The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 16, 2001

Press Briefing Index

TOPIC                                              PAGE

Personnel announcement                             1

China                                              1 - 11

Cincinnati                                         11; 12-13

Tax cut                                            13-15

Budget                                             14

Fast track/trade promotion authority               15

Middle East                                        15-16

Russia                                             16


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 16, 2001


The James S. Brady Briefing Room

Listen to the Briefing

12:10 P.M. EDT

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Good afternoon.  I hope everybody had a very happy Easter.

     I have one personnel announcement to make, and then I am all yours. The President intends to nominate Bennett William Raley to be Assistant Secretary of Interior for Water and Science.  And we will have more paper on that coming out later this afternoon.

     With that, I'm prepared to take questions.

     Q    When is that decision expected on the Taiwan arms sale?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  There is no hard and fast deadline for when that decision will be made.  The President has indicated that he will review that matter in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act and will determine what the defensive needs of Taiwan are.  And he will make his determination.

     Q    Is he leading toward or against the Arleigh Burke class destroyers with the Aegis radar, at this point?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  John, he's made no determination at this time.

     Q    Does the President believe it's necessary now for reconnaissance flights over near China to be escorted to avoid the kind of near, or actual collision confrontation we had?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me make two points on that, David.  Number one, the United States will always reserve the right to operate over international waters and international airspace to protect the needs of our neighbors, to promote regional stability and secure peace; which is why our nation, and many other nations, fly reconnaissance missions.

     Specifically, in the context of where we are today, the Secretary of Defense will be making a recommendation to the national security team for the President and to the President, about what he recommends, as far as reconnaissance flights, as well as other items and the timing of those flights, other associated missions that may or may not go along with those flights.  So that's a recommendation that the Secretary of Defense will make.  The President has not yet received such a recommendation.

     Q    Does he not have a view on it, just based on going through this past experience?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Obviously, a matter like that is a matter the President would ask the Secretary of Defense to make a recommendation on, given the fact that it's directly a defense-related question.

     Q    Ari, what's the message that we're going to send to the Chinese on Wednesday, in these meetings in Beijing?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The agenda for the meeting Wednesday is basically fourfold.  One, is for the United States to provide clear understanding to the Chinese about the cause of the accident from our point of view.  Two, is to discuss any such accidents can be avoided in the future.  Three, as the President indicated last week, to ask tough questions to the Chinese about the manner in which they have dangerously intercepted United States reconnaissance flights.  And, four, to make the case that plane is United States property and the United States would like to have the plane returned.

     Q    How tough will those questions be?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I think they're going to be very direct.  I think that, obviously, in the wake of this accident in which a Chinese pilot has lost his life and in which the lives of 24 American servicemen and women were endangered, tough questions are required.  It is dangerous to operate in that manner, and for the safety of not only our American crews, but for the Chinese crews involved, it is important that tough questions be asked so that any such incidents can be avoided in the future.

     Q    But then what?  You ask the tough questions -- every indication so far from China is that their conduct won't change.  So what then?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I don't think that's quite right, David.  The Chinese have lost a pilot over this.  They've lost a life.  And I don't think it's accurate to say that they're not going to make any changes.

     Q    Well, he's being celebrated as a martyr, so, presumably, it's a noble mission.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I understand, but I'm not certain -- I don't think that either nation wants to have a repeat of an episode like this.  And that means flying differently.  And, hopefully, that message will be received by the Chinese so that this can be avoided in the future.

     Q    Well, Ari, the presumption in what you're saying is that the Chinese government has ordered the pilots to fly in this manner.  Is that correct?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, I'm not saying there's an order there, but we obviously have the United States point of view, which is a very strongly-felt view, about what caused the accident.  And I think it goes without saying that both nations should have an interest in making certain that this does not happen again.

     Q    What I'm getting at is whether or not the Chinese government in some respect, therefore, would be responsible for the accident that occurred, if there is --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That will be a matter of discussion.  But as you could see from Secretary Rumsfeld's news conference last week, with the release of the videos, this is a problem that has persisted, and has gone back many months, into the previous administration.  And it is a topic that is ripe for discussion and needs to be discussed in a forthright fashion.

     Q    Ari, when the Chinese are told at this meeting that the U.S. plans to resume these flights soon, will they also be told that their conduct --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I did not give any indication that they would be told that at this meeting.  I said that it's a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense, and no determination has been made.

