print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

 Home > News & Policies > June 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 5, 2002

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer

The James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:04 P.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the President's day, and then I have two statements I'd like to make. The President began his day with his usual round of intelligence briefings, followed by FBI briefing. Then he had a meeting with Senator Biden and Senator Lugar to discuss his recent trip to Europe, in which the President also asked them to be able to bring the Treaty of Moscow, which reduces offensive weapons between the United States and Russia, to a vote for ratification before Congress adjourns.

And speaking of Congress, they will all be here tonight for the congressional barbecue on the South Lawn. The President will make remarks during the barbecue.

In regard to the homicide bombing in Israel this morning, the President condemns this brutal attack in the strongest possible terms. This attack underscores the fact that these terrorists are the worst enemies of not only the Israeli people, but also of the Palestinian people, and their hopes for a better life for all people who are concerned with peace. The attack underscores the need for the Palestinian Authority to create a security force that can stop and prevent these attacks. The attack also underscores the importance of the efforts by the United States and the international community to realize President Bush's vision for the region as outlined in his April 4th speech -- two states living side by side in peace and security.

The President will continue his efforts and meetings in the coming days with President Mubarak and Prime Minister Sharon, and he will also, before his weekend meetings, hear reports from Director Tenet and Secretary Burns who have been in the region.

And finally, today the President telephoned the leaders of India and Pakistan urging them to take steps that will ease tensions in the region and reduce the risk of war, a message Deputy Secretary of State Armitage and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will reiterate during their visit to South Asia.

The President reiterated to President Musharraf that the United States expects Pakistan to live up to the commitment Pakistan has made to end all support for terrorism. The President emphasized to Prime Minister Vajpayee in a phone call that ended literally just minutes ago the need for India to respond with de-escalatory steps. To both leaders, the President stressed the need to choose the path of diplomacy.

South Asia is a region of tremendous potential. Armed conflict will do nothing to improve the lives of the people in India or in Pakistan; it will instead block the future of both nations. The United States is ready to help the parties in their efforts to resolve the many underlying issues that divide them.

Q Ari, on that, did the two leaders respond favorably in the President's views? Did they give any signals that they are standing down, as it were, or de-escalating this crisis?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think time will tell, David. They both understand the President's message, and the President's message is strongly that war doesn't serve either party. And the United States will continue to work very closely with each party, but time will tell.

Q Are you saying that they responded favorably or unfavorably?

MR. FLEISCHER: Our efforts will be ongoing. They understood the President's message. They appreciated the President's message. And what's important now is that both parties take the actions to reduce the tensions -- on the side of Pakistan, to do everything in its power to stop the incursions into the Line of Control; and India, to take steps to de-escalate. Time will tell.


Q Can I just follow up on --

MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead, David, follow up, and then Terry.

Q I just want to follow up on Yasser Arafat, because in your statement about today's bombing, you didn't mention Yasser Arafat. You also said earlier, in an early briefing without the cameras, that Yasser Arafat has never played a role as someone who could be trusted or effective. Is it fair to say now that the President has given up on Yasser Arafat?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. I don't think the President would say that. The President would say that Yasser Arafat has yet earn the President's trust. Yasser Arafat is the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. The United States will continue to work with Chairman Arafat, with all members of the Palestinian Authority. As you know, Director Tenet was just in the region; he met with Yasser Arafat. Secretary Burns is in the region; he met with Secretary -- with Chairman Arafat and numerous other Palestinians.

So our efforts will continue on a multilevel within the Palestinian Authority. That includes Chairman Arafat. But the point of the President is what the people of Palestine need and what the people of Israel need is a leadership that is willing to take action to prevent violence.

Q Why did the President make these calls to these leaders today?

MR. FLEISCHER: What you're seeing is an ongoing diplomatic effort that has been launched not only directly and personally by the President, but by other leaders around the world. President Putin, for example, held a recent meeting in Asia and has played a constructive role directly with the principals, with Prime Minister Vajpayee, with President Musharraf. And, as I mentioned, we have the upcoming visits by Secretary Armitage and Secretary Rumsfeld to South Asia. So it's part of ongoing efforts to help the parties to help themselves to reduce the violence and reduce the tension.

