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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 15, 2006

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow and National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
Aboard Air Force One
En route Singapore

10:04 A.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Hello, hello. I brought a guest. I think you already know what's coming up, but I'll run you through the events today in Singapore.

Upon arrival, we're going to visit the Asian Civilizations Museum. That will be followed by an embassy greeting. There will be a little bit of down time, followed by a courtesy call with the acting President of Singapore; a meeting with the Prime Minister.

The President this evening will be making remarks at the National University of Singapore. And the days' events will close with a social dinner with the Prime Minister of Singapore and Mrs. Lee.


Q Does Steve want to readout the meeting in Moscow?

MR. HADLEY: The President and Mrs. Bush met with President Putin and Mrs. Putina. It was a social meeting, as we said it would be. This was a refueling stop. The President and President Putin will have an opportunity to meet on the margins of the APEC meeting. So this was -- the Russians were kind enough to allow us to refuel here. Once they knew we were going to do that, President Putin decided he and Mrs. Putina wanted to come out and greet their friends, the Bushes, and they did. So it was a social meeting between the two, and there will be an opportunity for them to talk business when they meet together on the margins of the APEC meeting.

Q Did they get into any substantive issues?

MR. HADLEY: I don't think so. They talked a little bit about, sort of, proliferation, generally, as you might expect them to, with things about Iran and South Korea. But it really wasn't about business -- it was about social, it was about personal, and that was the subject of much of their conversation.

Q What do you think the prospects are for a WTO signing over the weekend?

MR. HADLEY: I haven't talked to Susan Schwab recently. As you know, they made an announcement last Friday that it looked like we had the contours of an agreement; there was more finalization of text and lawyers' work to do. I'm not advised that any of that has gotten off the track at this point, so I would expect that we will try and get a signing here soon. I have not talked with Susan to know exactly the ins and outs of it.

Q Have you gotten any sense that Russian opposition to a harder-hitting U.N. Security Council resolution has weakened at all, or are they still fairly opposed to the U.S. draft?

MR. HADLEY: Well, I, on the margins of this meeting, talked to Igor Ivanoff, by counterpart, as some of you saw me come in to do. We had a good discussion about that. I think basically the strategy that all of the countries who are working together on this have come up with is sound. I think the Russians think it's sound. We have to have a Security Council resolution to show that there are consequences for the Iranians not responding and not meeting the requirements of the international community, as reflected in the Security Council prior resolutions and as reflected in the resolutions of the IAEA board of governors. And that's why we're working on a resolution.

The issue is just what should be in the resolution, how much do you do in this resolution, how much do you save for a second resolution if you need one down the road? These are largely tactical considerations. But the strategy, I think, there is agreement on: We need a resolution; we need to show that there's some consequences; we also need to keep the door open to negotiations if the Iranians are willing to come and suspend and be willing to talk about the very, I think, forward-leaning offer that was put by the EU3 plus three, with the support of all the rest of us here months ago.

So it is common strategy, push the Security Council resolution, keep the door open for negotiations if the Iranians are willing to do that, and the rest of it is basically tactics. Look, we have these struggles on these resolutions all the time, and they result in a lot of press stories about disarray among the international community. But I would remind you that over the last two or three years, when the time has come, the international community is able to pull together -- whether it's been the IAEA board of governors, whether it's been the U.N. Security Council.

So I think this is just part of a diplomatic process, you know. It's a little bit like sausage making -- it's not pretty, and a lot of it spills out into the public. But I think the international community has held together on this issue and I think we will again. The issue is the tactics, how much do you do in this resolution now, how much do you save for a later time. And, you know, those are issues on which we'll work out.

Q Does the IAEA finding of trace amounts of plutonium and highly enriched uranium -- does that add to the urgency of this?