     Q    Will they be told then that if -- if and when these flights -- or if these flights resume, that their conduct will determine whether the United States changes the manner in which these flights are flown?  If they continue to fly so closely, then we would have to consider something else?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I can't commit to that.  That will be part of the determination or recommendation made by the Secretary of Defense about the timing and other matters that relate to P3 flights.

     Q    Ari, two follow ups on this, please.  First of all, will there be an implicit trade link between -- in the talks, will trade be held out as a weapon if the Chinese do not --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think the President made it clear on Thursday, in the statement he made in the Rose Garden, about the constructive value of trade for both nations.  And as the President has indicated for more than a year now, in regard to our relationship with China, the President sees many areas with China where we can cooperate, and trade is one of them.

     He sees other areas where there are problems with China -- human rights, religious persecution are two, to mention them specifically.  This recent incident is also another cause for concern.  So the President has identified areas where we can continue to make progress with China, and there are other areas where we have items that need to be discussed forthrightly with China.  And that will be the manner in which the President proceeds.

     Q    And on your first statement, you said the U.S. reserves the right to operate over international waters or airspace.  How is that resolved, when you have a country like China, that has an extension of what they consider to be their space?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, that's the purpose of having a meeting, to air those issues, to listen to the Chinese, to hear what they say.  The Chinese need to hear what we have to say, as a government.  And that's the purpose of having meetings.

     But if you presume that neither nation wants to have a repeat of this episode, then you can hope that these meetings will be constructive.

     Q    Ari, if, as you say, both nations have an interest in making sure this doesn't happen again, is the United States prepared to do anything differently on its end to ensure that?  And, secondly, you mentioned the Chinese lost a pilot and may, therefore, have an interest in changing its behavior.  But the United States also nearly lost a crew of 24.  Would that have made a difference in how you're approaching things from here on out, if that crew had actually been lost?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I'm not going to -- take that as a hypothetical, obviously, if the crew had been.  Thankfully, they weren't, thanks to the flying abilities of the pilot.  So that's a hypothetical that I'm very pleased I don't have to get into.

     Q    The first one, is the United States prepared to do something differently on its end if, as you say, both nations have an interest in --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, let me reiterate that these reconnaissance flights help protect the peace.  They serve as a very vital role in securing regional stability.  The United States is not the only nation that engages in reconnaissance flights around the world.  There are many, many, many nations that engage in reconnaissance flights around the world, for the reason that they do help protect the peace.

     And so long as these flights are over international waters and in international airspace, they're in accord with international law.  And we are a law abiding nation.

     Q    How do they help protect the peace?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Without getting into too many details, Ron, about the information that they gather, the ability of the United States to be able to monitor events around the world, to be able to make certain that there are no surprises that could threaten any of our allies or threaten the United States forces helps secure the peace.  The ability of the United States to know if there are any hostile threats to our men and women, to our servicemen and to our allies helps keep the world free and strong.  And that's why these missions are important.

     Q    When you say many, many nations fly these flights, can you point to some that China -- I know that Rumsfeld mentioned last week that China is among the nations that fly reconnaissance flights in Asia.  Can you give us some more detail on that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Jim, I didn't bring the list with me of all the nations that fly these reconnaissance flights, but there are many.  I'd be happy to get that for you post-briefing.  You can get that from DOD, as well.  But it's an accepted, given part of international law that nations have flown reconnaissance flights over international airspace for many a year.

     Q    And China does engage in that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, I did not bring a list with me.

     Q    The right wing of the Republican Party, at least certain members of it, have been very vociferous in the criticism of the way the President handled the China event or this issue.  Is the President reaching out to them?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I differ with your premise.  I'm really not aware of very many people who have said anything like that.  There --

     Q    The Evening Standard --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Anybody else?  It's a very small number of people who have anything like that to say.  Frankly, I think the President is gratified by the support he has gotten from Democrats, from Republicans, for the manner in which this accident has been resolved.  And I think it's a sign of American unity, and that's what the President has seen.

     There will always be somebody on either end of the party who has something to say, but I think when you look at it in perspective, you've seen a very unified America behind what the President has done.

     Q    Ari, can I ask about the account that we've heard from the pilots?  Very clearly, they're saying that the Chinese pilot was at fault for this collision.  Does China -- does the President think China owes America an apology?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President has not gotten into that, no.  This matter has been resolved in the course of the letters, and we'll have ongoing discussions with the Chinese to make certain that it does not happen again.

