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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 26, 2006

Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel
Aboard Air Force One
En route Waco, Texas

11:47 A.M. CST

MR. STANZEL: Hello everyone. Thanks for being here today. We're on our way to Crawford, Texas, where the President will remain until January 1st.

One quick thing to read out, and then I'll take your questions.

The President this morning placed a phone call to Ugandan President Museveni. He thanked him for his support of the regional peacekeeping force in Somalia, and they had discussions about the tensions in the Horn of Africa.

And with that, I will take your questions.

Q Do you have a response to the Iraqi court sentencing Saddam Hussein to death, and saying that it should be carried out in 30 days?

MR. STANZEL: Today marks an important milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law, and the Iraqis deserve praise for continuing to utilize the institutions of democracy to pursue justice. Saddam Hussein has received due process and legal rights that he denied the Iraqi people for so long. So this is an important day for the Iraqi people.

Q What about for President Bush, how does he feel about this -- Saddam Hussein is going to be executed?

MR. STANZEL: We understand that the Iraqi High Tribunal has affirmed the verdict and a death sentence for Saddam Hussein, and a written judgment will be written soon. So we look forward, as does the rest of the world, to seeing that written judgment.

Q Scott, where is he right now in determining the way forward in Iraq?

MR. STANZEL: As you know, the President after the first of the year will talk with the American people about the new way forward in Iraq. He continues to ask questions of his advisors and he is continuing to think about thinking steps ahead and trying to make sure that all options and all ideas are given the due consideration they need, trying to think through the consequences of any actions and of those options.

So he will continue to do that this week while he's down on the ranch. And, as you know, he'll be meeting with members of his National Security Council on Thursday to continue to talk about this option.

Q Scott, on the meeting on Thursday, how do we characterize the importance of this meeting? Is this, like, the final one before he's going to actually make up his mind?

MR. STANZEL: You know, I think we characterized it yesterday as a non-decisional meeting, but --

Q That's how you characterized it Friday, too. (Laughter.)

MR. STANZEL: The meeting hasn't occurred yet, so we look forward to that meeting on Thursday. And I'm not going to say whether or not this will be the last meeting -- that depends on the discussions that occur and depends on the dialogue and how comfortable the President is with that new way forward.

Q Can you give us a sense of what this meeting will be? Is it an all day, multiple sessions? Is it one meeting? And who will be there?

MR. STANZEL: We have indicated that Secretary Gates, Secretary Rice, the Vice President, Stephen Hadley, of course, the President will be there -- I don't have a full list for you at this point and don't have specific timing of the meeting, but we'll get you that as we get closer.

Q Are you thinking of it, though -- is it an all-day pow-wow, or is it just --

MR. STANZEL: That may be your characterization, but I don't have the specific times for when it will start and when it will end, but we'll get you that as we get closer.

Q Is that the only day that Gates will be here?

MR. STANZEL: I don't have Secretary Gates' schedule, but that is the day of the national Security Council meeting.

Q Could there possibly be another one later in the week -- Friday?

MR. STANZEL: We haven't made any announcements beyond that, but my expectation is that Thursday's meeting will be the day for those meetings.

Q -- more on the Iranians who were picked up in Iraq?

MR. STANZEL: As we've indicated, we suspect that this validates our claims that the Iranians have been meddling in Iraq, but we want to finish the investigation of the detained Iraqis before characterizing their activities. And that's an ongoing investigation that we are working with the government of Iraq on, so we'll have more information when that investigation concludes.

Q But do you concede that at least two of them were actually diplomats -- I mean, had diplomatic --

MR. STANZEL: Yes, and that has been widely reported and they were released back to the embassy.

Q Why did the United States take them into custody if they had diplomatic standing?

MR. STANZEL: Force protection operations like this happen all of the time, and we'll have more information as that investigation continues.

Q Do you have a date yet for the speech?

MR. STANZEL: No information on that front. After the first of the year.

Q -- rough drafts?

MR. STANZEL: Yes, you didn't get it? (Laughter.)

Q Given the rising death toll in Iraq, does the President feel a sense of urgency to announce his new strategy sooner, rather than later, in January?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the President spoke about this at the press conference, he's wanting to make sure that we give all consideration to all the options. It's important the forces -- our forces, coalition forces in Iraq are continuing to take the fight to the enemy, and the President will announce a new way forward when he's comfortable announcing that.

Q Do you have any comment on The Washington Times report that the President announced his intention to increase the end force of the military, under pressure from the Joint Chiefs and other military officials?

MR. STANZEL: I don't have any comment on that. And we've discussed -- you know, we've seen a lot of things appear in the papers, and I'll just leave it to the President to make his own announcement.

Q I don't know if you have anything on this. Ifax, a Russian news service, is saying that the United States detained a former co-owner of Yukos -- Leonid Nevzlin. Have you heard anything about that, or why or --

MR. STANZEL: I don't have any information on that.

Q You don't? He was detained as he tried to enter the United States.

MR. STANZEL: I don't have any information.

Q Now for the really important stuff, can you tell us what they gave each other for gifts, and a little bit more about their Christmas?

MR. STANZEL: I don't have any information on that. Did you not get that readout yesterday?

Q We got nothing yesterday.

MR. STANZEL: Okay. I'll see what I can do on gifts and the other thing.

Q How about New Year's plans?

MR. STANZEL: We'll have more information about his New Year's plans towards the end of the week.

Q Gaggling prospects?

MR. STANZEL: Eleven a.m. tomorrow, you all are welcome to sleep in.

Q Thank you.

END 11:54 A.M. CST