MR. HADLEY: Well, it's troubling. It adds to the reason we're in this, which is suspicions by the international community that Iran -- contrary to what they say -- is not pursuing a civil nuclear program, but has something more nefarious. It's further evidence of -- the finding of plutonium is troubling, because it has weapons implications. But equally troubling is the fact that so much of this keeps spilling out, so much of it is not in a forthcoming way disclosed by Iran. If they have nothing to hide, you would think they would want to make a full disclosure. Yet, as the IAEA report indicates, the IAEA is unable to close the door on the questions they have, which raises a question about Iran's intentions and whether they might have a nuclear weapons program. And this recent discovery just adds to the concerns and to the real reservations and suspicions the international community has that something more is going on here.

Again, I want to say, as the President said so many times, a civil -- we are not opposing Iran having a truly civil nuclear program. This President is a big apostle of civil nuclear energy. That is not the problem; we are not trying to hold back Iran or hold back the Iranian people. The problem is, as the IAEA report shows, there's a lot of suspicion that what is going on here is a cover for a nuclear weapons program. And that's why we're worried so much about the enrichment, because the enrichment is the capability that is a route to weapons grade material -- and that's why --

Q This all comes at a time when there's a lot of discussion about Iran being a potential weighing-in in Iraq, and perhaps try to lower the temperature there. Is it possible to have conversations on, sort of, two separate tracks at the same time with Iran?

MR. HADLEY: Look, I think the interesting thing is we'd have this conversation, we have a structure for dealing with Iran on the nuclear issue; we have offered, as you know, to join those discussions if they will suspend their enrichment program. There's not a trade-off between the two. Iran needs to respond to the will of the international community and find a way to resolve these suspicions about its program. Similarly, Iran ought to have an interest in having a unified and a stable Iraq, and a good relationship with the Iraqis. They ought to. It is in their interest. And the Iraqis have been talking to the Iranians very clearly about that, that it's time for Iran to stop activity that destabilizes the government and try and take steps that stabilizes the situation in Iraq. It's in Iran's interest. It is a message we send; it's a message the Iraqis send. And the Iraqis, quite frankly, think they're the ones who ought to be saying that message, because it is their country, after all.

So I think these are two separate issues. I think it's clear what Iran needs to be doing in both of them. And the issue is not really one of talking; the issue is one of decisions by Iran to change their policies. And that's what is lacking here.

Q But in the past, you were willing to talk to Iran about Iraq. It sounds like you're not willing to do that now.

MR. HADLEY: Well, we've talked about that in the past. We had an offer to do that, in a kind of discreet discussion that would be productive. The Iranians went public with it, clearly had an objective or an agenda to do something else with it. And, therefore, it was clear that it wasn't going to serve the purposes we had in mind, so we pulled it down. There's been a lot of talk now -- some people say Iran wants to talk; we're hearing from other channels Iran doesn't want to talk. What I would say to you is, look, it's not the -- what we need is less talk and more action by Iran.

May I say a word, by the way, about the press reports today about looking -- and reviews, with respect to the way forward on Iraq? I just wanted to set that in a little broader context.

We have been doing, within the government, reviews on the way forward in Iraq: where we are, what have been the barriers to success, what do we need to do to have a way forward. As the President said, things are not going well enough or fast enough. That's been clear for a while. So for many weeks we have been doing a series of reviews, fairly discreetly. JCS has been doing a review, State has been doing a review, NSC has been doing our own internal review, as well, to try and get a sense of where we are, where we need to be and how to get there.

Not surprisingly, the President has met with his national security principles yesterday; thought it was high time that these reviews be brought together and put in an integrated form so he can get a look at it and begin getting in his own mind what the way forward needs to be in Iraq. And that's what he's asked to get done. And he chartered yesterday. And it will be, obviously, coordinated within the NSC, because that's what we do -- we coordinate inter-agency activities. And it will draw on the work that will be done.

The point I want to make though, of course, is this is not -- this is to try and figure out how we can support the Iraqi government and Maliki in his view of the way forward in Iraq. We think we have a common view on the way forward strategically. We've been hearing from Prime Minister Maliki some of the things he thinks: he wants more control over security forces, he wants to move more aggressively to stabilize the security situation, he wants to accelerate training and maybe enhancing the capabilities of forces. All of these are good things. So he's beginning to articulate what he thinks is the way forward; we need to figure out how we can support, as a partner with Iraq, an agenda for achieving our common objectives in Iraq. And that's what we're trying to do.