     Q    When you say, it has been discussed -- he's discussed it with aides and decided not to ask for an apology?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think the President is less interested in finger-pointing and placing blame than he is on moving forward and having resolved this issue.  That's where the President's focus has been.  And I remind you that during one of the conference calls with General Sealock and Secretary Powell, the President said that we don't need to be pointing fingers, is how he put it during that phone conversation.

     And we're going to have a meeting with China in two days, and during that meeting I think you can expect some forthright conversations about these flights and about what took place.  And as the President said in the Rose Garden on Thursday, both nations have to make a determined choice about the future of our relations.  And the first evidence of those determined choices will come in that meeting on Wednesday, and the President wants to hear what the Chinese have to say.  He hopes that what they say will be productive and will lead to a diminution of difficulties in the region.

     Q    Ari, first of all, how can you say that there is no finger-pointing when you said that it's clear that the Chinese have been taunting American flights since before this administration, into the Clinton administration.  How can you say that?  And, two, is there a time line for America to get this spy plane back that we had?  And if there is not a time line and it just keeps on going, are there some kind of ramifications that the government will take --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  On the question of, I think you used the word, finger-pointing.  I think you have to recognize that there is a legitimate difference between finger-pointing for the purpose of assigning blame and withholding important facts from the American people about an important matter that took place and the reasons why it took place, and a history of flights that have been challenging reconnaissance aircraft.

     That's why the President said that he was going to authorize his representatives at the meeting to ask tough questions.  There are verifiable facts that are in the possession of the United States government.  That doesn't mean finger-pointing.  But it does mean that the United States has an obligation to release those facts so that the American people have an understanding about what took place and what has been taking place over a period of time.

     Then I know that's backed up by Clinton administration officials, as well.  They can testify to the same history that we have seen now that President Bush is in office.

     You had a second part to your question, April?

     Q    Right.  Is there a time line for America to get this spy plane back?  And, if not, what could China face if we don't get this plane?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think we should allow the meeting to take place Wednesday.  And we're going to ask for the -- the United States representatives will ask for the plane to be returned.

     Q    But America was seeing President Bush pressure China, saying, it's time for it to stop now; we want the 24 detainees back, we want the plane back.  We got the detainees.  And you also said that there could be some damage to U.S.-China relationships, and you specified what that could be.

     What could the damage be if America doesn't get this plane back?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not going to speculate.  Let's allow the diplomats and the members of the Defense Department to have the meeting on Wednesday and then we'll see.

     Q    Why was Beijing chosen as the site of the meeting?  And secondly, you say that there are verifiable facts in position of the U.S. government. Verifiable in what way?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, for example, the video that you all saw, released by Secretary Rumsfeld.  I think that's rather clear about the proximity of the Chinese flights to the United States reconnaissance planes.  The audio --

     Q    You mean in a general trend way, not --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

     Q    Do you have any evidence on this specific collision?      MR. FLEISCHER:  None that I'm at liberty to get into, Jim.

     Q    What about Beijing as the site of the meeting?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  On the choice of Beijing, I think that was just a matter of the discussions that took place with Chinese officials during the period of our servicemen and women being kept behind in China.  And it was the insistence of the Chinese government that allowed for the meeting to take place in Beijing, and we agreed.

     Q    Ari, in the President's discussions about possible options in resuming these flights, has there ever been concern voiced that flying fighter escort might represent a much more aggressive posture on the part of the U.S. Navy, that could actually precipitate another event in the future?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not going to speculate about a condition that may or may not be realized.  That is part of something that the Secretary of Defense will take a look at when he makes his recommendation to the President and to the NSC and to the national security team.  I'm going to withhold on answering that.  Let's see if the Secretary comes out with any such recommendation.

     Q    The White House made clear last week that in the diplomatic talks over the return of the crew that any side issues, such as the Taiwan arms sale, were not part of those talks.  Is the U.S. taking that same approach going into Wednesday's meeting, and do we just expect that they'll listen to our point of view, stop flying so close to our planes?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I've walked you through the agenda, from what the United States has on its agenda for the meeting.  And the question of selling arms to Taiwan is a separate topic, separate subject.

