Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, March 24, 2003 (Full Transcript)
QUESTION: Did the President tell President Putin that he
was just concerned, or angry about turning over hardware that's being
used against U.S. troops? And how recently was this hardware turned
over, before or after the war broke out?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we are very concerned that there are
reports of ongoing cooperation and support to Iraqi military forces
being provided by a Russian company that produces GPS jamming
equipment. This is what was discussed in the phone call. There are
other causes of concern, as well, involving night-vision goggles and
anti-tank guided missiles. So we do have concerns that some aspects of
this may be ongoing. Those concerns were raised in the phone call
today. President Putin assured President Bush that he would look into
it, and President Bush said he looked forward to hearing the results.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, by saying ongoing --
there are reports, U.S. intelligence reports, or media reports, that
the jamming equipment has been delivered since the war began?
MR. FLEISCHER: I assure you the President does not make
comments to foreign leaders based only on media reports. We have
concerns; those concerns have been expressed at the highest levels, and
these are concerns that have been expressed repeatedly over the last
quite some little while. This is not the first instance in which these
concerns have been raised with officials. Senior U.S. government
officials have repeatedly raised this issue with their Russian
counterparts over the past year, in the hopes that the Russian
government will move aggressively to cut the cooperation from this
company, or the companies involved.
QUESTION: That's my point, this is not the first time
the United States has raised this concern --
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
QUESTION: -- aren't we looking for more than just
that we're concerned here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I'm not going to give you the
verbatims on a presidential phone call, but I've expressed to you the
concerns that we have in the United States about this. And as I said
this morning, we find these actions to be disturbing.
QUESTION: Have they been going on since the war
MR. FLEISCHER: I said these concerns have been raised going
back now almost a year.
QUESTION: Ari, a question about the economy --
MR. FLEISCHER: Over the past year, is how I would put it.
QUESTION: A question about the economy. Why
shouldn't Americans expect that at a time when the administration is
asking Congress for a lot of money for the war and its aftermath, on
the order of, I guess, between $70 billion and $90 billion, that that
shouldn't have some impact on the President's domestic economic plan,
particularly his tax cut?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me cite to you some of the reasons that
guide the President when he seeks to make sure that the economy can
grow and that jobs can be created, so that when our men and women in
the military return home, they'll have jobs to come home to. This is
not the first time the United States has gotten into a military
conflict of some type of prolonged nature in the past, where a
President pushed the Congress to enact tax cuts.
Quote -- "We shall, therefore, neither postpone our tax cut
plans, nor cut into essential national security programs. This
administration is determined to protect America's security and
survival. We are also determined to step up its economic growth. I
think we must do both." That statement was made by President John F.
Kennedy on December 14th, 1962, at a time when the United States
government spent three times, as a percentage of the GDP, what we spend
today on military and defense-related matters.
QUESTION: Why is that analogous to the current state
of the economy in 2003? That's a Democrat, that's terrific. But, I
mean, was the -- what was the size of the deficit at that point?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's not that it's a Democrat. The point
being that it's important to push for economic growth and to keep the
country strong. The two go hand in hand.
QUESTION: You're quoting -- you're quoting old
quotes. But what about the question of, can Americans expect an
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it still is valid. The stronger the
economy, the stronger we are as a country. The stronger we are as a
country, the stronger our military.
QUESTION: Hold on, wait a second.
MR. FLEISCHER: Bill.
QUESTION: Why should the American public expect that
you can accomplish that at the same time that you want to fund an
extremely costly prescription drug benefit? I mean, isn't the
administration giving the public a false sense of being able to do it
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this will be a matter that the
Congress will decide. And this is why the President is very pleased
with the progress that's been made in the Congress on passing of his
budget. If you take a look at what both the House and the Senate have
done, you see the budget is moving along and moving along rather
QUESTION: Has the President made any comment to you
about the showing of POW pictures on television? Has he said anything
to you about how the war is going, given the expectation on the part of
some that it would have gone faster, that it would have proceeded more
efficiently than it seems to have?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. What he said to me is just what you
heard yesterday. The President was asked the very same questions
yesterday, and the President answered them. And the President knows
that we are making good progress in the war to disarm Saddam Hussein,
as has been reported regularly from CENTCOM. There have been setbacks,
there have been casualties. Yesterday was a tough day. But when you
take a look at the overall plan, as the President has made repeatedly
clear, we are indeed making progress.