Q Is it fair to see this presidential intervention as a sign that things aren't getting better?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think it's part of ongoing efforts in a tense region, a region that remains tense and delicate, and a region that the President will remain personally engaged in and involved in; so, too, will his government.

Q Has the President spoken to President Putin about his efforts? And does he think he can succeed in some way where Putin failed?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President spoke with President Putin during his visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg directly about the situation between India and Pakistan. President Putin, when he told President Bush that he would be meeting with the two, President Bush welcomed it, said that's constructive, that's wise of you to meet with these leaders. And I think it's part of a world that's stands shoulder-to-shoulder and giving India and Pakistan a unified message: war is not in your interest, and war is not in the interest of your neighbors or nations that live far away.

Q But Putin failed to make progress at the Kazakhstan meeting. Is there something else President Bush thinks he can do?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't -- you know, progress is going to be measured day by day. In a tense situation, lack of war is the goal. Reduction of tension is the goal. And while it remains tense, it remains delicate. War is not inevitable. And the diplomatic efforts of the United States, from the President on down, are aimed at making sure it's not only inevitable, but we do everything we can to prevent it from happening.


Q Is this the first time the President has made these personal calls to the leaders?


Q And also, does he have a solution? In the event that they do pull back, is there another step to be taken?

MR. FLEISCHER: Very often in crises like this, one of the reasons that things can escalate and get out of control or lead to war is that the two parties don't listen to each other. And very often what they look for is a third party to come in and make sure that messages are communicated back and forth, that lines that the two parties themselves might close are forced to be open as a result of the diplomacy of others. And so we continue to urge dialogue between India and Pakistan. And that's where the situation is.


Q Ari, in terms of what the President is willing to do to resolve the crisis between India and Pakistan, is he willing to put forward the services of the United States as a mediator in the Kashmir issue? And what's the President's position on the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President does believe that the voices of the people of Kashmir has to be heard in this dispute. But the question of a mediator -- the United States is playing the role of a party that is helping to bring the two parties together through communications and dialogue. But we will help the two parties to the degree that they think are wise and are welcome. But, fundamentally, this is an issue where India and Pakistan need to talk to each other to help reduce tensions, and we're there to facilitate that.

Q Ari, can I follow on that? Did the President encourage, or was there discussion about the two sides talking directly at this point to each other?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President made the case that I just described, and he stressed the importance of dialogue.

Q Is there a response, the two sides said that they were willing --

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, time will tell.

Q One more question. Any discussion of the U.S. providing any monitors to patrol the Line of Control?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. That was not part of the discussion.

Q Is that under consideration?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the United States' role will be to continue to encourage a de-escalation, a reduction of tension, and communication between the nations. And that's the -- that's what's under discussion now. I'd just leave it at that.

Q When you say de-escalation for India -- pulling troops away from the border, is that what you mean?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, one way to reduce the risk of war is to de-emphasize the instruments of war, and that includes troops.


Q Ari, back on the Middle East, please. How much time will the President give Chairman Arafat before he will finally give up on any hope that he's going to take strong steps?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the efforts of our government are focused on the Palestinian Authority, on Arab nations, people who have demonstrated a willingness to work toward peace in the region. And so, from the President's point of view, it's not the business of the United States to pick the leaders of the Palestinian people. Chairman Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian Authority. What the President is interested in is results, from whatever corner they may come from. If that's Chairman Arafat, that's fine with the President. If it's others, that's fine with the President. The President wants to make certain that there are results that lead to what the President has outlined in the Rose Garden, which is a state of Israel and a state of Palestine that can stand side by side in peace and security. The President believes that's also what the Palestinian people seek.

Q Since the question about Chairman Arafat keeps coming up, do you see this as a potential diversion from the actual peace process, itself? That is, questioning whether or not we should deal with Arafat, whether the Israelis should --

MR. FLEISCHER: And we are dealing with Chairman Arafat; he is the leader of the Palestinian people.