     Q    There are no other outside issues that we expect will be raised? The only leverage point that we have is, we don't want this incident to be repeated at any time?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't know that the United States is looking at it as leverage points to be raised.  As the President said, both nations have to make a determined choice about the status of our relations.  The Chinese look at the United States and say they have an awful lot that lies on the line.  They have an awful lot of interests in having good relations with the United States.

     And as the President said, China is a strategic competitor.  But part of that is the ability to get things done together.  When you get things done together internationally, it doesn't only involve leverage, it involves goodwill and the resolve of both nations to act in their own interests, which can often coincide, in terms of mutually beneficial agreements.      So, again, to the question of leverage, I would differ with.  There is an important meeting going to take place on Wednesday to try to address many of the issues that have come out as a result of the accident and the detention of our crew.

     Q    Ari, has the President's support for providing China normal trade relations changed in any way as a result of what has happened so far?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Not that I'm aware of, Keith.  I have not put that question directly to the President.  The President, of course, has been a strong supporter of permanent normal trade relations with China.

     Q    Well, why not?  I mean, does their willingness to hold American servicemen as long as they did, doesn't that say something about their willingness to play by international rules, to submit to a rules-based system like the WTO?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, as the President indicated on Thursday, trade is an area that is mutually in the interest of the United States and China. The President also views trade as a way of bringing about change in China. That was a subject that was addressed repeatedly in the Republican primary, where there were many people in the Republican primary who were critical of the President for his approach.  But his approach, the President believed in then because he thinks we can bring about constructive changes within China.  He believes those are the benefits of trade.

     Q    Okay.  If I can ask one more on that.  During the crisis, you indicated in a certain manner that his support for NTR may be contingent on how things worked out with this.  Is it still contingent on what happens in the meeting and what further happens with this issue?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I think as with any issue, with any decision that the President makes, he's going to take into account recent events -- whether it's a domestic decision, an international decision; whether it's China, in this case or anywhere around the world.

     The President will, of course, take into account any recent developments that need to be factored into any decision he makes.  But his approach to this decision is one based on his belief that trade helps create freedom, that trade helps create opportunity, that trade helps liberalize a society and leads to more democracy and openness.

     Trade is also in the interest of the United States:  it's in the interest of United States farmers; it's in the interest of United States consumers.  So that's the President's mind set.  That's why he took the stance he did.  Obviously, he'll evaluate all events leading up to the time when he has to make a decision on PNTR.

     Q    What about -- and human rights?  Is there --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's obviously a concern for the President.  That's why he cited it on Thursday, in his remarks in the Rose Garden.

     Q    Are you even -- even as the crew was being held and then, obviously, since they were released there were discussions, not only in the Congress, but in this building and throughout the administration that there would have to be some consequences.  Some used the term, pay a price, ramifications; that China -- there would have to be something demonstrable to China that you cannot do this; you will suffer if you do.

     If the President -- if it's not trade, what is it?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  John, I think it will play itself out.  If there is anything that is to be done, you will know it.  The President is not at that point yet.

     Q    Ari, on another subject.  I'll yield to anybody that wants to continue on this one.  Two racially segregated and anti-Semitic groups, the Nation of Islam and the new Black Panthers, as well as Kweisi Mfume and Al Sharpton, have curiously denounced the Cincinnati police.  The Fraternal Order of Police chairman was quoted by the New York Times as noting, "if we give one inch to these terrorists in the form of negotiations, then we've got no one to blame but ourselves."  And my question, does the President have any word at all of support for the police who stopped the mass looting in Cincinnati?  And I have one follow-up.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President is very concerned about events in Cincinnati.

     Q    He supports the police, doesn't he?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President is very concerned about events in Cincinnati.  Certainly, the President is a supporter of law enforcement. The President is also sensitive to the causes in the community, the problems in the community that have created the flash point that it has in Cincinnati.  That's exactly why he called the Attorney General, directed the Attorney General to be on -- get in touch with people on the ground in Ohio.  And as you know, the Department of Justice has sent in two mediators immediately; they sent in an additional two people from the Civil Rights division over the weekend; and the Attorney General is reviewing matters now.

     But it's a very sensitive time -- sensitive for law enforcement, who the President is a strong supporter of; and it's sensitive for people in the community who have a lot of concerns that they don't believe were being addressed.