QUESTION: What about the POW pictures? Has he asked
to see them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing to report since the President shared
that with you yesterday.
QUESTION: In terms of the pictures, the
administration is upset because it is a violation of the Geneva
Accords, you say --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: Are we following the Geneva Accords --
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course.
QUESTION: -- in Iraq and Guantanamo?
MR. FLEISCHER: There are two different situations. You
have the war against terrorism, and then you have this conflict,
which is much more of a traditional conflict. And we have always
treated people humanely, consistent with international agreements. In
the case of the fight in Iraq, there's no question that it's being done
in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
QUESTION: How about the detainees in Guantanamo?
They have no rights under the Geneva Accords?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I just indicated, we always treat them
humanely, consistent with.
QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ivanov,
has just said Russia has observed all U.N. sanctions, not supplied
military equipment to Iraq. He said the U.S. has had several
inquiries. He said, our experts have checked these inquiries
meticulously, including a recent one, and did not find any proof. He's
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, those statements were made prior to
the statements that were made this morning by the White House. And I'm
certain now with the phone call that was made to the President, Russia
will take a look at what their Russian companies are doing. That's
exactly what the Foreign Minister's boss told the President of the
United States he would do.
QUESTION: Does the President consider that anyone who
is arming our enemy is our enemy?
MR. FLEISCHER: I expressed to you that the relations
between the United States and Russia are important relations that the
two Presidents are dedicated to keeping. There are problems. This
clearly is a problem that needs to be resolved. And this is why it
came up in the phone call. This is why it's disturbing. And this is
why the two have talked about it, for the purpose of resolving it.
QUESTION: And one more on the humanitarian
situation. In Basra, the Red Cross and others are saying 40 percent of
that large city's population now cannot get access to water, to
drinkable water. It is a humanitarian emergency. The President said
about 24 hours ago that within 36 hours massive humanitarian assistance
would flow into Southern Iraq. Does he still expect that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, the President's statement was that
massive humanitarian relief would begin to flow in 36 hours, and
everything is being done possible to get that humanitarian relief to
One of the central focuses of all the military planning was to make
certain that humanitarian supplies were able to reach the people of
Iraq as quickly as possible. You may want to talk to CENTCOM and
others involved in it to see what the Iraqis have left behind that
would hinder the flow of humanitarian relief. But, nevertheless, that
is part of the planning.
QUESTION: Ari, are you surprised that there have not
been more chemical and biological weapons found so far? And why has
there not been more of an effort up front to try to seize and control
these weapons so they're not used against American troops?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can just report to you what the President
said yesterday; he's thankful that it has not been used. And anything
dealing with seizing or anything of that nature, you have to talk to
the Pentagon about.
QUESTION: Well, right. But you speak every day about
weapons of mass destruction. Is that -- is this should be any
indication that this is less important than territorial gain or seizing
oil wells that we have not done this sort of thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think if you're asking about plans
that would result in the seizure of WMD, things of that nature, that's
something that General Franks is briefed on in the Gulf, and I would
refer you to his words.
QUESTION: The surprise element -- you're not
surprised that they haven't been found?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think there can be a variety of
factors behind it. But as we have said repeatedly, we have information
that Iraq has possessed biological, and possesses biological and
QUESTION: Ari, two questions: First, on the issue of
the conversation with President Putin about the Russian technology. Is
it the United States government's concern solely that Russia or a
Russian company transferred to Iraq this GPS-jamming equipment? Or did
the President discuss concerns that perhaps there are Russian advisors
inside Iraq now helping the Iraqis use this equipment?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the issue that was raised in the phone
call was the transfer from Russian companies to Iraqi authorities of
QUESTION: And this is probably isolated, but there
have been grumblings today, both from a Marine unit -- members of a
Marine unit and members of an Army unit, that one of their concerns in
these firefights is that they're not being allowed to use enough
force. Is there any concern here that because of the admirable goals
of trying to protect Iraqi civilians and Iraqi infrastructure that
Americans are being put at risk in some of these skirmishes because
they're not allowed, in the cases of Iraqis shooting at them from
residential areas where there are civilians, to use overwhelming force
to go after them?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is very satisfied that the
rules of engagement are rules of engagement that are to be set by the
experts who fight and win wars. And that's the Pentagon. The Pentagon
makes the determinations about the exact tactical operations that are
to be pursued to disarm Saddam Hussein and to engaged in whatever
conflicts or firefights our men and women are involved in. The
President is satisfied with that. And those are questions, again, to
QUESTION: Ari, another question on the Russian
equipment. Do you have any evidence that the GPS-jamming devices or
the night-vision goggles or anything else is being used right now by
Iraqi forces against American troops?
