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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, September 10, 2002 (Full Transcript)
QUESTION: I don't mean to monopolize your time, but what Blair said this morning about action will be taken if Iraq continues to ignore U.N. resolutions, is that a clear reflection of the President's thinking?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me leave it where I put it, and the President will be speaking in his own voice on Thursday.
QUESTION: Ari, if I could just link the two subjects in a question that I don't like asking, but needs to be asked. Can you assure the American people that this elevated threat alert is not part of the administration's effort to convince people that the danger is such that military action against Iraq is necessary?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think any further questions on that will be addressed to the Director of Homeland Security and the Attorney General.
QUESTION: But you can assure us that the assessment is entirely related to --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think any follow-up questions to something that I, myself, have not announced need to be addressed to the Attorney General and to the Director of Homeland Security.
QUESTION: Is there any link to Iraq on this threat?
MR. FLEISCHER: Any questions need to be addressed to those two individuals.
QUESTION: Should we view that the President will be issuing an ultimatum on Thursday to Saddam Hussein, either comply with resolutions or face consequences?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's getting close enough to the time of the speech that you'll have all these answerers very shortly, you'll be able to hear from the President himself. And I don't think it would be my position to give his speech for him.
QUESTION: But the message in general -- Tony Blair sort of put it out there -- is that a fair assessment, that Saddam either -- this diplomacy one last time works, or there will be military action?
MR. FLEISCHER: You can reflect on what Prime Minister Blair said today, and you'll be able to reflect on what the President says on Thursday.
QUESTION: And a second question, Ari, the President been on the phone speaking to world leaders about the situation in Iraq. Is he receiving messages -- I don't necessarily mean phone calls -- is he receiving messages from leaders around the world on the occasion of the first anniversary of the 11th of September?
MR. FLEISCHER: He is. In many of the calls that the President makes, as he talks about his speech on Thursday, foreign leaders offer on their own their thoughts and their sympathies for the American people as the one-year anniversary approaches. These messages are in many ways heartening, to hear these leaders express their solidarity with the United States.
QUESTION: -- the diplomatic messages for the State Department arriving from other countries?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think anything arriving at the State Department you need to ask the State Department about.
QUESTION: I mean, addressed to the President.
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, correspondence is correspondence. I can just report to you on the President's phone calls and what he's thinking about these issues.
QUESTION: Ari, what are the President and the White House doing right now to bring along members of Congress, particularly Democrats, on Iraq policy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Dr. Rice and Director Tenet of the CIA went up and briefed Hill leaders today. As you know, the Vice President went up and briefed Hill leaders earlier. And so there constantly will continually be a flow of information to the leaders on the Hill. And I think Thursday's speech will be informative for many members of Congress. Even though they won't be at the U.N., they certainly will hear what the President has on his mind. And the administration will continue to listen carefully to the voices in the Congress, and we welcome the hearings that the Congress will shortly begin on the topic of Iraq. Of course, Senator Biden's committee -- these will be a continuation of the hearings he's already begun.
QUESTION: Following on Richard's question, the President has now talked with congressional leaders and also made phone calls to a number of world leaders. Is the President encountering any difficulties in making the initial case here against -- on his policy with Iraq, when as you've said repeatedly, he has yet to decide how he's going to act?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the purpose of the calls is to touch base with these foreign leaders. He stresses to each of them that he intends to consult along the way and will constantly be in reach and in touch at all levels of government. And then he invites them to listen carefully to his remarks on Thursday.
There are a variety of ways that the President reaches out to foreign leaders. One is, of course, direct, on the phone; others are through the President's public statements, particularly in the more notable settings, the more important speeches such as Thursday's speech; and there will be other ways, through other administration officials. For example, the President has already said that he'll be sending teams of people out to various capitals around the world to continue the consultations. So it's going to be ongoing at multiple levels. And I think the reaction has been from these leaders that they welcome this type of consultation.
QUESTION: When the President, as he put it, started a process last week, he was explicit about gaining congressional approval. Now you're talking about members of Congress hearing Mr. -- hearing the President's ideas at his speech on Thursday. Has the importance of the U.N. in this process grown, and can you characterize the importance the President attaches to the U.N. as he pursues his objectives in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that the -- that people around the world will reach their own conclusions about the importance of the United Nations, given the fact that the United Nations has passed many resolutions that call on Saddam Hussein to disarm, to get rid of the weapons that he has, to abandon the pursuit of the weapons of mass destruction, especially the chemical, the biological and the ballistic missiles. And that judgment is still out about whether the U.N. has done a good job in enforcing its resolutions.
QUESTION: That's not what he asked. He asked you what the President and the White House think.
MR. FLEISCHER: What does the White House think? You'll get that Thursday when the President gives his speech.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Canada said, after discussing the Iraqi situation with the President, that the President hadn't offered him any new evidence or proof that Hussein is currently or doing anything new in terms of pursuit of these weapons. And some members have had briefings, closed-door briefings from administration officials, like the Defense Secretary, CIA Director, and have emerged from those meetings and say the same thing. Does the President have new information, new evidence gathered within the last six months, or is he simply content to press the case based on what the world has already known about Saddam Hussein?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said, and you heard this repeatedly on the Sunday shows from the Secretary of State, from the National Security Advisor, from the Vice President, from the Secretary of Defense -- that there already is, based on what we know, a mountain of evidence about the threat that Saddam Hussein poses to the United States, to our interests abroad and to our friends and allies around the world. And based on that, as well as other information, the President is going to discuss at the United Nations the threat that he sees in Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: By "other information," what do you mean?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, it's the beginning of a process, and as the President reflects on various issues, the President will continue to discuss his case. But, make no mistake, based on what President Bush and the national security team know already, and has been known, Saddam Hussein presents a threat to the United States.
QUESTION: Even if there's nothing new?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll leave you with that conclusion.
QUESTION: Ari, has the U.N. failed the world in not addressing Saddam more aggressively and quicker?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President would hope that that would never be the case, that the U.N. would fail the world.
QUESTION: He doesn't feel that the U.N. has failed the world --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, again -- I understand the questions, but I am going to say that the President will give this speech on Thursday, and it's just not the staff's role or job to give it for him on his behalf. He'll be doing it Thursday, and you'll have the answers to many of these questions then.
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