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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, November 26, 2002 (Full transcript)
QUESTION: Question on Iraq. Ari, the working inspectors have now been on the ground for a little bit of time in Baghdad. I wonder if, out of all that we've seen come out of Baghdad since the U.N. resolution was adopted, you have -- and since, perhaps, the Iraqis signaled their acceptance of the terms of that resolution, I wonder if there's been anything that we've seen out of Iraq that has led the President at all to change his view or modify his view that Saddam Hussein is not likely to comply with the resolution. Does he still believe that, based on everything we've seen since they got on the ground?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing that we've seen out of Iraq that changes the President's thinking about Iraq and the serious threat they make to world peace.
QUESTION: And their likelihood of compliance?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we will find out. I don't think the President is interested in guessing. I think the President is interested in actually seeing.
QUESTION: Ari, can I go back to the U.N. weapons inspectors? Tomorrow they're going to be actually doing the first of their inspections. Is there any message to the inspectors? Is there any message to the Iraqis?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's message to both the inspectors and the Iraqis is that the Iraqis need to disarm for the sake of peace. And the President is pleased that the United Nations has passed a strong resolution that will allow the inspectors to have more tools to do their jobs to verify that Saddam Hussein has disarmed. Iraq has until December 8th to list the weapons of mass destruction for the United Nations Security Council resolution, and after December 8th that will begin a process where we will find out whether the Iraqis told the truth or not. So they have this date that is approaching. After that date a process begins. And the President wants to make certain that process leads to two things -- one, the truth, and the truth must lead to disarmament.
QUESTION: They're actually going to be beginning some visits, at least starting tomorrow. I guess what I'm looking for is, what happens? What happens the first time -- you guys have made no secret of the fact that you expect that as sure as the sunrise, inspectors are going to show up at the gate of someplace and be given the run-around. What happens then?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President expects so that the world can know that Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction, the President expects for Saddam Hussein to allow the inspectors unlimited, unfettered access, any time, anywhere, to any site. And he hopes the inspectors will take their responsibilities very seriously, and he knows they will, to find out whether or not Iraq has indeed disarmed. And the President thinks this is a healthy process.
QUESTION: What happens if tomorrow the very first inspector goes in and doesn't get the cooperation he needs?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said he has a policy of zero tolerance, and Saddam Hussein will have to figure out exactly what zero tolerance means.
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