The White House
President George W. Bush
Print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2003

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer


1:15 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to give you a report on the President's day, and then I want to give you a little bit of a look ahead to the next week or two in terms of what the President and this administration are going to be pursuing, both domestically and internationally.

The President began early this morning with a phone call that lasted 20 minutes with President Jiang Zemin of China. The two discussed the situation in North Korea, as well as Iraq. President Bush stressed that time was of the essence in dealing with Iraq, and he stressed that the credibility of the United Nations was at stake.

President Bush underscored the need for a multilateral approach for dealing with the situation in North Korea that has been created as a result of North Korea's actions involving their weapons program. President Jiang reiterated China's commitment to work with the United States to secure disarmament and to prevent the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

President Jiang again expressed the condolences of the people of China to the people of the United States for the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

Following the phone call, the President had an intelligence briefing and an FBI briefing. I'll be happy to return to that. The President then departed for the Treasury Department, where he made remarks upon the swearing-in of the new Secretary of the Treasury.

The President returned to the White House, where he spoke with President Jacques Chirac of France. The two agreed on the importance of disarming Iraq. They agreed to continue consultations. The President stressed that France is an important ally. And they also discussed the importance of working together to achieve peace in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The President will depart for Camp David later this afternoon. And let me -- I want to give you a look ahead for about the next two weeks. During the next two weeks, the President and many members of his administration are going to focus on two main goals: diplomacy abroad and jobs at home. There will be number of activities on both fronts. The President will be discussing the situation vis-a-vis Iraq in his weekly radio address this weekend. Members of his foreign policy team -- Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice -- will appear on the Sunday shows.

Members of his economic team -- Secretary Snow, Secretary Evans, NEC Chairman Friedman -- will be meeting with Republican House and Senate members to discuss the President's job and growth plan. And the President will also address member of Congress on both foreign and economic policy when the President travels Sunday to the Congressional Republican Retreat.

Next week, the President will continue with the diplomatic efforts. The President will have a series of meetings or phone calls. We'll keep you informed on the phone calls. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Howard, of Australia, on Monday and with President Gutierrez, of Ecuador, on Tuesday.

The President will also hold two events to promote his economic plan next week, focused on helping small investors, as well as small businesses. One will be an in-town event, the other will be travel -- as you know.

In addition, some 15 or 20 members of the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet will be fanning out across the country to more than 20 cities to talk about the economic package and growth package. We can provide you with additional information about who is going to where, and this will, of course, continue during the time that Congress is on recess, to continue to make the case to the country and to the public about the importance of Democrats and Republicans working together to promote jobs and growth here at home.

And with that, I'm more than happy to take your questions.

Q Can I ask, when the President said this morning he wants the U.N. Security Council to make up its mind soon, to do what? What does he want to see in this new resolution? What does he want not to be in there?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President, as he has said and as he has talked with numerous allies, particularly in Europe -- the President has said that he would welcome a second vote by the United Nations Security Council that enforces the resolution that is already in place, which is Resolution 1441, which said that this is Iraq's final chance to comply, that failure to comply would be seen as a material breach that would be met with serious consequences -- in the words of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.

Q Does he want language more specific than "serious consequences"?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, on the exact language, the process is now just beginning. It began yesterday with the President's statement. And I think, as you can anticipate, and you're very familiar with the United Nations processes, this will now become a matter of diplomacy. I've indicated to you the President is going to spend some time, himself, and other members of the administration, engaged in diplomacy, toward the point of working together with the United Nations Security Council, to come out with a resolution that is serious, effective and acceptable. And that's the process that now begins.

Q But, clearly, he must have in mind some minimum standard for this resolution, otherwise he thinks it's pointless, right?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, he does. The standard the President has set is that the second resolution must enforce the first resolution, that it must provide meaning to the first resolution.