MR. FLEISCHER: We have credible evidence that Russian
companies provided the assistance and the prohibited hardware to the
Iraqi regime. That's why we have found these actions to be
disturbing. Beyond that -- I'm not prepared to say with any level of
specificity beyond that. But we have concerns they were provided.
They were not provided for the purpose of sitting on shelves.
QUESTION: So you don't know for sure that they're
being used right now, but you are concerned that they might be?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think I've expressed it.
QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the thinking
about Saddam Hussein, any comments you have on the most recent tape
that was broadcast, and what the current thinking is about his status?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, a review of the latest tape gives no
reason for anybody to think that this is anything fresh. No one has
any indication on whether it is canned or whether it is fresh. And
that's the nature of the tape, that's the nature of the comments that
he's made. Reviewing the tape does not lead anybody to a conclusion
that this is something fresh.
QUESTION: Is there anything -- any particular part
of his comments that give you some suggestion about when it might have
been recorded, or the extent to which it was recorded on this
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: If I could ask one other thing about the
Russian thing. Do you have any indication that the materials we're
talking about -- the GPS jammers and so forth -- were sent into
Iraq on humanitarian aid flights?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have that level of information.
QUESTION: Yesterday the President told us that he had
extended his -- he was grieving with the families of those who had
been killed in Iraq. Do you know, has he personally extended his
condolences to those families?
MR. FLEISCHER: Greg, any communication that the President
would or would not have would be private. And I would treat it that
way. So there really is no light I'm going to shed on that. Anything
would be private, if there is.
QUESTION: On the war supplemental, how important is
it for the President to have broadened or expanded flexibility on the
use of the funds in order to meet needs as they arise on the war
front? Is he seeking any special --
MR. FLEISCHER: You're referring to homeland security
funding, or the overall?
QUESTION: The overall, on both -- there's a
homeland security piece and a military piece, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
QUESTION: So is he seeking some expanded flexibility
in terms of the use of those funds?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, there will be some areas that
have been delineated because of the costs incurred. And that's why the
proposal is going up to have supplemental go to pay for those costs
that have already been incurred or are immediately anticipated. But,
broadly speaking, the President's approach that is that this needs to
be -- the money in the supplemental needs to be appropriate for the
ongoing operational mission, as well as for the costs that have been
incurred to date to lead up to this mission.
QUESTION: Back on the Russian equipment. First of
all, in your answer to Terry's question, did you mean to imply that
President Putin retracted the denials that Foreign Secretary Ivanov had
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I just said that he would look into it.
QUESTION: Did he repeat those denials?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to leave all details of the
conversation beyond this between the two Presidents. But he said he
would look into it.
QUESTION: Do you know for certain that Ivanov spoke
before you spoke this morning on this issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: I do. I saw it on the wire before I spoke
this morning. In fact, the wire said, speaking before the White House
spokesman spoke, the Russian Foreign Minister spoke. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Second question. Your answer -- you said
that you couldn't go beyond that -- is that because you don't know if
this equipment has been brought to bare yet, or you know and you won't
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just going to leave it where I left it.
QUESTION: Ari, you said that this concern about this
Russian equipment goes back at least a year. Has the President ever
had a personal conversation about it with President Putin before? And
is this equipment that would be banned under the terms of the surrender
back in 1991?
