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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 18, 2006

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York

11:12 A.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: We're on our way to New York City for the U.N. General Assembly, the annual meeting that the President attends. I'll go quickly through the schedule, and then I have a guest speaker, Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor to the President.

The President had his normal briefings this morning. At 12:15 p.m., he's going to join Mrs. Bush at her -- at the White House Conference on Global Literacy. That's at the New York Public Library. Mrs. Bush will introduce the President. There are approximately 200 attendees -- 32 First Ladies and spouses, 41 ministers of education from over 75 countries, NGOs, foundation representatives, literary experts. And you'll also see there Secretary Rice and Secretary Spellings. And Mrs. Bush is hosting the first ever White House Conference on Global Literacy and she will highlight a variety of successful literacy programs.

And then this afternoon, the President has five bilat meetings -- the Prime Minister of Malaysia, followed by the President of El Salvador, a meeting with the President of Honduras, and then the President of Tanzania. This evening he attends a Republican National Committee reception.

Also to note, an addition to the schedule for Wednesday morning. The President will meet with President Abbas at 9:30 a.m., pool at the end.

And a final note before I turn it over to Mr. Hadley. Steve Bradbury, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, will be the guest on "Ask The White House" today at 2:00 p.m., and he will be able to discuss legislation regarding the tools that we're seeking and the war on terror.

I'll let Steve give you some background on the U.N. GA that we're going to, and then if you need to have additional questions after that, I'll follow up and can give you a little bit more about tomorrow's speech.

MR. HADLEY: Good morning. How are we doing, everybody? I think a focus of a lot of the President's attentions, remarks and activities is going to be the freedom agenda, which continues to be at the core of his foreign policy. It's particularly timely to have that at the center of discussion now, given both the challenges and the opportunities in the Middle East. I think the President sees this -- he's talked about it publicly, I think he will talk about it at the U.N. -- as a struggle between the forces of extremism and the forces of moderation in the Middle East. And it's really a crucial time.

And, of course, as you know, his view is that in that struggle, the freedom agenda has an important part to play to give the people in the region a vision of hope and opportunity and a better future. He's going to talk a little bit about, and showcase in the various events, the positive steps that have occurred and begun to occur in terms of the freedom agenda, of course, the most remarkable being the processes of freedom and democracy going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, but also elsewhere in the region. He will also, I think, emphasize the fact that countries need to find their way towards free and just societies in their own time consistent with their own culture and traditions.

He will talk about -- and I think really challenge all of the other countries assembled there, and the United Nations as an institution, to take some responsibility in its role -- and step up to the role of encouraging this process and encouraging the forces of moderation in this struggle against extremism. And he'll note, I think, the fact that people I think are increasingly recognizing that that is the struggle and the stakes for all of us in the outcome of that struggle.

Some of the events he will have will highlight that. You'll hear, I think, in some of the comments he'll make at the literacy event the importance of education as being an element of sustainable democratic societies, but also as a vehicle for giving -- for empowering people and giving them more control over their own lives, and an opportunity to advance their own well-being.

There will be a meeting with a group of new democracies and those who are supporting the spread of freedom. We did it last year. There will be another one this year to take stock what has been -- happened in the course of the last year, but also to highlight the importance of NGOs -- non-government organizations -- that have been under some pressure in some quarters, the important role that they play in helping societies find their way to freedom and democracy.

Secretary Rice is going to have a number of events that also are consistent with this theme, talking, of course, with the Quartet. She will have also some discussions in connection with the International Compact for Iraq, as an effort by the international community to support the process of democratic evolution in Iraq.

So a lot of events organized around the central themes, and these themes will be a subject that will come up in a number of the bilaterals that the President will have while he's there. Of course, he's going to be meeting with President Abbas, and a number of other -- of the leaders that are there, as well, including President Talabani.

So that's really the kind of construct and theme for the trip. Anything anybody wants to add? You all set? All right, Michael Kozak did a backgrounder, I think, the night before last, and I incorporate by reference everything he said. Any questions?

Q -- is the President going to talk to Iran tomorrow, and to what extent -- what do you hope is going to come out of the week in terms of progress in terms of diplomacy on Iraq?