Q Does the President think there is anyone in the world who believes he has not already made up his mind to go up to war at any cost, no matter what? Does he actually think that nobody has already made up -- believes he has already made him mind up?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think what's, in the President's judgment, important, there is one person's mind who matters the most, and that's Saddam Hussein. The issue of whether or not war comes is a matter that Saddam Hussein will decide. And so when you say, has the President decided, the President remains hopeful that war can be averted. And the President strongly believes that the stronger the show of international unity and the stronger the creation of the military presence, building up alongside Iraq, we'll work to convince Saddam Hussein to do what he always should have done, and perhaps the peace can still be maintained.

Q But the President actually thinks that people think he still might not go to war?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is really only one person the President worries about when it comes to, can war be averted, and that's in Saddam Hussein's --

Q Why shouldn't he worry about what the American people think?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, obviously, the President worries deeply about what the American people think. He is responsible to the American people and to their protection, per the Constitution, which is why the President went to the United Nations Security Council last September. It's why the President worked so hard to achieve the result of the first tough resolution that the United Nations passed last November, and why the President directed Secretary Powell to travel to New York this week to make the presentation of facts.

Q Why doesn't he let the inspectors complete their work?

MR. FLEISCHER: There's only one person who can let the inspectors complete his work, and that person's name is Saddam Hussein.

Q After talking to the Presidents of China and France, does the President here feel any more optimistic that he's going to get their votes in the Security Council on the kind of resolution that he wants?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not in the business of predicting the actions that will be taken by sovereign nations, that is up to them to do.

But I think what you are seeing here is a serious diplomatic effort underway and it's going to continue. And that is, I think, what the American people and what the world would expect. It is important for international organizations to have meaning. It is important for proliferation regimes to work if we're going to send a signal to the world that we will enforce proliferations regimes so that weapons of mass destruction cannot be spread or can be easily acquired with impunity from the very international organizations who at their heart and soul must be dedicated to the stopping of the Saddam Husseins now and in the future.

Q Can I just follow-up? Does the President feel that these people, such as the Presidents of Russia and France and China, would voice some opposition, or their officials would voice some opposition to the American's stand on this? Does he feel that they're doing it out of sincere beliefs that war is not necessary?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President, of course, believes that the leaders he's working with are working in sincere faith. And, frankly, in the days and the weeks leading up to the vote that the Security Council took in November, there were a variety of different opinions shared, not all in unison with the United States.

And because of careful diplomacy, because of the President's dedication to working well with the United Nations, and also to leading the world, you saw a 15-0 vote. I cannot predict what will be the outcome this time. But that's the pattern that the President put in place last time. Nobody know what will happen this time. But that is why the President approaches it as seriously as he does. Their voices count, their opinions are important. He will engage with them, as he did today, in ongoing diplomacy. But make no mistake, he will also lead.

Q If I could change the subject. We just had a briefing by the Justice Department on the increase in the threat level. Can you just tell us, from the President's perspective, what information was shared with him, what role he played in the decision making?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, for the last several days, leading back even a little bit longer -- of course the President, as you know -- I report it each morning, when I say to you what has now become a routine part of your day -- is when I say, the President began with a CIA briefing followed by an FBI briefing.

The purpose of it is for the CIA to provide the President with the latest information that they are able to gather from a variety of sources, about a variety of matters, worldwide, that could affect the United States. Then, as you know, in a change that was put in place after September 11th, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security are integrated into this.

So the information that has been under review has been brought to the President's attention for the last several days in these morning meetings. Specifically this morning, the President had his FBI -- his CIA briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. Information, again, was brought to the President's attention. That was followed by a meeting of the Homeland Security Council in the Situation Room this morning. The President did not --

Q The President took part in that meeting?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President does not take part in that. A meeting took place of the Homeland Security Council. The Homeland Security Council met for a little more than an hour to discuss the information, to discuss response to it, and to discuss the recommendation to increase the alert to high.