MR. FLEISCHER: I couldn't tell you about under the
surrender. But, of course, under the surrender does apply to the
United Nations sanctions, and this type of material is prohibited to be
transferred to Iraq. Iraq is not allowed to purchase this type of
material under United Nations resolutions.
QUESTION: How about the conversation? Has the
President ever had a personal conversation with President Putin about
MR. FLEISCHER: These issues have been raised repeatedly at
various levels of the government, and now they have reached the highest
QUESTION: So they haven't had a conversation about it
MR. FLEISCHER: Not to my knowledge. It has been raised
repeatedly at other levels of the government.
QUESTION: Following up, the Director General of the
Russian company that produces the GPS jamming devices suggests that any
transfer that may have taken place would have come from potentially a
third party, another country. Have you written that off?
And, as a follow-up, he also suggested that the Iraqis at this
point may very well be able to produce this technology themselves, just
through an old-fashioned knock-off program, technology knock-off
program. Can you also address that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The issue is just as I described it. The
President raised with President Putin our ongoing concerns about
support would be provided for Iraqi military forces by Russian
companies that produced the equipment.
QUESTION: In a related follow-up, several sources
have suggested that there was an uptick in activity by third party --
third parties, other nations that may be sympathetic to the Iraqis.
Are we confident that there hasn't been other kinds of technology or
weaponry that were transferred to the Iraqis in the closing days before
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say that one of the
issues the President has repeatedly talked about was, as he put it in
the year 2000, that the sanctions which prohibited the Iraqis from
receiving weapons like this were made of Swiss cheese. There were so
many holes in the sanctions that Iraq was able to get ahold of
equipment of a variety of natures that it was prohibited from having.
Iraq also had oil wealth. It was diverting the oil-for-food program in
an effort to acquire more information or more material that they were
prohibited from having.
And this is one of the reasons that the President, when he reached
the decision to authorize force, had watched the diplomacy fail, the
sanctions fail, the smart sanctions fail, the use of pinpoint military
operations fail. Iraq continued to defy the world, and it had help
from several quarters in doing so.
QUESTION: Ari, you said that any communications with
family members of soldiers would be private. And that's fine, we can
respect that. But can you just confirm whether, in fact, he's had any
contact with those family members?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm just going to leave it where I left
it. If he did or did not, it would be a private matter between the
President and those families.
QUESTION: Ari, given what we've been told about
Saddam Hussein's regime, I think a lot of Americans are surprised that
we haven't seen scenes of widespread jubilation, at least in some of
the areas under coalition control. Why do you think that is? We saw
in Afghanistan in areas that had been removed from Taliban control.
Why not Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me remind you what you saw in
Afghanistan also didn't happen on the 5th or 6th day. I mean, there is
a certain amount of time here. The mission has only just begun.
Saddam Hussein still has rather lethal pockets of resistance that have
been left behind in different places. And the presence of those forces
has still created some fear in the Iraqi people, which is justifiable
given the way Saddam Hussein's military forces and security forces have
treated people who spoke out or showed their desire to be free from
Saddam's oppression. So we already have seen, indeed, in some areas
-- and I've seen in many of your newspapers and magazines pictures of
jubilant Iraqis. Of course, there was a picture of an Iraqi attacking
a picture of Saddam Hussein with a shoe that was widely disseminated
around the world. People saw that.
So I think you have seen it. I suspect that as the security
situation becomes more stable in many of these areas, you'll see more
QUESTION: Does that also apply in terms of the
military forces that -- again, in Afghanistan there were forces that
actually switched sides. Although we've seen some surrenders, we
haven't seen any side switches. Is that the same explanation, that you
think the reign of fear --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think you can compare the two in
that sense. Afghanistan has had a history of tribal fights in which
people would often change sides. That's not quite the case here. We
do not expect Iraqis to change sides and become American soldiers.
QUESTION: Ari, just for clarity sake, you said the
GPS jammers are part of ongoing concerns. But does that mean that the
night-vision goggles and the anti-tank -- that that transfer has
QUESTION: Ari, on Friday, the door still seemed to be
a little bit open to exile. Over the weekend, there were some
setbacks -- the President had comments on it yesterday -- there
were apparent war crimes, executing American GIs in Iraq. Is the door
now effectively closed to any arrangement for exile of Saddam and the
leadership of Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you heard the President say yesterday
he gave Saddam the 48 hours to leave the country to avoid military
conflict and he did not take him up on that. But I think if you look
realistically now, there -- it's a hard thing to imagine that Saddam
would now take advantage of it. We still are hoping for every
opportunity that results in settling this as peacefully as possible.
