March 10, 2003
Press Briefing Excerpts - 3/10/03
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, March 10, 2003
1:23 P.M. EST
The President early this morning spoke with President Jiang Zemin
of China. He called during the ongoing session of China's National
People of Congress to congratulate President Jiang on years of
service to his country. The Presidents recalled their common
commitment to seeking peaceful means to keep the Korean Peninsula
free of nuclear weapons. While expressing hope for a peaceful
solution in Iraq, the President emphasized his determination to
defend the security of the American people.
The Presidents agreed on the importance of developing U.S.-China
relations, and they talked about the need for continuing and
ongoing consultations about the situation vis-a-vis Iraq.
The President also this morning spoke with Japanese Prime Minister
Koizumi regarding the situation in both Iraq and North Korea. The
President thanked the Prime Minister for his support for the
U.S.-UK-Spanish resolution and for Japan's efforts to work with
other nations in order to maximize pressure on Iraq to disarm. Both
agreed that a peaceful resolution of the issue depends on Iraq's
The President also today spoke with President Mbeki of South
Africa. President Bush shared his view, or expressed his view that
the lack of Iraqi compliance presents a grave threat to world peace
and to the United Nations' credibility. President Mbeki reported on
the South African team sent to Baghdad to convey information on
South Africa's voluntary disarmament of weapons of mass
Both leaders agree that Iraq must make a strategic decision to
disarm. And they also discussed the importance of the unique nature
of the U.S.-South African bilateral relationship. And President
Bush congratulated President Mbeki on the Congo peace process.
The President also today spoke to the Sultan of Qaboos [sic] to
review with him the current situation in Iraq and to thank him for
Oman's years of reliable and steady friendship and support for the
United States. The President noted that if hostilities were
unavoidable, the United States would seek to provide humanitarian
aid, relief and support to the people of Iraq so that they are
Q Ari, the Russians are promising to veto this new resolution.
How much more damaging would that be than a French veto alone?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I note the Foreign Minister has indicated that
that is a possibility. And the President certainly hopes that it
will not come to that from the Russian point of view. The President
would be very disappointed if Russia were to take a stand that
would be a setback not only for peace, because it's important to
immediately disarm Saddam Hussein, but also for the freedom and the
liberty of the Iraqi people.
Q Is the President talking to Putin? And what did Jiang tell the
MR. FLEISCHER: The call was just as I indicated. They're going to
continue to consult about events in Iraq.
Q Well, what commitment regarding abstaining the veto?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think continued consultation is probably the best
way to describe it. And what was your first part there?
Q Whether he's talked to Putin?
MR. FLEISCHER: He has in the past. As you know, he talked to
President Putin, I believe it was on Thursday of last week, if I
recall, or Wednesday of last week. And if there are any other phone
calls, we'll keep you informed.
Q There seems to be a hardening of the position by this White
House towards this U.N. process. It began with the President, while
you're engaged in diplomacy, being not very diplomatic, saying,
well, it's time for everybody to show their cards and forcing the
vote. And now this morning, on the record, but off camera, you were
making the point, at least suggesting that if the United Nations
fails to pass the second resolution, that it would be a moral
failure on the part --
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q -- of the United Nations. A, would you explain that point of
view and that shift now that we're seeing? And, B, does this
reflect the fact that the President feels like this is going down,
it's not going to go either way?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, if a nation vetoes, then that
expresses the will of the United Nations, regardless of whether or
not the United States, Spain, England, Bulgaria, the other nations
are able to reach nine or 10 votes, which we are continuing to work
very hard to do and to strive for. And we'll see what the ultimate
outcome is. There could be a veto. There also could be nine or 10
votes still. We are working very hard on that.
The President has made a couple points very clear. One is, if the
United Nations fails to act, that means the United Nations will not
be the international body that disarms Saddam Hussein. Another
international body will disarm Saddam Hussein. So this will remain
an international action -- just the United Nations will have chosen
to put itself on the sidelines -- that is, the United Nations
Security Council will have.
