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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, November 19, 2002
QUESTION: Moving on to the summit, what do you hope to see on Iraq out of this summit, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one, the President hopes to see out of the summit an expansion of NATO. That's the purpose of the summit, in that sense. This really is an historical summit. The fact that expansion, which of course will get announced Thursday, could include a number of new nations, it's a very exciting time and a very exciting moment for NATO.
The President will likely discuss Iraq with NATO leaders and we'll see what, if anything, comes out of the summit vis-à-vis Iraq, see what those conversations lead to.
QUESTION: There's talk of a formal statement of some sort, admittedly general. Is there going to be that statement, or is that in some doubt?
MR. FLEISCHER: There very well could be.
QUESTION: But you're not going to handicap it?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I mean, you go into these summits, there's always lots of paper that gets talked about, and I think usually there is paper -- usually there's lots of paper and we will, of course, distribute all that paper. So I think --
QUESTION: People often get married and they get so cautious all of a sudden; what is this? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Ari, you said the President is going to talk to world leaders about Iraq. What does he hope to accomplish from that? What is he looking for from world leaders?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, this is something that the United Nations has already voted on and discussed and these nations, some of them are on the Security Council, of course they all belong to the United Nations. And so the President, as he leads and builds a coalition, he always wants to make certain that the world has a chance to discuss the threat that Saddam Hussein presents.
QUESTION: Will he be discussing current issues, the exchange of fire in the no-fly zones, that sort of thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know at what level of detail they're going to talk about it. Again, the purpose of the summit is to focus on expansion and transformation within NATO. And that is the purpose of the summit. And from my experience at these summits now, I can tell you that the purpose of the summit does dominate the summit, that is most of their time.
Now, I think it's likely there will be conversations about Iraq, and I'll do my best to give you a read as events warrant.
QUESTION: How are you treating right now the Iraqi firing on the U.S. planes in the no-fly zones?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's always a serious incident, any time anybody fires on American planes. It's a material breach of the United Nations resolutions. It can endanger the lives of Americans and British who patrol to enforce the no-fly zone to protect people on the ground. So these are serious violations.
QUESTION: And as such? As a material breach, what's your response, your next step?
MR. FLEISCHER: Our response is what you see played out before you, the pilots respond as events warrant. We always reserve the right to discuss this further with the Security Council.
QUESTION: No immediate plans to do so?
MR. FLEISCHER: We always reserve that right. No immediate plans.
QUESTION: Ari, some of these new members have talked about possibly actually participating militarily in Iraq military action, should it come to that. Is that something that the President expects to talk about with them, informally or otherwise?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has made no secret of the fact that if it is necessary to go to war with Iraq that the United States will assemble a coalition of the willing. And I'm not going to be able to predict with certainty what the exact composition of that coalition of the willing may or may not be, but certainly there are many nations who see things as the President does, that Iraq possesses a serious threat to the United States, to the western world, to the region, and the world spoke powerfully through the United Nations.
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