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Excerpts from the Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer, January 29, 2003 (Full transcript)

QUESTION: Ari, the other day the White House released, I think it was a 7-page catalog of Iraqi's -- Iraq's failures to cooperate with disarmament. I think it was called, "What Disarmament Would Look Like." Is that the kind of thing that Powell hands to the Security Council next week, or does he give them new evidence we haven't seen before?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me make a couple points about what Secretary Powell will do at the United Nations next week, as well as where we stand in the bigger picture about what is coming next vis-a-vis Iraq. The Secretary's presentation will take a look at what is known about Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, and he will connect the dots. He will go before the Security Council to share with them information about why this is such a matter of grave concern and why the peace is threatened by Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United Nations, and Saddam Hussein's refusal to disarm.

We are now entering the final phase. During this final phase, what is about to unfold is a diplomatic window -- a diplomatic window. The President takes seriously the importance of consultations with our European allies. The President takes seriously the importance of consulting with the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council. You will see an increase in meetings and phone calls by the President. Obviously, the decision the President made to send the Secretary to New York underscores the importance the President has for the United Nations Security Council.

This is a diplomatic window. There will be many conversations taking place at both the presidential and the secretarial level. The President still believes that if diplomacy results in strong and powerful expressions of unity towards Saddam Hussein, so that Saddam Hussein receives as powerful a message as possible that he needs to disarm, then this can be resolved peacefully.

The President continues to hold out that hope. And that's why he is launching this effort now through this diplomatic window. If Saddam Hussein does not get that message, though, there can be no mistaking the President's resolve that a coalition will disarm Saddam Hussein if he doesn't do it himself. So that's the phase that we're entering into now, in this final phase.

QUESTION: Does he give new evidence? Does Powell present new evidence next week?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think that he will, in effect, connect the dots about what is known. And I'm not going to make any more predictions beyond that about what the Secretary will say.

QUESTION: How long will that window be open, Ari, and what will shut it?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has not put a time period on that. But the President believes that this diplomacy is important because, one, he believes in consultation, he pledged to do so, and it is, in his opinion, wise to do so. But, two, he believes earnestly that the result of this diplomacy should be the world saying to Saddam Hussein, you need to do what you've been told to do; you need to disarm.

QUESTION: Now, you've said -- and the administration has said several times before that we're in a final phase, the last stage, time is running out. What's the difference between those statements and what you're saying here today?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, the President has not put a specific timetable on it, and therefore, I won't. But you're seeing, I think, an uptick in the tempo of the seriousness of these discussions. I think the President's speech last night, in a very cogent way, took the case directly to the American people, for them to increasingly form their own conclusions about the risks that Saddam Hussein presents. And I think that there's a tremendous difference and impact when many people in Washington talk about Saddam Hussein having 30,000 warheads, having 30,000 liters of biological weapons, including anthrax and VX, mustard gas, sarin gas. When Hans Blix says that, it has a very powerful message. I don't think anything is as powerful as when the President says that to a country that is increasingly tuned in to hear this information.

For the country, much of what the President said last night was new evidence and new information. For others who follow every step of the debate, they may have other thoughts. But for the country, what they heard last night I think was powerful and new.

QUESTION: There are reports this morning that the President would make at least two more public speeches on Iraq, if necessary -- one on a deadline; one on a decision.

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know where that came from. There are no plans to do that. And, again, as I've indicated, the President has not put a timetable on it. If events warrant, the President will inform you. But the President has not made those determinations.

QUESTION: Administration officials had explained before, in the past, that one of the reasons why some of this information hadn't been made public was that it would be more useful to keep it sort of quiet, for if we had to go to war, you would want that information, that intelligence to be used in the event of military action. It would be more useful there. What has changed about that concern, and is it just the sense that finally the President is agreeing that more people are demanding more information, they want more information, and finally that need is overtaking the concerns about reserving that intelligence for use in a military conflict?

MR. FLEISCHER: These are valid issues that you point to, and this is why this is a serious process, to walk through information bit by bit to determine how much can be shared, what can be shared, at what level it can be shared, but at the same time, not jeopardize the sources or methods that, one, help us now to collect information, or two, may be helpful down the road if necessary. So that's a part of the equation.

QUESTION: But what changed that decision? I mean, the calculation on --

MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing changed it. It's still the part of the review that's underway. But the President has always said that it's important to consult. Consultations include passing along information. That's always a part of the process. The level of information and the way to protect sources and methods is part of what will unfold over the next little while.

QUESTION: And Senator Kennedy has said he would submit a resolution in Congress requiring the government to present evidence to Congress, as well, before undertaking any force against Iraq. Is that something you can work with Congress on? Are those concerns you're prepared to address?

MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the Senator's proposal yet. Obviously, there are a tremendous number of congressmen and senators who believe the President has made a compelling case. There are many who have already voted and authorized the President to make the final judgments about whether to go to war or not. And that resolution was passed last Congress, with overwhelming bipartisan support. I don't remember how Senator Kennedy voted on it. But the President will continue to reach out and talk to a number of people.

QUESTION: The President is talking to a lot of leaders who share his view -- Blair this week, Berlusconi this week, the Polish leader is in the mix somewhere. Is he going to reach out to leaders who don't share his view, personally try and sway a Chirac or a Schroeder?

MR. FLEISCHER: We'll keep -- as we always do, we'll keep you posted on the conversations the President has and the meetings he has. Obviously, you're seeing here -- before Prime Minister Berlusconi arrives tomorrow, Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Aznar and Prime Minister Blair are all meeting amongthemselves. You're seeing an uptick in the diplomatic front.

But you have to remember, most European nations see it the President's way. So when you talk about, will he talk to others, the fact is, the majority of people he talks to see it his way.

QUESTION: But France has a veto, for example. They have a particular power.

MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: A couple questions on Powell. Is he going to show them documents at the U.N.? Is he going to show them pictures? Is he going to show them intercepts, anything specific like that from U.S. intelligence? Or just list what we think they've got?

MR. FLEISCHER: The purpose of his presentation is to provide as much as possible without jeopardizing methods or sources. And that represents careful judgments that have to be made so that information can be shared and sources and methods can be protected. The President is sending him there for a reason -- he wants the world to have information. But I also submit to you, in the President's judgment, there's already a Mt. Everest of information, high enough to know that Saddam Hussein has weapons and is willing to use them. From the President's point of view, making Mt. Everest higher is not necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: But you can't say whether he's going to bring the evidence, itself, or just describe the additional evidence that you plan to present?

MR. FLEISCHER: I explained to you the process. There's a review underway of how to both share information and protect sources and methods. And that review is underway, and we'll know all next week.

QUESTION: So you're still not sure exactly what he's going to bring? You're still working on that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Of course, the speech is six days away.

QUESTION: One other question --

MR. FLEISCHER: Seven days away.

QUESTION: One other question -- is Powell going to be asking for something? Is he going to be asking for another resolution?

MR. FLEISCHER: I want to defer on many of these questions until next week.

QUESTION: But it will be newly-declassified information?

MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say that. I didn't say it wouldn't be, but I didn't say it would. There's a process underway, and, with all due respect, it's important -- it's a serious process, and it's important to let it unfold.

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