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Excerpts from the Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer September 27, 2002 (Full transcript)

MR. FLEISCHER: ….Finally, the President is very pleased with the additional progress that has been made on the language for the resolution in the Congress to authorize the use of force concerning Iraq. The President is optimistic that America's resolve to deal firmly with Saddam Hussein will soon be echoed in the Congress. The President appreciates the actions that have been taken by all the leaders involved.

He hopes that, now that the House has voted on homeland security and intends to vote on the matter vis a vis Iraq, he hopes that the Senate will vote on his proposal, his compromise, Democrats and Republicans -- working with Democrats and Republicans alike -- the President hopes the Senate will vote on that compromise homeland security proposal prior to proceeding to the Iraq vote. The President thinks it's important that the four weeks of debate come to a conclusion; they've debated it long enough.

QUESTION: When you say additional progress on the language, what do you mean? When he's talking about additional progress, what is he referring to?

MR. FLEISCHER: The talks on Capitol Hill involving Democrats and Republicans at the leadership level have proceeded very productively throughout the week. And the administration, in an effort to listen to some of the thoughts that we had heard from members of Congress, made several changes in the resolution that had been sent up to the Hill last week. And those changes have been well-received in most quarters, and additional progress has been made. I know that Senator Daschle has cleared the calendar for debate on this, beginning at the end of next week. So the legislative mechanisms are falling into place for the debate to begin, and progress has been made on the resolution. That's why I said the President is optimistic that the resolve of the American people to deal firmly with Saddam Hussein will soon be echoed in the United States Congress.

QUESTION: Are you talking primarily about the language changes that have been reported widely today, or are you talking about something in addition to that?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm talking about what you -- and I think what the administration circulated yesterday up to the Hill recognizing the consultations with the Congress has been publicly shared. You have it.

QUESTION: On the French call, Ari, France and China seem to be lining up behind a two-step U.N. resolution. The United States and Britain are favoring a one-step. Is there room for compromise? How do you bridge that gap? And did they talk about that issue?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President continues to believe that it has to be firm and effective, that the resolution has to make clear that Saddam Hussein is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions; that the resolution has to make clear what Iraq needs to do to come into compliance, and the resolution has to make clear what will happen if Iraq does not come into compliance.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: What about Gephardt talking more about the politicization of the war in Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President urges no one to politicize this debate. This is a very serious matter, and it needs to be handled seriously by everybody. The country will benefit from a healthy and civil discussion of this. And the President thanks Congressman Gephardt for his leadership in working to get a successful resolution completed.