MR. HADLEY: I don't -- I think the process in Iran is pretty well said. As you know, Secretary Rice is going to do a stock-taking with her counterparts in the so-called P5 plus one. This is the group of countries that have been looking at this. It will be part of the ongoing process of coming together behind a resolution in the Security Council that would involve sanctions on Iran for their failure to meet the requirements the international community has set out in the last resolution.

So that process will be ongoing. It won't certainly conclude over the next two days, it will be an ongoing process. And, of course, in parallel with that, Javier Solana, the EU representative -- he's continuing to have his conversations with Larijani for the Iranian side. Again, that process continues.

I don't think there will be any direct contact with the Iranian delegations. Those are really the two tracks on which we are pursuing our Iranian policy at this point.

Q There was a lot of talk over the weekend about the EU3 meeting with Iran separately without the United States, and then they would agree to some sort of suspension of their uranium enrichment process, and then the United States would come to the table. What do you think is going to come out of that?

MR. HADLEY: The question is there's some speculation in the press that the EU3 might meet with Iran, talk about a suspension, and once that was achieved, the U.S. could join the talks. Look, the conversation with Solana are ongoing with Larijani. Obviously, it's useful for those conversations to be somewhat confidential. The framework of those conversations is very clear. We've all said -- the EU3, the U.N., the IAEA -- we have all said we need to see a verifiable suspension of the enrichment program, and then the United States would be prepared to join the negotiations to talk about the proposal that the EU3 plus the United States, China and Russia put on the table. And that is a proposal that, if accepted by Iran, will have a lot of benefits for the Iranian people in terms of bringing them prosperity and a better way of life.

So we would hope that Iran would see their way clear to agree to a verifiable suspension so we can then begin to negotiate the details of that broader path.

Q Is that likely?

MR. HADLEY: We don't know.

Q -- you said verifiable suspension. Can it be a temporary suspension and still have talks?

MR. HADLEY: That's what it is, is a verifiable suspension so you can have discussions. One of the issues in those discussions will be what happens to their enrichment program over the long-term. We've been very clear what our view is on that. But it would clearly be -- a permanent solution to this problem, is what you negotiate about. So what we've always said was not permanent suspension; what we've said is, a verifiable suspension so we can then have a discussion. And you know the proposal that we put down to the Iranians has a lot of ideas in it about how they can meet their enrichment needs in a way that would reassure the international community that is not a route to a nuclear weapon. That would be a subject of the negotiations.

Q I just want to make sure I'm clear. It could be a temporary suspension. That is what you're saying would be okay, and that would --

MR. HADLEY: Look, you know, what we've said is a verifiable suspension so that talks can get started. And that's what we have in mind. There is an issue of, on a permanent basis, what happens to the enrichment activity that Iran is doing, and that is an issue that is addressed in the proposal we all put down to the Iranians. I'm not trying to make news here. I don't think there's any news here. It always was a verifiable suspension.

Q On a temporary basis?

MR. HADLEY: It doesn't say termination, it says suspension - you suspend.

Q It seems like that's what the Iranians have been saying -- we'll do a two-month suspension or something. And if you're saying that's okay, that's -- maybe Condi has already been making that point.

MR. HADLEY: The point is, the forum for that conversation is Solana and Larijani. And it's very important that we have only one channel of the discussions on these issues. If that is a proposal that the Iranians have, they should make it to Solana, in the conversations with Solana and Larijani so that we can have this conversation.

Q -- about Abbas, what is the President's message going to be to President Abbas on Wednesday? And is he going to be open to the idea of restarting some kind of financial aid to the Palestinian government?

MR. HADLEY: Look, the framework of the policy is pretty clear. We support voices of moderation. Obviously, President Abbas is one. He's committed to peace, and we have worked with him and would continue to work with him. That's why the President is going to see him. The big question, of course, is whether Hamas will renounce violence, accept the existence of Israel, and accept the agreements that have been made. That's the $64 question. And we hope they would.

MS. PERINO: Since we're about to land, I'm going to cut this off, and we'll try to catch up later today if you need anything else.

END 11:23 A.M. EDT