Q But is there a diversion from the actual peace process? Is it a problem, in other words, from settling, from getting down to working out --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, is what a diversion?

Q The question of Arafat's credibility, if he's the leader. That keeps coming up.

MR. FLEISCHER: The President is interested in results. The President is interested in action. And that's what he has called for.

Q Ari, if I could change subjects for a second. This morning you said that the President quoted a speech, indicating that the President believes that human activity is largely responsible for the increase in greenhouse gases. But I'm wondering if he also agrees with an EPA report which indicated that human activity is likely the cause of global warming?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me just read from the President's statement of June 11th on global warming, and let me read from the recent report the EPA submitted to the United Nations. And I think you'll hear that on the key issues, they really sound very, very similar. This is the President on June 11th in the Rose Garden, in a speech where he announced his global warming policies.

"Concentration of greenhouse gases, especially C02, have increased substantially since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity." That's the President himself speaking.

Here is from the report, page 4, that was just submitted to the United States by the EPA: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as the result of human activities, causing global mean surface temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise. While the changes observed over the last several decades are due most likely to human activities, we cannot rule out that some significant part is also a reflection of natural variability." And I think what you're hearing is the same thing.

Q I'm glad you make the connection explicitly, since the President addressed greenhouse gases, but not specifically global warming. Does the President agree with the conclusion that human activity is likely the cause of global warming?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's what the President said in his speech in June.

Q That's not exactly what he said. He does agree with it?

MR. FLEISCHER: When the President cites the National Academy of Science as saying that the National Academy of Science indicates that the increase is due in large part to human activity, I don't know how the President could say it more specifically than that.

Q He hasn't changed his mind at all?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. Here's -- the bottom line for the President is, number one, he has made a proposal that he believes is a proposal that not only can reduce the problem of greenhouse gases and global warming, but also protects the American economy, so the American economy can lead the world in technological and scientific advances that also have an effect in reducing pollution.

The President has said, citing the National Academy of Sciences, that the increase is due in large part to human activity. The President has also continued, citing both, now this report the EPA has sent to the United Nations, previous evidence from the National Academy of Sciences, that there's uncertainty -- and the recent report notes that there is considerable uncertainty. That's the state of science, and the President agrees with it. I don't think people dispute that.

Q Its uncertainty, but he can still draw that conclusion, that --

MR. FLEISCHER: He didn't June 11th.

Q He didn't exactly do it, but you're saying it now.

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, when the President cites a report by the National Academy of Sciences that indicates the increase is due in large part to human activity, I think you have two reports that are very similar.

Q Why was he --

Q Why did he call it the bureaucracy yesterday?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the EPA issued a report that says the same thing. And I think the President was also reflecting about some of the way it was covered, that made it sound as if the report was somehow inconsistent with what he had said previously.

Q I don't think he reflected at all, he just said that, I saw it put out by a bureaucracy. What did he reflect on?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sharing with you his insights.

Q Why didn't he give us his insights?

Q Ari, there's a law on the books in this country -- I think it dates from 1998 -- in which citizens from certain countries -- I think it's Libya, Iraq, Iran and Sudan -- have to have photographs and fingerprints when they enter this country as visitors -- information. Now the civil rights groups are very worried that the Bush administration is trying to increase this to a larger number of countries for security reasons. Is this something that the White House is contemplating?

MR. FLEISCHER: Attorney General Ashcroft will make an announcement at 2:30 p.m. today, dealing with protecting the American people from potential terrorist attacks. And I would refer you to what the Secretary -- the Attorney General will be discussing.

But there's no question that there are laws on the books that allow the United States government to protect the American people, and the President knows that we can take action to protect people that is fully in accordance with protecting civil rights and civil liberties.

Q On another subject, and I'm trying not to be light about it -- the United States today got its biggest victory ever in soccer, a sport that is really worldwide popular, and it's starting to get popular in this country. Teams -- I'm not giving a speech, but teams normally when they leave the country, the President will give them a big send-off; here it was like nothing. Is the President going to call the American team today and congratulate them for their victory over Portugal?

