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Excerpts from the Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer September 26, 2002 (Full transcript)
MR. FLEISCHER: The President began his day with the regular intelligence briefings. Then he had a meeting with the Newspaper Association of America board of directors -- he met with many of your bosses, the owners of a lot of papers, large and small, across the country. He talked about the war on Iraq -- at war.
QUESTION: So have you got language for a resolution on Iraq at the United Nations level? If we understand that something is being circulated.
MR. FLEISCHER: It still is being discussed. Conversations are ongoing involving the United States and Britain, as well as our other allies on the Security Council. And so conversations continue and we'll see what the exact timing is, but it's still on going.
QUESTION: So he doesn't feel that Blix is going to make a hard and fast deal in those meetings?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the meeting that UNSCOM is going to have with Iraq needs to--
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, UNMOVIC. Thank you -- he's going to have with Iraq is done in the -- it needs to be seen in the context of the existing old resolutions. There have been meetings previously between these players, based on the old resolutions. And the meeting Monday is part of the old resolutions. The President obviously is calling for something new.
QUESTION: Still getting a lot of resistance from France on a single resolution that would trip the use of force?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to characterize what any other nations are saying. The President is confident that the process is going to result in a strong vote for the essence of what he asked for when he went to the United Nations.
QUESTION: So you're still confident that he'll get what he wants?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is confident he'll get what he wants.
Let me mention -- I did see a report about something that President Putin said today. And there was a headline on a story that says "Putin opposes the resolution." I don't know if that headline has been corrected or not yet, but that's not what President Putin said. So I just want to bring your attention to that.
QUESTION: So what did he say?
MR. FLEISCHER: He said that "Russia-Iraqi relations have a long history, we advocate the quickest resolution of the questions surrounding this country using political-diplomatic means on the basis of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions, in strict accordance with the principles and norms of international law. The decision to renew the work of the U.N. inspectors in Iraq opens up real possibilities for us to quickly move to implement this decision and practice will allow us to get answers to the questions of concern to the international community."
QUESTION: That's exact --
QUESTION: You don't --
MR. FLEISCHER: Nowhere in there did it say that he opposes new resolutions.
QUESTION: But it's not exactly support for a Chapter 7 resolution, either.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's exactly what we described it when the Ivanovs left the White House to go back to talk with President Putin, that they advocate the quickest resolution to the questions surrounding this issue. The basis of the existing U.N. Security Council resolution, those are the very same resolutions that the President discussed when he went to the United Nations.
My point is that the story with the headline, the headline said "Putin opposes," that's not supported by what Putin said.
QUESTION: Ari, would you consider what the President said this morning any kind of an apology or a -- to Daschle or to the Senate democrats? How would you characterize it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is continuing to build bipartisan support, as he has always done. And the President was pleased and honored to have many leading Democrats come down here and express their support for the manner and the substance in which the President is approaching the topic of Iraq.
QUESTION: What about all this talk last night that Condi engaged in on PBS about connections between Iraq and al Qaeda? That's new. I mean, she went further than you folks have ever gone before. Can you clarify some of what she was saying? I mean, how do we know this? Why do we suspect this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we know it because some of the information we have comes from detainees, and in particular some very high-ranking detainees. And --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not going to indicate exactly who. Since --
QUESTION: It doesn't matter; they're in custody ..
MR. FLEISCHER: Here's what we know, and here's -- let me try to elaborate on what Condi said, or help you understand what Condi said.
Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some members who have been in Baghdad. And the relationship between Iraqi officials to those al Qaeda members remains unclear, but we know it's there. We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between al Qaeda and Iraqi officials going back a decade, and, as Condi said, of chemical and biological agent training.
Reports of such cooperation have increased since 1998. We know that al Qaeda have found refuge in Iraq. There is credible reporting that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq to acquire chemical and other weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
QUESTION: But today, the President stopped just short of saying that they were linked. Is there a reason he did that? I mean, are they linked, in his mind? I mean, are they -- there are --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to take a look at the verbatim of how the President said it. But we're all saying the same thing: al Qaeda and Iraq are too close for comfort, in terms of some of these activities that we've talked about.
But I want to underscore, the case the President is making about the need for regime change is not directly tied to anything involving al Qaeda. It's tied to Saddam Hussein's history of developing weapons on his own. The President continues to have fears about what Iraq's activities with al Qaeda could lead to. But his case is much broader than that.
QUESTION: Well, what are these links that go back a decade? I mean, who are we talking about?
MR. FLEISCHER: These are links between al Qaeda and Baghdad.
QUESTION: But what are the links? I mean --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Condi --
QUESTION: -- has Baghdad supplied al Qaeda with training, munitions, supplies, whatever, that has allowed them to carry out attacks against the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as Condi said last night -- I cite her words -- "Iraq has provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development."
QUESTION: But do we know that that expertise has ever been used in a terrorist attack against -- not only the U.S., but anybody?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the point is to make certain that it's not. Why is Iraq providing training to terrorists that could put anybody at risk?
QUESTION: Yes, let me come back to the al Qaeda connection. So, Condi is saying that these contacts go back more than a decade; that they are continual, they are ongoing; they're involved in Baghdad, they're involved in chemical and biological weapons training. But still no evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
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