But I think you have to be realistic about what Saddam plans to do.
QUESTION: Ari, yesterday the President said --
someone asked him if he thought that the POWs would be coming back, and
he said, of course. Well, the first -- the first response that we
understand the White House or the military should be making is with the
Red Cross to see how the POWs are. Has the White House gotten any
information as to when the Red Cross will be going in to see them?
MR. FLEISCHER: That information would be handled by the
Department of Defense through our officials in the Gulf. That would
not be the Red Cross conveying that to the White House. So again, I
understand the sensitivity on this issue, but this still remains an
operational matter involving our prisoners and our forces, and you'd
have to address it to DOD.
QUESTION: For the President Bush to make that
statement, does he feel comfortable --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, April, you might want to take
a look at the exact question he was asked. I think the question was,
are there things that can be done to make sure they come home, and the
President said, of course. I don't think it was a guarantee.
QUESTION: But for him to make that, "of course," it
kind of leaves the impression, at least with me, that the Red Cross is
involved, and once they get in -- that's a sign, once they get in and
look, that is a clear signal that they could be coming home, if things
could be working.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let us hope that is the case.
QUESTION: Anything new on the Turkish front, and what
is the President doing to make sure Turkish troops stay out of Northern
MR. FLEISCHER: The position vis a vis Turkey is
well-known. We said it repeatedly. And we have American officials who
are in contact with Turkish officials on a regular basis to make
certain they understand our position, and that continues.
QUESTION: Have we gotten any assurances that they
will stay out?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that there are ongoing
conversations about this. And our position is unchanged, it's been
made very clear. And we continue to talk to Turkish officials about
it. There were many reports previously that Turkish forces had crossed
the border, and none of those had materialized. But it does remain a
matter of ongoing discussion and concern.
QUESTION: You said that Presidents Bush and Putin
discussed cooperation on humanitarian issues.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
QUESTION: But the Russians say that Putin urged the
President to avoid, "a humanitarian catastrophe." Was this
conversation perhaps a bit more contentious than you've indicated?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but I think it's fair to say that
President Bush and President Putin have a good personal relationship,
and it's also marked by being a good, frank relationship. The two of
them are comfortable saying directly to each other what they think.
That's the mark of a strong relationship.
What I've noticed in diplomacy is oftentimes when people don't
speak directly to each other about what they think, it's the mark of
relations that are not as strong as they otherwise could be. So the
two leaders do speak directly to each other, they speak frankly to each
other. They hold each other in high personal regard. Nevertheless,
there are some differences in our views about situations in Iraq. I've
walked you through several of them today.
QUESTION: So what's your frank appraisal of the
Russians' concern about the U.S. provoking a humanitarian catastrophe?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the differences there are
well-known and obvious. Russia did not think that military force
should be used to disarm Saddam Hussein. Russia did not see the threat
of Saddam Hussein the same way the United States, in the post 9/11
world, saw the threat from Saddam Hussein. So that's not surprising.
But what is important is that, especially when it comes to humanitarian
issues, that we are able to work together. That remains important.
QUESTION: Can you preview the Pentagon event
tomorrow? And on the supplemental, is this designed to cover the
entire cost of the war, or this just a big down payment?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will travel to the Pentagon
tomorrow to announce the amount of money that he is seeking from
Congress to fund the war. The funding the President will seek will
cover not only the operational and ongoing costs incurred to fight the
war, but will also include funding for vital homeland security programs
at home and some other programs, too.
QUESTION: And do you expect this to be enough?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. That's why the President is
making the request he's making.