MR. FLEISCHER: I can assure you he has noted their victory and has already remarked on it -- I think it was 3-2, if I recall -- versus Portugal. So --

Q What did he say?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President talked about how good the United States is at sports.

Q Will he call --

Q He was awake -- did he watch the game?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think he watched the game.

Q Will he call --

Q Did he yell, "Goalll!" (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll let you know if he makes any -- (laughter) -- if he makes any phone calls. And I appreciate the lightness of the -- we have to stay in similar questions for the next five minutes.

Q Did he watch the hockey -- (laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: Let's see -- Connie, Goyal -- (laughter) -- this does not look like a likely hand that's going to continue that line of questioning. So we'll continue with Goyal.

Q Going back to India and Pakistan, a couple questions. One, if you have any comments on the Monday night Nightline? They said that when General Musharraf speaks in Urdu, he speaks differently to his people. And I heard that also. And he speaks in English to the United States, and -- he speaks differently, two different views of his comments. That is why the problem is not going to be solved, terrorism against India in Kashmir.

And two, India's Ambassador here -- said that largest, world's largest democracy -- from the terrorists, with about 75 terrorist camps inside Pakistan's Kashmir, and over 3,000 to 5,000 people or terrorists are being trained there right now. And also, Newsweek in this latest issue is saying that al Qaedas are regrouping in Pakistan. And finally, U.S. intelligence report is saying that Pakistan is trading nuclear secrets with Saudi Arabia in exchange for cash so he can expand its nuclear program.

MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard the last point. But the President speaks with one message to both Prime Minister Vajpayee and to President Musharraf, and it's the message I just cited. And it's the diplomacy that the world is in the middle of, to try to help both parties to de-escalate and to reduce tensions.


Q Also about India-Pakistan -- sorry about that. Will the President offer a tangible proposal to the sides, such as a Mitchell Plan the way we've got in Ireland and the Middle East? And this I asked before -- will the U.S. ever accept a divided, independent Kashmir?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to speculate about what the future may bring, other than to say that the stage we are in right now is focused on bringing stability and reducing tensions and helping the nations to draw back from war. The President wants very much to help to bring peace to an area of the world that for decades has been troubled by the violence, in Kashmir and in and around Kashmir. And that will be the President's goals. But right now, the whole focus is on drawing would-be belligerents back from an area that remains very tense, very delicate, where the potential of war remains.

Q But if the parties ask the U.S. to impose a plan, or to suggest a plan?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, that's why I said I'm not going to speculate about every contingency in the future. But at this point, the focus still remains on helping the parties to avoid war.

Q Staying with India and Pakistan, we've heard a lot about individual countries trying to help ease the tensions, but we haven't heard an awful lot about the United Nations as a group involving itself. Is there a role for the United Nations to play here?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there typically is a role for the United Nations, and they are playing it. And this is an area where, as I mentioned, around the world many people are participating. I've cited previous occasions with Jack Straw, the British Foreign Minister, and his diplomacy in the region, as well as the European Union, the United Nations. So it is an effort that unites many around the world.


Q Ari, things were actually much worse between India and Pakistan about a week and a half ago. So the first part of my question is why didn't the President call then? I know he was in Europe and Russia, but it was much --

MR. FLEISCHER: He did. The President called prior to the trip, if you remember. The President made phone calls to the leaders prior to his trip. And so the President has --

Q The second call in how many -- a week and a half?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll get you the precise, but probably in about three weeks.

Q Okay. My second question is, does the President feel, as you were suggesting last week, that the countries don't fully comprehend what a limited nuclear war would entail?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think, again, both parties are engaged in activities that need to be de-escalated and the world is focused on helping them to reduce those tensions. I don't think there's any misunderstanding by the parties about what war can bring. War can bring dramatically harmful consequences to the region and to the world. I think they recognize the dangers of war. The problem and one of the reasons that wars take place is because while nations are aware of the risks of war, they stumble into it anyway. The purpose of diplomacy is to help them to avoid taking any steps that would lead to war.