So Saddam will be disarmed by an international group. But from a
moral point of view, as the world witnessed in Rwanda, and as the
world witnessed in Kosovo, the United Nations Security Council will
have failed to act once again. And this is becoming a trend for the
United Nations Security Council, where in the most important
security issues around the world, they're leaving regions of the
world in which humanity is suffering from ethnic cleansing, is
suffering from mass killings, and in the case of Iraq, suffering
from the possibility of the use of weapons of mass destruction --
the United Nations Security Council is, from a moral point of view,
leaving the people of these regions on the sidelines. And from the
President's point of view, that's a regrettable development if it
Q Can I just follow on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes
Q So if they vote with you, then they're living up to their
obligations; but if they oppose the United States, they're
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say they were immoral. I said that from a
moral point of view, what are the people of Iraq to think when it
comes to who is it who fought for their freedom and liberty? What
were the people of Kosovo to think? What were people to -- about,
with the ethnic cleansing, about the role of the United Nations
Security Council? Those are the issues.
Q But don't you see why people could conclude that dissent
within this deliberative body is not really condoned by the United
MR. FLEISCHER: Different nations have different points of views.
That's the point of view of the United States. Other nations that
will vote differently are free to express their point of view from
their point of view. That's the point of view of the President.
This is a moral issue, and the President hopes that action will be
taken. It doesn't suggest that if they don't take action they are
But the President does believe that when people of Kosovo ask who
they are to thank for the end of ethnic cleansing, they cannot
thank the United Nations Security Council. The President of Rwanda,
himself, expressed similar thoughts about waiting for the United
Nations Security Council. And after waiting, a million people
So these are important issues to be discussed, frankly and openly.
And these are the implications.
Q I have a follow up to David, because he didn't follow up
enough. (Laughter.) Are you suggesting, seriously, that a failure
to pass the resolution because one of the Permanent Five veto it,
even though there may have been nine or 10 votes, would be some
sort of moral victory? You get nine or 10 votes, but you don't get
MR. FLEISCHER: The moral issue is an issue that I think you will
hear expressed by the people of Iraq, that in the event that
hostilities ensue and the Iraqi people are freed from the cloak of
a brutal dictatorship that tortures, that kills, people of Iraq
will know who to thank. That will be a moral issue. That will be a
moral matter. That's an approach to this issue.
And nations are certainly within their right, certainly within
their judgment. They will express that from their own point of view
of moral -- a moral position. And their position will be no less
moral than the United States' position. But the people of Iraq will
know, in their hearts, who led to action that led to their freedom
and who didn't.
Q So you are trying to build nine or 10 votes for this, even
though it may be vetoed, for that reason, to express this moral
clarity; is that --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the reason the President is proceeding is
because the President said he would. The President does think it's
important, and the time is coming -- and it will happen this week
-- for the nations of the Security Council to raise their hand and
take a stand on the immediate disarmament of Iraq.
Q If the President bombs Iraq, which he apparently plans to do,
it will be in defiance of a U.N. vote, because only in terms of
self-defense and you're attacked can you really attack under the
U.N. charter. It will also be immoral, and how do you know what the
Iraqis think? You think they'd rather be dead and have liberty? I
mean, what is this liberty if you're going to send 3,000 missiles
over in 48 hours, according to all the plans I've read? How many
people are going to survive that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, on the legal basis of it, under United
Nations Security Council Resolution 678, the United
Q It doesn't wipe out the charter.
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course it doesn't wipe out the charter; it
reinforces it, and that's why it would be legal via United Nations
previous resolutions, as previous United States Presidents have
The United States military will, of course, take every step to
minimize the loss of innocents. There are no guarantees it'll
Q How can you do that with 3,000 missiles?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I just would like to remind you that if the
standard was if the United Nations Security Council did not act,
how many Muslims would have been killed in ethnic cleansing in
Serbia? By that standard, if you judge legitimacy by whether the
United Nations Security Council --
Q We did intervene in Kosovo, if you recall.
