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Excerpts from the Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer from September 30, 2002 (Full transcript)
MR. FLEISCHER: .Also this afternoon, I want to bring your attention to what I think will be one of the more notable developments of the day, and that's Secretary Rumsfeld's briefing. The Secretary is going to brief about Iraqi attacks against United States and British fliers patrolling to enforce the no-fly zone.
Since 2000, there have been 1,600 incidents of Iraqi attacks against United States and British aircraft. And since September 16th, the date that the Foreign Minister of Iraq sent a letter to the United Nations saying that they would allow for so-called unconditional inspections, Iraq has attacked coalition aircraft 67 times -- just since that September 16th promise. He will show video of these attacks.
And this is a reminder again of how the words of Iraq continue to change but their actions don't. Their actions are defiance of international law, international rule, military attacks on coalition aircraft who are flying to patrol the no-fly zones that Saddam Hussein agreed to in 1991. And this will be a very living and vivid display of Iraq's military intentions.
QUESTION: One other thing, just today there were new signs from both Russia and France that they are not entirely pleased with the stance the United States and Britain are taking on Iraq. Russia -- Russia's foreign ministry issued a statement criticizing British and U.S. recent air strikes against Iraq, saying that the increase in the pace over the last couple of weeks is making the diplomacy harder. Can you comment on that, specifically on the diplomacy issue?
And, secondly, France, I believe, again reiterated its desire for a two-step rather than a one-step resolution.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we will continue the conversations. I think you can anticipate any number of things that will be said, particularly in public. But the focus remains on building support for what counts most, which is the resolution. And the American position on the resolution remains unchanged. The resolution has to declare that Iraq is in violation of U.N. resolutions. It has to declare what Iraq needs to do to come into compliance. It has to make clear what will happen to Iraq if they fail to come into compliance.
QUESTION: Does Under Secretary Grossman think that he made any progress in his meetings over the weekend?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a question you have to address to the Under Secretary. Speaking for the President, the President continues to believe that conversations are helpful, the consultative process is the path to pursue, and we will continue to do it.
QUESTION: Do you think these meetings in Vienna that happened last night are going to make your life harder, in terms of getting support for that resolution? It will give a lot of people cover to say, let's just see what they do with the old resolutions, before backing a new one?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think you have to see things on two tracks. The meetings in Vienna are focused on the existing resolutions which, the world knows, have not been honored. And I don't think that will distract from the focus the President is asking the U.N. to bring to a new set of resolutions that are tougher and more effective.
QUESTION: So are you saying that basically these meetings and these talks about -- with the inspectors and the Iraqis are essentially irrelevant to the process?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but they're -- they need to be seen in context, and the context of these talks are the existing inspection regime. It is not about the new inspection regime that the President called on the United Nations to pass when the President spoke on September 12th.
QUESTION: Any comment on the two Democratic congressmen who were in Iraq over the weekend?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I watched what they said and it struck me as somewhat remarkable. A member of congress goes to Baghdad, Iraq, where he says that Saddam Hussein needs to be given the benefit of the doubt and Saddam Hussein -- that Saddam Hussein may be more believable than President Bush, because he says President Bush will mislead the American people.
And it's his right to say anything he wants, no matter how foolish, and he exercised that right.
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