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Excerpts from the Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer October 5, 2002 (Full transcript)

QUESTION: On the whole Iraq issue, on Monday night, is he likely to cage things like he did today, in saying we will lead a coalition? I mean, it's a little bit of a change. Weeks ago, he said America will do what it has to do, go it alone if it has to. In recent days, he's been saying we will lead a coalition. Is that what we can expect him to say in laying out the case?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, you know, the President's speech Monday night will focus on the growing menace that Saddam Hussein presents to people who want peace. And the President thinks this is important to talk directly to the country about it. He'll have a lot to say.

QUESTION: But he won't couch it as, we will be part of a coalition?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to preview the President's precise words this far in advance.

QUESTION: Well, going back to what he said this morning, when he says that we know that Britain is part of that coalition, are there other nations that you can definitively say --

MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. That's why -- that's why for those who question whether the United States will do anything unilaterally, the question is answered: The United States will not. The only question is, will the United Nations take action or will the United States and the United Kingdom and others be part of a broad, international coalition that protects the peace?

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: Is it just accidental that he's making a speech on the anniversary of the first military action in Afghanistan? Or is he going to connect the war on terrorism with Saddam? I mean, is it just -- is it just accidental that it happens on the 7th?

MR. FLEISCHER: The speech will be about Iraq. Of course, the President will talk about war on terror.

QUESTION: You chose the date intentionally, though?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I can't say -- I'm sorry. I can't say that. No, I don't think -- the time was driven more by the fact that Congress is going to begin and vote on a very important topic and the nation should -- the nation should see its elected leaders speak from the heart, say what's on their mind, educate the country. And that's -- this is what great democracies do. Critics and supporters all raise valid issues. Their voices should be heard, their voices should be respected. And leaders on both sides of this issue should talk freely.

QUESTION: Has he talked to Daschle at all since that morning breakfast meeting?

MR. FLEISCHER: Not that I have been made aware of.

QUESTION: The President has, in recent speeches, made a point of saying that debate and all sides of debate are important. Is he actively bringing in people who oppose the idea of war just to hear them out and make sure he's getting all arguments?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think that, as the President says, war is not his first choice and that's why what is so important is that the United Nations speak clearly, speak strongly so that maximum pressure can be applied so that military force can be avoided, if possible.

QUESTION: But I know that the U.S. Conference of Bishops and other people have made strong statements. Has he brought in anybody like that to hear out those arguments, sort of a domestic, here's why we're against it --

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President respects the opinions of those who totally differ with him. But the one thing the President has made perfectly plain is, inaction is not an option; inaction is the greatest risk we could take.

QUESTION: Is Biden-Lugar dead?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's up to the Senate to decide. It will be put to a vote in the Senate under Senate rules, however they decide to make different approaches, in order, when they begin the debate. For those -- the senators will make that judgment. But I think it's fair to say that McCain-Lieberman is supported far and wide.

QUESTION: Has Lugar told the White House, I'm peeling off of that effort.

MR. FLEISCHER: You'd have to ask Senator Lugar.