     Q    And page one of the Washington Times quotes Jefferson scholars at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Brown, Virginia and George Mason, as concluding in a year-long study, 550 pages, "We are asked to believe that Jefferson would have entrusted his reputation to the discretion of a 15-year-old child.  If he did this, he was essentially a child-molesting rapist, and that is far from what we know of him."  My question is, does President Bush believe that his predecessor, President Jefferson, was a child-molesting rapist, or not?  They raised it, Ari, from two of his alma maters, Harvard and Yale. They raised it.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That is not a view the President holds.

     Q    That's good.  Then why did he --

     Q    Can we talk about the Middle East?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  April.  Go ahead, April.

     Q    Back on Cincinnati real quick, because Les did bring up a good point about Cincinnati.  With this situation with racial profiling, President Bush is trying to put an end to it.  I mean, couldn't he just use this situation -- I mean, it's blatantly obvious in the things that have happened -- couldn't he just stop this study?  Even former President Clinton even admitted that he racially profiled when he was in Arkansas. Why can't these studies stop, and with this kind of situation, just come out with --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me actually shed a little light on -- you said, use this situation.  And this is kind of a window into how President Bush operates.  The President does not believe that out of a flash point of something very sensitive and very emotional, government leaders should rush to action and rush to decision on something like that.  It's reflective of his style, which is to be deliberative, to be thoughtful, and not to seek to exploit events to force actions on something that needs to be thoroughly and carefully walked through, I think time to bring about a national consensus on how to get things done.

     I will refer you to the fact that the President, of course, has directed the Attorney General to undertake a review on exactly how we can eliminate racial profiling.  It was a call to action that went beyond anything the previous administration has said and done.

     The Department of Energy has just announced, Secretary Abraham, that the Department of Energy is going to take action within its own jurisdiction, to make certain that nobody at DOE engages in racial profiling.  I remind you that DOE has a rather large police force under its direct jurisdiction.  So this administration is already carefully walking through a series of steps, a series of actions, so that we can eliminate racial profiling.

     But the President is not going to do it -- to use any one incident. He will do it as a result of a thoughtful, careful manner, that unites Americans in how to get it done.

     Q    Ari, a follow up to that.  This has been going on, I mean nationally, for years.  And then in Cincinnati, it's been going on for a while.  And then, yes, there was a flash point.  But how can you say that he doesn't want to have a flash point now, when it's just -- it's blatant, and many African-Americans have been hollering about this.  They've had a civil rights and a law enforcement meeting about this a couple of summers ago.  It's evident.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  As you say, it has been going on for years.  And that's why the President is pleased that he's taking more action than people had in recent years to address it and stop racial profiling taking place.

     Q    On tax cuts, by next tax day, given the realities of whatever the final number is, when it would get phased-in, what does the President expect the taxpayer will experience, by way of relief, by this time next year?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Today is tax day.  Today is the day that Americans are filling out their forms, if they haven't done so already, so they can hurry to get them in by midnight, so they can pay an awful lot of money in taxes to the United States government.

     The President's objective on tax day is to lower the tax burden on working Americans, so they will pay less in taxes, so they can receive the tax relief they need.  He believes it's one of the most compassionate actions you can take as a leader, is to let people keep their own money, so they can make their own decisions on how to use it for their child care, for their education needs of their children, to take care of ailing parents.  That's the President's purpose in securing tax relief.

     And, in addition, the President recognizes that the Senate has taught us that if you don't cut taxes, that money is not going to go to debt reduction.  It will be spent by the politicians in both parties.  And on tax day, it's a reminder that the greatest risk to the surplus is government spending.  That money will be spent.

     Q    I didn't mean to just hit the play button.  (Laughter.)  What I meant to ask was that by this time next year, in the first year -- assuming a tax cut is actually enacted by later this year -- what can taxpayers reasonably expect by their first year with a tax cut?  What will the relief actually look like?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  If you're asking me for the phase-in rates, that's something that we are working on with Congress right now.  And the ultimate bill we will see will be a phased-in tax cut.  And the amount of phase-in will be determined by congressional leaders in negotiation with the White House.  That should take place sometime most likely early summer -- late spring, early summer.

     Q    But is there anything you can point to of real value that can either have a stimulative effect on the economy or make a measurable difference in taxpayers' lives?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think there's no question about it, because one of the first changes that the President sought and the Congress has agreed to is making the tax cut retroactive, to the point where taxpayers in this current year will receive by some estimates $300, maybe $600 for couples; immediate tax relief for this year and this year alone.  That's a lot of money in people's pockets.  I think that's something that most Americans would welcome.