MR. FLEISCHER: Has the White House done an analysis or
projection of how they expect this war to affect the U.S. economy? And
if so, can you share with us what that is? Do we expect it to get
worse before it gets better?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, frankly, if you talk to
economists, none of whom would be able to agree what a war of an
undetermined duration would do to the economy, the big issue is the
uncertainty that the pre-war period had created in the economy. I
think you saw that in a variety of areas. I think economists would
continue to tell you that for the duration of the war, people may still
hold off on some of their major capital expenditure decisions in the
private sector. That remains an issue. And the President has always
said that if force is used, the purpose of using force is to disarm
Saddam Hussein. He's aware of the implications the use of force can
have on the economy. But what is driving him is the military necessity
of protecting the American people first.
QUESTION: Have you all done a formal analysis then
MR. FLEISCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Bob. I don't know
how anybody could do a formal analysis when there are as many variables
as there are. But I'm not aware of one, if there is.
QUESTION: If America cannot win the war in a short
time, such as two or three weeks, or if Iraq has already used the
chemical weapons, will you think that the President will decide to use
much more powerful weapons, such as nuclear weapons?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, I'm not going to make any
predictions about the length of the war. I don't think that anybody is
in position to be able to do that. I would just remind you what the
President said and has said repeatedly, about that this is going to be
longer and harder than people have thought.
American policy, in terms of weapons, is well-known and has existed
for decades, and that we do not discuss the type of weapons that we may
use. We never have and we do not speculate about that.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, you're saying, certainly
the President has not watched any of the footage of the prisoners of
war or of the dead Americans. He has not seen any of that himself?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, the American media made a
decision not to show that footage. I understand even Al Jazeera, after
initially showing it, decided not to show it any longer. And so the
President was not able to see that. There have been some freeze-frames
of it, of course, and I'm not in a position to tell you whether he did
or did not see that. As I walked you through last week, the President
will from time to time watch some TV. But I do not play TV Guide with
the President and ask him everything he watches.
QUESTION: The White House doesn't have an internal
feed of any of the stuff Al Jazeera was broadcasting previously?
MR. FLEISCHER: We do. But, as I indicated, Al Jazeera took
it off the air themselves.
QUESTION: And also, can you preview the trip on --
MR. FLEISCHER: And, of course, tapes exist. It went out,
so tapes exist.
QUESTION: I imagine if the President wanted to see
it, you could make it available?
MR. FLEISCHER: The answer is, the President had not seen
the video, and I can only leave it at that. But the point being that
the President is, of course, very, very familiar with what Al Jazeera
filmed -- I'm sorry, I should back that up. The President is very
familiar with what Iraqi state TV filmed and then disseminated to
QUESTION: But he has expressed no curiosity about
wanting to see it firsthand?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President understands what it
QUESTION: Can you preview the trip on Wednesday and
what he wants to achieve by going to visit the troops?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President on Wednesday is going to
take a trip down to Tampa to CENTCOM to our military facility there to
visit with the leaders, to get a briefing on events in the war, and
also to meet with the troops and families of the troops, in an effort
to tell them and to show them how much he respects them and how much
America loves them.
QUESTION: Ari, now according to the reports now, U.S.
military have found some chemical weapons in Iraq. You think President
is mad at the U.N. weapons inspectors who were in Iraq and they
couldn't find it? And also if he has -- and if he's going to address
the General Assembly in September?
MR. FLEISCHER: Goyal, on the issue of chemical weapons,
that's again an issue you need to talk to DOD about what it is they
find when they go through the battlefield. Obviously, there were a
number of issues involving the inspectors which raised questions about
Saddam Hussein's successful ability to hide the weapons he had from the
inspectors. And I have nothing for you this far in advance on any
QUESTION: How are the President's relations with
Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Howard holding up? His closest
allies were under quite a bit of stress from the people on their
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, it's very strong. I think that these
leaders and a number of other leaders share a point of view that
military force became necessary because Saddam Hussein refused to
disarm. And they are all watching the same events unfold. And it is
the men and women of all their militaries, as well as other nations
that are participating in this. And I think it's fair to say that
these leaders generally see events eye-to-eye.
QUESTION: Ari? Thank you. Ari, now that France has
announced it will not help in the reconstruction of Iraq, does the
President still plan to attend the G-8 conference in Paris? If so,
will he snub French President Chirac? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: The event is on and it's scheduled. He
looks forward to the meetings.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you