MR. FLEISCHER: May I finish? If by that standard you judge
legitimacy by whether the United Nations Security Council acted,
then you would think you'd need to restore Slobodan Milosevic to
power, because he was removed without the United Nations Security
Council approval. That was regime change in Serbia, wasn't it?
Q Wait, wait. The U.N. didn't change Slobodan Milosevic regime,
the people of Serbia did. The goal of that operation --
MR. FLEISCHER: With a little help from NATO and the United States.
Q But I don't want to talk about history -- (laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I suppose he might still be there had it not been
for NATO and the United States.
Q We allowed that conflict to end with him in power. And I don't
want to get into an argument about history, I want to talk to you
about this notion of --
MR. FLEISCHER: History is very relevant here, because you're
judging the Security Council.
Q All right. You're mis-stating the history, then.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm not. The question --
Q Because Slobodan Milosevic was not removed from power by
military action. Full stop, period.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it certainly undermined his ability to stay in
power, if I recall. But the point is, the United Nations Security
Q That wasn't the goal. Now you're sliding over.
MR. FLEISCHER: The United Nations Security Council failed to
authorize military action in Serbia. A different international
coalition -- in that case, NATO -- was formed to do so. The
question Helen was asking seemed to say that without Security
Council approval a military action might not have a legitimacy. It
did have legitimacy, and a result of the military action, Slobodan
Milosevic fell from power.
Q Let me ask you about -- you and others have said that by this
deadline Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime must take a strategic
decision to disarm. And diplomats at the United Nations and others
have noted that's kind of a vaporous phrase. It's very hard to see
what it actually means. How do you tell when someone's had what one
of them compared to a religious conversion?
Is the President open to providing some kind of specificity, some
kind of benchmark: here's what we need to see specifically from
Saddam Hussein, as either part of this resolution or around it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Here's what's happening in New York and what you can
expect. Ambassadors at the United Nations and others are in the
final stages of diplomacy in New York, in anticipation of a vote
that will take place this week. The exact form of the vote, what
the exact content of what will be voted on remains a matter of
consultation and discussion among various nations.
Some nations have suggested such things as benchmarks. There are
ideas that are being explored and looked at. And so it is too soon
to say what the final document that will be voted on will include.
It's too soon to say what the exact date will be. You've indicated
it will be this week, but there's a important phase of diplomacy
underway as we speak. That diplomacy is marked by some level of
flexibility within the diplomacy. But the bottom line remains the
same; it must lead to the immediate disarmament of Saddam Hussein.
Q So just to button this down, you're open to -- or you're
aren't ruling out this notion of benchmarks, specific tasks that
the Iraq regime must take? And is the 17th a drop-dead date, or is
there a little bit of wiggle room in there? Could it slide a day or
MR. FLEISCHER: What I've indicated is there's a diplomatic process
underway in which consultation is important, listening to the ideas
of various nations is important. That's underway as we speak. I've
not indicated whether anything is final in the language that has
been offered in the amended version of the resolution.
Q Ari, first, what indications do you have about the possibility
of Iraq moving explosives into oil fields? And how would you
respond to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, I cannot confirm those reports. I'm not in a
position to have evaluated them. Let me just suggest -- and this is
if we enter into hostilities, this will be a pattern that will be
repeated many times, just as in 1991, anything dealing with
operations, with movements, would be questions that have to get
referred to the Pentagon, not the White House.
Q Okay, and secondly, is the United States prepared to accept
the damage that's being done to international institutions and
alliances as a result of the debate over Iraq? And if the U.S.
fails this test that you have set up for it -- if the United
Nations fails this test you have set up, what sort of structure or
relations do you see emerging afterwards?