     Q    Can I follow up on that, about concerns about the level of spending in the Senate budget.  Is the White House open to any kind of deficit spending just to get a big tax cut out there,  that there is an agreement on spending?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, it's just not necessary.  The size of the surplus is so big that there's no need to have deficit spending.

     Q    A couple of weeks ago when the Senate voted on the budget outline, I believe one of the things they did was to bump up that $60 billion this year, rebate idea up to $85 billion.  Is that something that the President supports?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Absolutely.  The President is very pleased with that. He believes that the more tax relief, the better in this case.  And it was an interesting outcome of that debate.  If you remember, the question used to be for maybe a day or two, to have tax relief immediately, separate and apart from the permanent tax cut the President sought, and it looks like the American taxpayer got the best of both worlds.  They're going to have a bigger immediate tax cut, and it still will be tied to the permanent tax cut, which is the outcome the President supported.  So he's pleased with that result.

     Q    And the rebate --  is okay with him, too?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, that has to still be figured out, the exact manner in which a retroactive tax cut can be delivered.  There are a series of tax consequence that are very practical about how best to deliver that tax relief in a retroactive fashion, through adjusting withholding tables or through some type of rebate.  That remains an item of discussion.

     Q    Does the White House have a position on that, or are you still -- is it still let a thousand flowers bloom on Capitol Hill?  (Laughter.)

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, the President is still open to that discussion, Jim.  There are some real practicalities on how the manner in which you can get that done, either, again, through adjusting the withholding tables or through a rebate.

     Q    But have you communicated to the Congress what your preference would be, what you think would work most efficiently?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No.  The President has not indicated that yet.

     Q    But not just the President, what about Treasury, OMB?  Have they indicated to Congress what would work best?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It's still a discussion item.

     Q    When the President meets with the Chilean President this afternoon, will he have any news for him on timing of a fast track bill?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President is going to continue to work on fast track legislation or trade promotion authority, as it's now know.  There is no immediate determination about when such legislation will be sent up to the Hill.

     Q    Will that be discussed in the meeting at all?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I would anticipate it would be.

     Q    Anything else?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think trade promotion in general will be discussed. Whether it's the specific time table, I'd say hold off, wait until the meeting.  Are we going to have a read out after the meeting?

     MS. COUNTRYMAN:  Do we need a readout?  Okay, we'll have a readout.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  We'll try to get you a background briefing following the meeting

     Q    In the Middle East, the situation seems to be getting worse now, spreading to Lebanon and Syria.  Is the administration taking any steps to avoid an all out war?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Let me just say that in the last several days, there has been a dangerous escalation across the line of withdrawal.  And the United States condemns this escalation that was initiated by Hezbollah, in a clear provocation, designed to escalate an already tense situation.

     And the President calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint at this time, to refrain from further actions across the line of withdrawal, and to respect and to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 425.

     Q    Ari, can I follow up on that?  So you say it was initiated by Hezbollah.  So then the Israelis are justified in what they did, to retaliate?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, the President's -- that statement speaks for itself.  There's been an escalation, and the President is urging all parties to use restraint at this time.  And as I indicated, the United States does condemn this escalation.  And I point out that it was initiated by Hezbollah.

     Q    Are the Israelis also guilty of participating in the escalation?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Again, the United States -- the President urges all parties to exercise restraint.

     Q    Have the Israelis -- are the Israelis also culpable?  Are they also to blame for this?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President urges all parties to exercise restraint.

     Q    On a different subject, the summit with the Russians.  Colin Powell and Igor Ivanov, the two foreign ministers, discussed that in Paris, and said that the two Presidents may meet even before the general summit of the G-8.  My question is, is this just stating the obvious that it may happen, or is it a goal now that the White House is working for?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, as you know, with all meetings with foreign leaders, we're working on timetables to meet with a variety of people across the world, of course, including President Putin.  And there's no set schedule yet for -- the Secretary was reflecting on the reality of the fact that the President will be traveling to Europe in both June and July and those could be potential times for meetings.  But there's nothing to report.

     Q    Okay.  And another subject.  Do you have anything to say on the 40th anniversary of the Bay of Cochinos operation, the invasion to Cuba? The Cubans are saying that the Americans still want to do that again.  So what's your reaction to that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, I've got nothing to offer on that.

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Thank you.

1:41 P.M. EDT

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