But I think there's an awareness in the region of what war can bring. That's why it's so important to remind that parties not to take any actions and, in fact, to take actions that lead to -- away from war.


Q Ari, the Judiciary Committee is holding hearings tomorrow, Director Mueller -- is this the beginning of the multiple investigations the President does not want to see?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, there's a difference between committees holding hearings and the whole review that is taking place at the Intelligence Committee of what led up to September 11th and what agencies can learn as a result of it. There are other issues, other oversight activities that can be taken. But there is one committee that we are working with that is charged with, for example, receiving all the papers, reviewing all the numerous -- hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper connected with information prior to 9/11. I'm only aware of one committee that is investigating that.

Q What the Judiciary Committee is going to be looking at clearly involves pre-9/11 warnings. Is this -- are you telling me that there's no problem -- you have no problem with the hearing tomorrow, that this is not the kind of --

MR. FLEISCHER: Congress has oversight activities that they will engage in. But I don't think it's fair to say that that means that they have become the investigative committee; that's not quite the case.

Q Can you tell us how close India and Pakistan have come to a nuclear war? Did the intelligence tell you about movement of missiles and warheads?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, if it was something that intelligence was reporting, I wouldn't be able to get into it. But this is why I have said -- and it's been said repeatedly, Scott McClellan said it last week -- that the situation is delicate. The situation is sensitive. And I don't have a daily tick-tock for how close people can be to war. They can be close to war. Every effort is being made to prevent war.

Q Would we know as a country if they began arming missiles, and if they began moving these missiles --

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I'm not going to get into any of the United States' resources to monitor events around the world. That's something I can't describe.

Q Does the President share the concerns of Lott and Roberts that heightened sensitivity to racial profiling is undermining efforts to prevent terrorism attacks in the U.S.?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of the comment, so I would hate to characterize. I can just tell you --

Q -- said that they'd have a chilling effect on U.S. efforts.

MR. FLEISCHER: In what, specifically?

Q Just the concern that right now that there's too much sensitivity over racial profiling?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes very strongly that it has been the history of our nation that to protect civil rights, to protect civil liberties, we protect our nation. And in protecting our nation, we are always mindful and protective of civil rights and civil liberties. The two go together. And that has been the traditions of our country and the President is confident that we will do that.

Q One of the problems between India and Pakistan is that this Kashmir problem comes up every two or three years, and you get a dust-up over the situation there. Is there anything that we are doing now to address the underlying problem, the fundamental difficulties --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, I'm not going to speculate about events, all possible events. But the immediate focus remains, because of the nature of the situation on the ground, to de-escalate and reduce the tension. That is something that has to come first. That's something that has to be focused on to create an environment for the parties to be able to do things more cooperatively with each other.

Q Are you saying it's premature to address the fundamental problem of Kashmir and whether or not there should be a plebescite --

MR. FLEISCHER: I would just say there's an immediate concern that is at hand, and that immediate concern is helping the parties to avoid war.

Q So in other words, there's nothing that the U.S. wants to proceed on until you get a de-escalation -- deal with the underlying problem of Kashmir?

MR. FLEISCHER: We will continue to explore ways that provide stability, a full range of ideas that can help provide stability. But the first step along those ways has got to be the avoidance of war.

Q Okay. One other thing, if I could. Senator Biden today said that basically if the U.S. takes out Saddam, we have to be prepared to stay there as long as five years. One, does the White House -- what does the White House make of that comment; do you agree? And, two, is there some sort of sense of what would happen in a post-Saddam Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the policy of the United States government, that is supported and passed by Congress, is regime change. And that is our stated policy, and there's no plans ont President's desk to take any type of military action, as the question might suggest.

Q What about Biden's comment?

MR. FLEISCHER: About duration of time?

Q Yes. If U.S. took him out, that we'd have to be prepared to stay there as long as five years.

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not qualified to make that judgment. I'd just say that the policy that has been supported by the Congress, the previous administration and this administration is regime change.

Q Thank you.

END 1:30 P.M. EDT