MR. FLEISCHER: Here's what's at stake in the United Nations and in
international organizations. Given that Saddam Hussein has weapons
of mass destruction that are prohibited to him, what is the lesson
for the next country that has weapons of mass destruction or
nuclear weapons, such as Iran or North Korea, where we fear they
are developing their programs to have weapons of mass destruction
and nuclear weapons? How then does the world enforce
anti-proliferation arrangements if the methods set up by the
international community are not effective? And that is being tested
now with the United Nations Security Council. There are issues that
need to be thought through, from an international point of view.
And the focus is, as the President has said, will the United
Nations Security Council be relevant? There's another point to be
made, and that is: will the United Nations Security Council be
effective? Will they be effective in stopping proliferators from
obtaining weapons? If they're not effective, then the world has to
examine these issues carefully to find the best means of finding an
Q Do you think changes may be needed at some point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Clearly, given the fact that after 12 years, where
Iraq has -- some thought Iraq was contained -- sanctions have been
tried, diplomacy has been tried, inspections have been tried, and
it has not worked. I think there does need to be a second look.
Q Ari, if I could just follow this point that you made here.
This morning you said that if the United Nations failed to confront
Iraq, proliferators would celebrate. You mentioned North Korea and
Iran, as you just did before. On the flip side of that, would you
then say that if we do confront Iraq, either within or outside the
United Nations context, does that suggest that the natural
continuation of President Bush's policy is that we will confront
Iran and North Korea by whatever means we need to? Either within
the U.N. or outside? In other words, Iraq is the first step would
seem to be the suggestion you were making.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you're watching unfold an example with North
Korea where the United States is dealing with a situation of North
Korea seeking to obtain nuclear weapons through diplomacy and
through a multilateral approach.
The point is, what's the most effective way to enforce
anti-proliferation regimes, so that nations do not commit to
possession of these weapons, particularly these rogue nations.
That's the bottom line, is what is an effective mean to stop them
from arming up with these types of weapons of mass destruction. And
in different regions, different solutions may be required.
Q Can you clarify Secretary Powell's statement this weekend, as
well as your own, about the unmanned drone that was discovered,
these recently discovered drones in Blix's report? Is this new
information, is it new evidence? And do you believe that --
MR. FLEISCHER: This is new information.
Q It is.
MR. FLEISCHER: And we are aware of the reports regarding UNMOVIC's
discovery of Iraqi production of not only the drones, but munitions
capable of dispensing chemical and biological weapons. The also
have undeclared UAVs, or drones, unmanned aerial vehicles. The
drone, in this case, has a 24-foot wingspan, as well as a second
undeclared vehicle. They were constructed from converted L-29 drop
tanks, which are auxiliary fuel tanks for L-29 model Iraqi
aircraft. UNSCOM discovered that Iraq has used modified drop tanks
to spray simulated anthrax in the past. The fuel capacities of
these drones may violate the 150-kilometer imposition on Iraq,
separate and apart from the fact that it can contain chemical or
There's a meeting in New York of the Security Council at 3:30 p.m.
today that is a closed session, and I anticipate that this is
something that may come up.
Q You say it's new information. Is it new information because
they have not presented this before, or is it new information for
this administration? Or was this something the administration was
already aware of?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this was technically an appendix that was
added very late to the cluster report that I referenced when I
briefed on Friday. It was not discussed by Mr. Blix in his oral
presentation, and it may come up today in the private session the
United Nations Security Council is having.
Q But was it something the administration knew about prior to
receiving that report on Friday?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was -- if it was prior, it was so immediately
prior that as we looked through a 200-page document and then found
the appendix added at the end, we only became aware of it at that
moment. You always have fears and suspicions, as you know, of a UAV
program operating in Iraq, as Secretary Powell had talked about
previously and as other newspapers have reported. What's new here
is that the U.N. may have discovered something on the ground.
Q And do you believe that Blix intentionally buried this
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I have not said that. No, I think that this is
one of the issues that members states of the Security Council look
forward to learning more about. It's important to learn more about
Q Is that the fear, though, that he may have done that?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's why there are questions. And I'm sure those
questions will get answered.