Q -- so you may adopt your own recommendations, instead of those of the Iraq Study Group?

MR. HADLEY: No, this is not a competition with the Iraq Study Group. The administration has been supporting the Iraq Study Group from the get-go, in terms of facilitating their travel, facilitating interviews, providing access to people they wanted to talk to, to providing information.

The President has said for months that he thought the review was important, he was going to support it -- we are going to support it, and, obviously, he will look very carefully at what is coming out. But when you have a President who says, in his view things are not going well enough or fast enough -- surprise, surprise, as a government you would want us to be responding to that, and we have and we've been doing our own reviews, obviously, for a number of weeks. This is now a time to pull those together. These aren't competitions, they're, in some sense, part of a pattern that is a good thing -- the country figuring out where we are in Iraq, figuring out a way forward that we can do in partnership with Iraqis and that will be supported by Republicans, Democrats, the executive and the Congress. That's what we'd like to do. This is a part of the process of getting there.

Q Steve, can I ask you a couple of things? On Vietnam, how much does the trade vote in Congress kind of cloud the President's meetings in Vietnam? And then, secondly, separately, the speech in Singapore, is there an element to that that's a bit of -- the democracy part is a bit of a poke in the eye to China in some of the same sort of subtle way that maybe his speech in Japan was last year?

MR. HADLEY: This isn't going to be -- the speech isn't going to be a poke in the eye, but it's going to be -- a poke in the eye, period. It's going to talk a lot of themes. It's going to talk about the freedom agenda and what freedom and democracy since the end of the Second World War have done to help transform Asia. It's going to talk about common security challenges, how we are working together to deal with those challenges in Asia, and working with Asia to deal with those challenges more globally.

He's going to talk about the things that make for prosperity and to raise people out of poverty -- things like free trade and free markets. He's going to talk about those things. He's also going to talk about the importance of what we've called the Millennium Challenge Account strategy or approach, that the way you provide a better welfare for your people is good government fights corruption, invests in their people by health and education, uses free trade, free markets. These are the themes.

But a lot of it is going to be a celebration, because there has been enormous progress in Asia. And, quite frankly, Americans -- the American people ought to take some pride in that, because they have been part of that enterprise here since the end of World War II, by providing diplomatic support, by providing economic support and by providing a security framework. So it's in some sense a celebration between Asia and the United States of a partnership that has worked for the people of Asia and, quite frankly, has worked for people of the United States.

Your first question?

Q Trade.

MR. HADLEY: Look, it is unfortunate that it could not have been done before the President arrived. But I think the message for the Vietnamese people will be: This is going to get done. There was a trial vote, you know, in the House of Representatives. It failed to get a two-thirds; it clearly got more than a majority. We believe the votes are there. The House has said that they will take it up again in December. We think that -- there have been some concerns in the Senate, a lot of those have been resolved. We think that there are the votes to pass it in the Senate, as well.

It's a function of the need, in light of our elections, to reorganize the leadership and the organization in the Congress. And it, I think, has gotten a little bit in the way of our ability to get this through.

But I think the message to the people of Vietnam is they will -- it will be announced that they will be going into the WTO, that is a good thing, and I think they can be assured that we will do our part, in terms of getting PNTR out through the Congress.

Q Steve, can I just ask more broadly on trade, how confident are you that you can make any progress on advancing the Doha round? And is the U.S. bringing any other inducements, any additional subsidies to help that --

MR. HADLEY: This wouldn't be a forum to do that, for the President to come and bring some additional concessions and try and negotiate. These are very --

Q -- trade comes through the speech, and why would this not be the perfect forum?

MR. HADLEY: Because the President isn't going to sit with 45 leaders and try and negotiate something like that.

What the President can do, and what the leaders can do -- and we think they hopefully they will do -- with a strong statement that the leaders believe Doha is a priority, that they will then all put pressure on their trade negotiators to find a way forward. We can do that politically. And, secondly, Susan Schwab can use behind-the-scenes conversations with her counterparts here to use that political impetus to put some pressure on them.