They concluded the meeting, and at 10:12 a.m. this morning, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge and Attorney General Ashcroft came into the Oval Office and made the recommendation to the President to increase the alert. The President, based on the information he already had, and having received then the recommendation from the Homeland Security Council, concurred in their recommendation, in their decision. Technically, it's a decision of the Attorney General, or legally of the Attorney General, but it of course comes to the President. And that all took place at 10:12 a.m. this morning.

Q Was there any discussion over the -- you said it's been several days that they've been looking at this information, discussing, I guess, in these meetings the possibility of the need to raise the threat level, or was there something new that you saw today that pushed it over the top?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it gets discussed every day, whether or not the alert level should stay at the current level. Typically ,it remains at that level as information is assessed. But there are two factors that go into it. One is the reporting, the information that we receive. The second piece is the analyzing of the information. And the two go on concurrently.

So as all the information was analyzed this morning, in the formal process of the meeting of the Homeland Security Council, the broad group, which represents many different agencies, made the recommendation, the recommendation which reached the President, and the President concurred. That is the process.

Q Why the big push on the economic package? Are you worried that it's gotten sort of luke-warm support on Capitol Hill this far?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there's a big push on the economic package because the President believes in the plan he has sent into the Congress. The President is pleased, of course, that the Congress this year will be a little bit more likely to pass many of the elements that he proposed than the one that last year, as a result of the election. But nevertheless, it remains a close Congress, and it's important to always, at all times, work with members of Congress. Members of Congress have their own thoughts, their own ideas, and that's important. That's the only way any President will work with a Congress successfully, is to visit with them, to talk to them, and also to talk to the country.

The President believes deeply in the proposals he's made. He's very -- on the one hand, the President noted, as he said this morning, that the unemployment rate today dropped from 6 percent to 5.7 percent. But the President remains concerned about the overall strength of the economy, and he wants to make certain that we continue to push for more jobs in this country and more growth in this country

Q Is he willing to give up certain items that might not be so popular on the Hill?

MR. FLEISCHER: Steve, are you asking to negotiate with myself on behalf of the President, who I won't speak for on a matter that will be discussed with the Congress? No, the President is going to fight for the plans that he submitted to the Hill. He put them together because he believes they are the best policies. He understands the process and we're engaging him.

Q Ari, you mentioned before that the focus over the next couple of weeks would be on jobs at home and diplomacy abroad. Left out of that formulation is any mention of explaining and justifying war to the American people, or preparing them for the risk that this doesn't go as smoothly as a lot of people might expect or hope.

MR. FLEISCHER: Obviously, anything dealing with diplomacy abroad gets communicated to the world, gets communicated to the American people, as well. I don't rule out that you certainly will, when the President's travels, as you well know, when the President goes out, for example, and gives speeches around the country, he'll have a new policy that he may announce domestically, but typically the President will also discuss international events.

And so the President will continue as he travels to talk about global affairs as part of his overall remarks.

Q But more broadly, is he confident that he has made the case to the American people -- not to France or Russia or China -- but to the American people, that this is something that he needs to do and that it's going to entail risks and casualties and potentially long-term costs?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, the -- first of all, you have to keep in mind the President has not made the decision that force will be used. The President has, of course, in his State of the Union, talked directly to the American people about the nature of the threat and why it's important that one way or another Saddam Hussein be disarmed.

The President directed the Secretary of State to travel to the United Nations, where his speech was watched around the globe, of course, and tens of millions of Americans saw both the State of the Union and Secretary Powell's presentations. The President understands that if there is more to come, the President will continue to honor his obligation to our democracy, to talk more and explain more.

So, no, you have not seen the end of that story in the event that the President decides there is more necessary.

Q Ari, going back to raise the threat from yellow to orange is a concern, since we don't hear any more from Osama bin Laden, or we don't talk about him anymore. So who is the new boss? Where all these threats are coming from? And who is directing these terrorists?