Q There are two things here, the unmanned aerial vehicles and
the bombs that have cluster sub-munitions, they call them, in other
words little balls that come out.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Is it the U.S. view that both of these are intended or have
the capability of dispersing chemical and biological weapons?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question that munitions are capable of
dispensing chemical and biological weapons. And based on past
reporting that UNSCOM did, there is also a concern about the UAV's
being modified for this exact same purpose, which is the spraying
of chemical and biological weapons. We're talking about weapons of
Q Now, the bombs and the little round sub-munitions, the cluster
bombs, that is just as new as the UAV information? I wasn't clear
which one you were talking about being new. And is that also part
of the --
MR. FLEISCHER: Both pieces of information only became available to
us in the final version of the cluster document; the UAV is in the
appendix. So this was late-breaking news, very late last week.
Q And the U.S. view is that these are undeclared, potentially
MR. FLEISCHER: They are undeclared. And we look forward to learning
and hearing more from the United Nations.
Q Do you have any sense, has UNMOVIC given you any sense of why
it is that this was not included in Dr. Blix's report before the
MR. FLEISCHER: This is why I said there are outstanding questions.
And all members of the Security Council, I think it's safe to say,
look forward to hearing the answers. These are important
Q Ari, aside from the reported comments -- on Russia -- of the
foreign minister, has the White House received a direct indication
from Russia about what their country's position is on the U.N.
resolution and whether or not they now have a firm position to vote
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, unless a nation is on the record and
public about what their ultimate stand will be -- whether they will
vote yes, whether they will abstain, or whether they will veto --
it's not the place of the White House to describe the position of
other nations. I cannot do that. We will continue the diplomatic
process and continue to talk to Russia, of course.
Q -- through the diplomatic process, have they reached out to
the administration to make clear their position?
MR. FLEISCHER: The last time the President and President Putin
spoke, they both talked about continued consultation.
Q And does -- the diplomatic push that the President is
personally involved in now, does his role in that extend to, you
know, carrying the lobbying campaign, the diplomatic campaign,
himself directly to New York, to the U.N. this week to meet with
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President has no plans to travel. And you
should not expect that. When the vote is taking place, the vote
will take place at the normal levels of discussion for the United
Q A follow? Ari, you said again today, as you did, I think
originally last week, that if the U.N. fails to act, Iraq will be
disarmed by another international organization.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Namely, the coalition that the United States has put together.
You seem to be equating an ad hoc coalition that the United States
has been able to form around one issue and one task with permanent
bodies like the U.N. and NATO, which have charters formed by
treaties, have charters and structures. Does the President believe
that international affairs can be conducted entirely through ad hoc
bodies like the one he's putting --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly the coalition of the willing will be a
coalition assembled for the purpose of using force to disarm Saddam
Hussein. So the answer is obviously yes. But the point I'm making
here is that there are many ways to form international coalitions.
The United Nations Security Council is but one of them. There are
not the only group that can speak well about international
organizations and international efforts. And that is why that if
the decision is made to use force to disarm Saddam, it will be
through a large coalition of the willing, through many other
nations, not just the United States.
Q But ad hoc coalitions don't have formal rules and structures
to make decisions. They make it up as they go along, as the United
States is doing here with this coalition. Doesn't that play into
criticisms that other countries and other people in other countries
have made about the United States, that we are making up the rules
as we go along?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of anybody saying making up the rules
as we go along. I think the President has been overt. The mission
is to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Q Ari, given all the difficulty of pursuing the U.N. routes, the
speech in September, the vote in November, now another vote, is
there any second guessing going on in the White House among those
who say that we should have not done this --
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I've talked to the President about that,
and the answer is, no. The President thought this was the right
thing to do and thinks that it remains the right thing to do, for
the same reasons he gave in his September 12th speech.