You know, we've been, as you know, pretty forthcoming on agriculture. We've not seen a similar kind of response from Europe or from, quite frankly, some of the advanced countries in the developing world. And if we could see some movement there, then we can move forward. But I think it's -- this is not a negotiating forum, but it is an opportunity for the President to make clear how it's important to him, and to give some leadership to all the other leaders in the region to make clear at a political level that this is something that needs to happen.

Q Back to Iraq, when is the presentation that you're supposed to give the President?

MR. HADLEY: Look, this is all kind of a work in progress. Obviously, he's asked that a lot of the work get done while he's traveling. He's going to want to check in on the status of that work. My guess is we'll come to him several times, as he does, churns this stuff over and makes up his own mind. So I think it's going to be a -- what we've done is sort of formalized an informal process that has been going on, and I think he'll have a number of cuts at this. And, again, this needs to be done in conjunction with the Iraqis, because at the end of the day, it's Iraqis who are going to get Iraq right. We can support them -- and we will support them, and we can do that in crucial ways. But we've got to come up with something that we and the Iraqis can embrace as the way forward.

Q Steve, let me ask --

MR. HADLEY: -- something is going to be imposed on the Iraqis, that's the point. This is going to be something that we're going to work on in ways that we can help and support the Iraqis, as together we work toward a common agenda, which the President has talked about: a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, sustain itself; is an ally in the war on terror; in which all the communities view themselves as a part and partnership of a unified Iraq. That's what they want, that's what we want. And what we're doing is trying to find better ways to move more quickly and more effectively in conjunction with the Iraqis to that goal.

Q My question was more on timing, though. Is there a -- there's no deadline?

MR. HADLEY: The President said, look, I want to know where we are when I get back from Asia. And then, of course, there's Thanksgiving and there's some more travel he'll be doing. So he'll be checking in with this effort I'm sure several times.

Q Excuse me, Steve. Thank you for doing this. Why wouldn't you want the President to have the benefit of this information before he met with the ISG?

MR. HADLEY: Well, he has had the benefit of a lot of this information and a lot of this thinking before he met with the ISG. As I said, these things have been going informally for some time. So he has some interim thinking.

But one of the things we wanted to do was to develop this over time. A lot of work has been done; it now needs to be done in a more formalized way. I think the timing is pretty good. You know, he had a few other things he's been doing in the last couple months.

Q Quickly, any update on North Korea, Steve? Any update on the status --

MR. HADLEY: I don't really have anything more on that, at this point. We're still hoping to find a way that they can come back to the talks. We'll come back to the talks -- come back to the talks with the idea of implementing that September 19th agreement, which is still the way forward.

Q Steve, you mentioned the JCS. Could you walk through who the other entities are that are preparing these informal reviews that you're now going to pull together?

MR. HADLEY: I don't have, really, anything more to say. JCS has been working it in the Department of Defense, it's what you would expect. The State Department has been doing a lot of work. We've been working closely with them. We've had, of course, our own folks cranking away on this issue. Obviously, the intelligence community has an important role to play. And the folks in the field -- Ambassador Khalilzad, General Casey, the command at CENTCOM -- all, of course, need to be heard from on this matter, and we're going to do that.

Q Well, aren't you just covering the same tracks as the Iraq Study Group? Is that --

MR. HADLEY: Well, I think the issue is, obviously, they're going to operate at a level that is appropriate and will be useful. But, you know, for the Pentagon, you need to be getting down into a level of detail about how are you going to do these things, what kind of options you look at, what would those options look like, what forces would go where and do what? The kind of thing that a blue ribbon panel could never do. And it's exactly the kind of thing that you want your military planners to be doing. Similarly, there's a lot of nuts and bolts on the State Department side of how you would implement some of these options that people are looking at. All that work needs to be done. You've got to have some options and you've got to have a pretty good plan for how you're going to implement those options.


Q Thank you very much for doing this.

END 10:28 A.M. EST

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