civil society members? (Laughter.)
Q Putin? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: No, no injured members of the Tour de France, none of that. (Laughter.)
Q Is it true that Putin wouldn't him bike on the grounds because they thought he might run into somebody.
MR. SNOW: Oh, you've got to be kidding me. (Laughter.) The President is a guy who likes to go on trails. He's on a trail. There aren't a whole lot of trails on the compound.
Q When he met with the democracy advocates, was there anything -- he said he would convey some messages to President Putin. Was there any one, in particular, or several that you could --
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. If he didn't feel compelled to share with you, I don't think I will, either. But it was --
Q Oh, go ahead.
MR. SNOW: Yes, just between you and me. (Laughter.) It was an interesting meeting because most of these civil society representatives are fairly young. They represent everything from the World Wildlife Fund to lawyers to, you know, people working on human rights and so on. Obviously, they agreed to --
(Interruption to gaggle -- loud dog-barking)
Q Looks like they found something.
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. They found out you're here.
Q They're hungry.
MR. SNOW: It's too bad we smeared meat sauce on the carpet of your bus. (Laughter.)
Q For the transcript, there are dogs barking.
Q Does the White House perceive that any of these civil society people incurred any risk by meeting with the President?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. But they decided to meet with the President. I would rather not judge it. But the President believes it's important in building a democracy to have vigorous civil institutions that allow the people to express themselves. Democracy becomes strong when people feel free to express their views and also to pursue causes that are important to them. And a government also experiences the rough and tumble of the kind of exchange that we often see in American democracy.
Q Are we going to get any kind of readout of the dinner tonight?
MR. SNOW: I honestly -- I doubt it, because I think the dinner is going to be largely a personal affair. I really don't expect there to be any substantive discussions. I think the President and Mrs. Bush and President and Mrs. Putin I think are going to have a friendly dinner. And it really is all going to be about just talking and getting caught up.
Q And tomorrow, is the President having a news conference with Putin? Or what do you know about the plans for that?
MR. SNOW: Yes, we're probably going to have a news conference with a three and three at the back end.
Q Three -- with who? Between the President and Putin, or just the President?
MR. SNOW: The President and Putin. And the good thing is --
Q That's Monday?
MR. SNOW: No, that's tomorrow. That's tomorrow.
Q Any progress on WTO? Where's that?
MR. SNOW: Nothing to announce on WTO. They continue to work through it. I spoke with Ambassador Schwab and she said they're still grinding through the issues. She's on the ground here.
Hang on a second, I'm going to try to get some updates for you. Stop the tape.
(Pause in gaggle.)
MR. SNOW: All right, just a couple of extra notes. Secretary Rice, since I last had contact with her office, has spoken with the Emir of Qatar and also I think even as we speak, or about as we speak is going to be speaking with Prime Minister Olmert.
Let me re-emphasize something that's important about what's going on. What Hezbollah has done is force people to make choices. And quite often in protracted situations like this you have forcing event, and in many ways this is a forcing event. And what you're beginning to see is the Arab nations coming to the realization that independent actors and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah are an act of threat to everybody, because they can -- a small number of people can work to destabilize not only a nation, but to aim at destabilizing a region. And that has been a focus of a lot of the talks.
In any event, again, Secretary Rice has spoken with the Emir of Qatar and also with -- I think is going to speaking with Ehud Olmert.
An additional point, too, you know, when you're thinking about choices. Again, the Iranians and Syrians also have a choice to make, which is whether they continue provoking and supporting terrorist organizations within the region. The President intends to work with allies, including France -- remember, France was instrumental in helping write U.N. Resolution 1559, which led to the removal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the official Syrian government presence. And the French were very helpful on that. And I think we look forward to their help on dealing with Hezbollah, too.
All right, anything else?
Q Anything else out there?
MR. SNOW: You know, again, we'll see what happens on trade.
Q Sounds like you're close?
MR. SNOW: No, I wouldn't say that. I think there's a lot of work to be done, and I wouldn't --
Q Okay. You're not trying to give us a hint?
MR. SNOW: No, definitely not trying to give you a hint?
Q You're talking about the Russian deal, not Doha?
MR. SNOW: Also, Doha -- look, Doha has enough lengthy and technical issues that they're not going to be resolved -- I'll tell you right now, the President is not going to sit around and talk about amber boxes with his colleagues. (Laughter.) That is why you hire trade ministers. And if and when there is resolution on the Doha round, it will be with the people who deal in those minutiae. The President has given marching orders to Susan Schwab and she knows what they are and she has been carrying them out faithfully and well.
That's about it. Not much new out of Iraq -- I asked specifically, and not much new out of there today to report. And we'll let your domestic correspondents handle the rest.
Q Thank you.
END 6:07 P.M. (L)