Now if the vote ultimately does not come out the way the President
hoped it would, because of a veto, then I think that the President
will remind the world about what he said in that September 12th
speech, about the need to have international organizations that are
effective in fighting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
As I said earlier, that if the United Nations does not act, that
there are other proliferators down the line who will celebrate the
United Nations Security Council's failure to back up its own
And that's why the President went to the United Nations. The
President still is working hard to make the United Nations Security
Council the organization that enforces its own resolutions calling
for immediate disarmament.
Q Ari, another follow on the cluster bombs and the drone, if I
may. Aside from the U.N. disclosure, does the United States have
information of its own, independent, about either of these
potential weapons systems?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you're asking me to discuss anything of a
classified nature, I, of course, cannot do that.
Q More so that -- in other words, beyond what we know from the
MR. FLEISCHER: On the topic of the drones, if you recall, the
President raised that in his speech in Cincinnati, last fall, which
was a subject of concern that Iraq has been working to develop
What is notable here, that came out the very end of last week from
the United Nations, is that they may have discovered something.
Q Yes, but he said the intelligence showed that we had those. Or
Q The President has been reluctant to put forward any cost
estimates on what the war might cost. But the Congressional Budget
Office did so on Friday, suggesting the first month might cost $10
billion, and then $8 billion a month from there on out, until it's
But, surely, since the President has been talking so much about
reconstruction and making sure that a proper democratic government
is allowed to take hold in Iraq, that schools will be rebuilt, that
kind of thing -- the government must have some idea what the after
cost might be?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, just as the President sa
id at the news conference last week, that in the event hostilities
begin, a supplemental will be sent up to the Congress that takes into
account best estimates at that time about what costs could be. They
would include various areas of reconstruction, as well as military
But unless that happens, I'm not in a position to speculate about
what the cost could be.
Q Why not?
Q Why not? I mean, every time --
MR. FLEISCHER: For all the reasons I've been --
Q No, every time you guys put together --
MR. FLEISCHER: For all the reasons we've been giving for weeks on
the same question.
Q Every time you guys put together a domestic policy initiative,
there's a cost estimate attached -- even in its most preliminary
MR. FLEISCHER: Because the variables of war are totally different
from the variables of a domestic cost estimate. If Saddam Hussein
surrenders and Iraq disarms on the first day in the first hour,
that has one dramatic impact on the price.
Q Well, why not share the range?
MR. FLEISCHER: If it appears to be a lengthier price, then we would
be in a position to know at that time. Until we have more
information, it's very hard to make all these assessments with
Q Ari, the March 17th date, does that have significance only in
the U.N. context? Or is that a date that we're prepared to enforce?
Or is -- are all bets off once the U.N. acts? If it doesn't approve
that date, is the war on immediately?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the best way to look at the March 17th date
and say, what is this -- at this point, that is the date that has
been given by the United Nations as part of the resolution that's
been tabled. And so it's part of the diplomatic process about when
the diplomacy will be brought to an end. In the event that the
President decides to authorize a use of force, we have not
indicated what the date may or may not be. Anything of that nature
would come from the President, himself.
Q If the United Nations -- if the President's efforts are
unsuccessful and the United Nations does not accept that March 17th
date, is the message to those who want more time, that there is no
more time as of that moment?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President said, there would be warning to
inspectors, to journalists, to others to get out. And in the event
that there is anything further to be said about a date, it would
come from the President, himself. So I can't speculate about
whether this would or would not happen, or what the date may or may
not be. The date of March 17th has been set by the resolution that
would be tabled -- has been tabled per the diplomacy.
Q Ari, two follow-ups, one on Russia. In the President's recent
phone call with Mr. Putin, did he get at all the impression that
while they may not be with us, but at least they're not going to be
against us, like -- which has been quoted in the press? Did he get
that impression? And, secondly, on the cost estimate, why is it not
appropriate now to have those cost estimates released, given that
the Pentagon has made those estimates already? You said he would do
it at an appropriate time, but why is now not an appropriate time?
