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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 16, 2008
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
In Focus: Middle East Trip
10:55 A.M. (Local)
MS. PERINO: Good morning. We're on our way to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This is the last stop in the President's trip to the Middle East. I know that everyone has had a long trip, so it's good to be heading home after this.
Just a couple of notes about last night. The President obviously enjoyed a very warm reception from the Saudi Arabian King, and the horse farm was quite splendid. There was warm conversation all around, very hospitable, and we enjoyed ourselves very much.
I checked in with the President, because after the dinner the President met up with the King, and the King walked him back to where the President was staying and then they had a private meeting for quite a while. This morning I asked the President if he did bring up the issue of high oil prices in the United States. He did bring that up with the King. He says that the King says that he understands the situation. He's worried about high oil prices and how they can negatively affect economies around the world. The President said there's a hope that as a result of these conversations that OPEC would be encouraged to authorize an increase production.
I don't have a lot more on that conversation. Obviously these are private conversations; we are reluctant to provide a readout of them, but I provided you what I could.
Q Who was hopeful that OPEC could authorize --
MS. PERINO: The President.
Q Oh, the President -- he would -- yes.
MS. PERINO: The President reiterated the issue of there being tight supply and very high and rising demand, not just in America, but around the world, especially in India and China. This is not a situation that's going to be solved overnight, and that's why on a parallel track the President has been pursuing aggressively alternative and renewable forms of energy, including battery technology for electric vehicles, as well as on the electricity side of things -- pushing for nuclear power and also cellulosic ethanol, those two issues.
He'll have a chance to meet with President Mubarak this morning, and they'll have a lunch. Obviously, the President will bring up the Middle East peace process and he'll talk to President Mubarak about the meetings that he's had during his trip, especially the ones he had with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas.
And he will, as he has on previous visits during this trip, reiterate why he feels that the time is now to seize the opportunity for the two leaders to deal with the core issues that are going to be very difficult to solve, but to rise above the day-to-day tensions, in order to keep their eye on the ball. And the President is going to continue to encourage the Egyptians to support the process. Obviously they sent their Foreign Minister to Annapolis, as well, and so that support has been important. That's one of the things that the President has been encouraging throughout the whole trip.
Q Dana, you just said that the -- that as a result of the conversations, OPEC would be encouraged to increase oil production --
MS. PERINO: I said there is a hope.
Q "There is a hope," -- okay, I'm sorry.
Q Dana, I didn't hear what you just said.
MS. PERINO: I said there is a hope that as a result of these conversations, that OPEC may be encouraged to authorize an increase production to help deal with the tight supply problems in this time when we have growing economies across the world, especially in China.
Q Isn't that what the President said yesterday, that he was going to ask him, and he hoped that they would?
MS. PERINO: Yes, that's what -- the President said that he was going to bring it up with the King, and he did. And I'm not going to provide additional information. This -- I was reluctant to read out the meeting. It was a private meeting between the President and the King of Saudi Arabia. So I provided you what I can.
Q Okay. I just was -- I just wanted to clarify. I was just wondering whether the President was reflecting and he thought the King agreed in any way?
MS. PERINO: No, that's -- remember, I said, "we hope that as a result," -- and by the "we" I meant the President and the administration.
Q But you can't say what the basis of that hope is, whether there was some --
MS. PERINO: No, I think that if you --
Q -- indication in the conversation from the King's point of view.
MS. PERINO: As I said, the President said that the King says he understands that the high price of oil can negatively affect economies around the world, and that when economies aren't growing as fast as they have been, then other economies are going to suffer. So it's -- the President believes it's in everyone's interests to have adequate supplies of oil to deal with the amount of demand, but at the same time, he's very insistent that we continue to push for alternative and renewable forms of energy, as well as increased efficiency. As we've just signed the bill that's -- he signed the bill three weeks ago to increase CAFE standards on passenger cars; he's already done that twice for SUVs and light trucks. We have a proposal for a third increase. So there's multiple tracks that this has to move on.
Q What should we read into the brevity of the stop in Egypt? It's our biggest ally in the Arab world, and he's only spending a couple of hours there.
MS. PERINO: The President has already been on the road for eight days. We have very good relations with Egypt, and the fact that the President is going to have a meeting with him -- they are going to be able to also have -- they'll have a one-on-one meeting; they'll also have a lunch. And the -- President Mubarak understands that the President needs to get on home. It's a long time for the President to be away.
Q Does the President plan to bring up the democratization issue in Egypt, which is a problem?
MS. PERINO: The President does always bring up the issues of reform and human rights and freedom, and he does intend to bring that up again today.
Okay? All right, we'll see you on the ground.
Q There's going to be a statement there?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Q & A?
MS. PERINO: Doubtful.
END 11:01 A.M. (Local)
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