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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, December 11, 2002 (Full transcript)
QUESTION: Going back to something Jean raised earlier, you said the President -- I'm sorry, you said there were concerns but no evidence that these missiles were going to Iraq. Why were there these concerns?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because of the information we had. A ship obviously loaded with weapons did leave North Korea destined for the Middle East. And we wanted to make certain that the weapons did not hand up in the hands of either terrorists or terrorist nations.
QUESTION: Were you speculating that Iraq could be the recipient and --
MR. FLEISCHER: Or rogue nations, terrorists. We have concerns, of course.
QUESTION: Why Iraq, specifically?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Iraq is prohibited under United Nations charters from having any weapons that have a length of -- missiles that have a range of greater than 150 kilometers. So if we have information that suggests that missiles are on their way to the region, particularly Scud missiles, which we know have a history of being used in that region, and if it would raise questions about whether or not international obligations and United Nations sanctions were being followed through, we want to determine whether or not that's the case.
QUESTION: Different topic -- has the administration begun to receive at least preliminary indications of what is in this document now from Iraq over the weekend? Have you gotten some early reports as to -- as they start to sift through this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President notes that it's too soon to reach any judgments about it. The efforts are continuing to take a look at it, and we have reached no conclusions about it. And I don't anticipate that we will any time immediately. This is still a very large document that is going to be gone through in a thoughtful and careful and deliberative manner. The experts are still in the -- deep into that process.
QUESTION: Just procedurally, is there a way that -- how is it being disseminated to the administration? In other words, are you getting -- are you waiting until it's all been digested to present this to the President? Or are you getting -- is he getting a blow-by-blow of what's being found as it goes?
MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, just as matter of policy, whatever the President is briefed on in his national security meetings is not a topic that I discuss at any rate. So I'm just not going to be able to evaluate for you whether he's getting piecemeal information. But in any case, the fundamental approach is we want to see what the document says. We want to study it carefully and see it in its totality.
QUESTION: Is Saddam Hussein free to sell his Scud missiles to people?
MR. FLEISCHER: Saddam Hussein, if he said he had Scud missiles, it would be very interesting, wouldn't it? If Saddam Hussein wanted to suggest that he had them and they were for sale, I think the United States would be very interested in the fact that that would be an acknowledgment that he's in violation of the United Nations resolutions prohibiting him from having such missiles.
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