MR. FLEISCHER: On your first question, again, it's the place of
other nations to characterize their positions, it's not my place to
Q But I'm talking about the President's impression, not what --
actually what Putin said.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's impression is that if Russia has
something conclusive to report, they will report it.
On the second part of your question, I've been answering it the
same way for weeks -- that in the event that a supplemental is
sent, we'll have information at that time, based on the numbers
that are as accurate as final.
Q If the U.N. Security Council and the weapons inspectors
maintain their present attitude or pattern, is the Bush
administration committed to maintaining its present U.N. dues at
the current high level?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of anything that would indicate
Q Why not?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because I think that this will require a period of
assessment to determine, when the President talked about the
relevance of the United Nations Security Council, and if it is not
able to act and be relevant or effective, then I think that people
would look at that issue, in terms of relevance and effectiveness.
I have just not heard any discussion about that, dealing with
Q Ari, given the seriousness of a military operation against
Iraq, and the feeling in the international community against such a
war, even in those countries which have given support to the U.S.
on this question, why is the President so averse of going to the
United Nations himself, as is proposed by the French, to present --
to make his case personally? Is he not the best person to do that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because the case will be made, and what will happen
up in New York as the votes will be cast. The case will be made in
the days and the moments leading up to the vote, not the show of
hands, itself. And I think that all, but for maybe an extremely
small number of leaders, when you look around the world, very few
responded favorably to the French proposal to have a summit meeting
to cast a vote. That really did not fall on very receptive ears in
any pockets of the Security Council, with some exception. But very,
Q Ari, you've said today that the United Nations Security
Council doesn't have a monopoly on the organization of
international bodies. But what it does offer is a certain
international legitimacy. I'm wondering where a coalition outside
of that would derive its legitimacy from in the international
MR. FLEISCHER: It would derive its legitimacy from, first of all,
the legality is of course, as I said, expressed in resolution 678
of the United Nations resolutions. It's also expressed in the
Constitution of the United States of America and the President's
role as Commander-in-Chief. And of course, also, there is a vote in
the Congress on the question of force, in the form of a
It also is derived from the will of the world to disarm Saddam
Hussein, so that security around the world can be preserved. That,
itself, derives a moral legitimacy.
Q Ari, haven't you, in your response to Bob's question and Ken's
earlier questions declared the U.N., in effect, to be irrelevant
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think that's a -- as the President said on
September 12th, he hopes it will be relevant. And one of the ways
the President will measure this, it's not only relevance, as I
said, it's also, is it effective in enforcing its own resolutions
about immediate disarmament.
And I think the vote, as far as the President is concerned, will be
Q As you point to other international organizations, coalitions,
so forth, as a substitute for the U.N., why shouldn't that be taken
as an official administration policy that the U.N. is irrelevant?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has not reached that conclusion,
that's why. A vote will take place, and if the President has
anything further as far as in forming his opinions, he may have
something to say about that. But at this point, what is happening
is even with the United Nations Security Council vote, of course,
there will be members of the Security Council who may vote "yes,"
who will not be providing combat troops, for example. So regardless
of what the vote is, there will be other nations as part of the
coalition of the willing, that provide the force to disarm Saddam
Q Ari, on Mexico, this morning you seemed very confident that
President Bush is going to get the support of the government of
Mexico for the resolution. Why is that? Do you think President Fox
already has buy the argument that it's a moral issue that is just
-- or is it because he's afraid to get some actions against --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you know, if you go back weeks, I've always
said that this is one of those issues -- Secretary Powell has said
this, as well -- that the votes, we will know where the votes are
the day the vote is cast. This is the United Nations
process. It is not atypical for member states of the Security
Council to withhold their final vote until the day of the vote. That is
part and parcel of the democratic process of the Security Council. The
President respects it, and that's why he is working this issue and
making phone calls to the various nations, calling undecided nations,
calling other nations, for example, and urging them to call members of
the Security Council. And so there's a whole round of diplomacy that's
underway as nations -- sovereign nations like Mexico exercise their
rights to think carefully, and then vote.
Q -- Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan, how has the President
expressed about Japan's approach? Particularly, did the President
ask Prime Minister Koizumi to make financial contribution of Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Any type of involvement from other nations who are
allied in this, they will speak for themselves about whether they
will make any type of contributions toward reconstruction of Iraq,
or to the future of Iraq. Those are issues for those nations to
announce, not for the United States.
Q This March 17th date, is that part of the negotiation process?
Could that be pushed back in order to get votes on the Security
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, the date was chosen because the
drafters believed it was the most appropriate and the best date. As
I indicated, there are consultations underway, and I'm not going to
get into every shade of those consultations because they're fluid.
These are consultations that are going to continue.
Q -- negotiation?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would just leave it at the date was selected
because the drafters viewed it as the most appropriate date.
Q On what basis?
Q Ari, do you have any hope that the revelation on the UAV will
sway any votes on the Security Council? And, secondly, what's the
nature of that threat that the UAV that you're now pointing to
poses to the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, I made no predictions about outcomes at the
Security Council based on any of this late-breaking evidence. Two,
the risk is not only potentially to the United States. As a result
of the manner in which these drones can be assembled, can be
disassembled, can be easily transported, can be launched from a
variety of places, that does present a threat to the United States
if it comes in that form.
In the region, of course, it presents a threat to the United States
because we have some 200,000 troops in the region. We have friends
in the region. We have allies in the region. And even absent the
build-up that is taking place now, we had American troops
previously stationed in the region. So it does present a threat to
Q Ari, the Times editorial over the weekend quoting intelligence
sources as saying al Qaeda is apparently moving assets into Iraq.
Do you have any evidence of new al Qaeda movement there?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing that has been reported to me. I
have nothing new on that topic.
Q Ari, coming at this U.N. slightly differently, in spite of the
optimistic words by you and Secretary Powell, it does seem that the
second resolution is going to be stillborn. And going back to the
17 resolutions passed against Iraq, none of which have been
enforced, it does seem now that the United Nations -- particularly
the Security Council -- is impotent when it comes to taking action.
And it appears it could go the way of the League of Nations. Is
anybody advising the President for the United States to withdraw
from the U.N. if it becomes, in his view, irrelevant?
MR. FLEISCHER: Did you say to withdraw from the U.N.? Was that the
question? No, I have not heard any discussion about that.
Q Ari, has the President spoken with President Fox from Mexico,
or is he planning to do that today? You mentioned the President is
planning to speak with different leaders. And also, during the
weekend, Ms. Rice mentioned the possibility to travel to the
non-permanent members countries of the Security Council if
necessary to convince each of them. Is there any plans for any high
rank official to travel to Mexico? Any chance --
MR. FLEISCHER: As you can see from the Secretary's efforts and the
President's efforts, they are both actively working the diplomacy,
both in person and on the phone. Secretary Powell, of course,
entertained a leading official from Guinea today. And I think you
will be able to anticipate continued in-person diplomacy, as well
as phone diplomacy.
On President Fox, as you know, our longstanding pattern is, if a
phone call is made, we will do our best to report it to you. And so
I've given you the ones that have taken place so far today. And as
I indicated earlier -- and don't take this to be he will or will
not get a call today or the next day -- but as calls or made, later
this afternoon we'll give you a readout, after the next tranche of
phone calls are made.
Q Ari, is the U.S. more optimistic now that there's been some
political changes in Turkey, getting Turkish approval for the
troops we base there?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it remains to be seen. I don't want to presume
the outcome of anything involving Turkey. We will see what Turkish
leaders decide to do. This remains an issue that is important for
the Turkish government to resolve.
Q Ari, a second question. There's been a lot of talk about
trying to get the vote of the U.N. tomorrow. Is that a possibility,
or do you think we'll -- negotiations?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think at some point this week, I'm not going
to predict dates at this point. I'm not indicating it will be
tomorrow, it certainly well could be any day later than tomorrow.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 2:10 P.M. EST