MR. FLEISCHER: This is exactly why we have, for more than a year now, said this is about much more than any one person. There remains a network of people who hate the United States, who on September 11th showed us, they'll attack us if they can. And it's not the first time, unfortunately. We've had our embassies abroad attacked. We've had our ships attacked abroad. September 11th, they traveled to our own shores.

There remain people -- despite the disruptions that have taken place, despite much of the activity that has hindered their abilities -- there remain people who would seek to attack us. Based on the information that we have gathered, we have heightened concerns at this time. And that is why the threat code was put in place in the first place. That is why we work so closely through the Department of Homeland Security with -- not only local law enforcement, state police, city police, local police -- but as well as infrastructures, the various sectors of our society, many of which have their own security entities, private security operations which have a role in deterring an attack.

And so these mechanisms have all been part of our country's fabric for quite a number of years. Since September 11th, what's happened on the federal level is we've brought more means available to coordinate them, to communicate with them. And particularly if Congress passed the final appropriation bill, it would give them $3.5 billion more money to do their work.

Q Let me follow one more on the economy. During my recent visit to India, most people there were not worried that the U.S. would attack Iraq or not, but the economy -- some people are -- more people are worried their economy also. The question is now the prices -- oil prices and gold prices are going up. And so what is the future, what message you think President will have for these small business who are hurting really because of this tax of war?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, this remains an issue for the American people. I think the American people get it at all times -- but they get it even more now -- why it's so important to be energy independent.

And this remains an important priority of what the President -- and as you know, this week he had several events focusing on future ways to make America energy independent through breakthroughs in technology. But there remains more that Congress can do now, in term of improving America's energy infrastructure and America's energy independence. And we hope the Congress will take action on those matters.

Q Ari, two questions on the threat level. Anything different that the White House is doing, or White House officials are doing because of this new threat level? For instance, the Vice President, is he going to an undisclosed location? Anything of this sort, anything different here?

MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, periodically, the Vice President and the President do work apart. We will do our best to inform you of anything along those lines. I don't have anything for you today on that. We do try to share with you scheduling information to the best degree we can, with an eye toward security, of course, at all times.

But there are a series of concrete things that people can see, that they can know are happening as a result of the alert being moved up to high. Let me share a couple of those with you.

In the area of transportation, of course. The Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports around the country are likely to increase the number of random examinations conducted at airport security checks. I think you may anticipate an increased presence of federal air marshals assigned to flights. I think in terms of Customs and their activities, customs and immigration inspectors will be requesting more people -- questioning more people more closely as they cross the land border or enter the United States through international airports.

As part of this process, travel documents, which often are at the discretion of officials in how to view them, will be increasingly scrutinized. Customs inspectors will increase the number of vehicles, refer to secondary inspection areas for closer scrutiny, with non-intrusive inspection equipment. Cargo inspections are likely to go up.

There are a whole variety of activities that can be carried out by the federal agencies to reflect the increase in alert status. And I think, similarly, if you talk to various police departments and local departments, as we all adjust in this country together to the realities of life after September 11th, you will see local enforcement, local law enforcement increase their presence. And I certainly recognize that as local law enforcement works through what exactly does it mean to increase the alert status to high, they will ask questions. Part of this whole process is to provide every available federal resource to them at a time when not everything can be known about exactly how or where the enemy wants to hit us. Not all can be known because we have an enemy who is trying to hide it from us.

Based on what we do know, we pass it on to local authorities. We can't know everything. Therefore, not everything can be known. And it still requires extra vigilance and extra actions.

Q You walked over to Treasury right after the President made his decision. Can you enlighten us on his mood or on anything that he said about having to make this decision to raise the threat level and really change the feeling of the country?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President, having received in his morning briefings this information about the nature of the threats and the advice and counsel of the experts in the government who deal with this, the President when he was informed about the recommendation, his statement was, I agree, change the code.

The President is determined. This is the President who has repeatedly warned the American people that we have enemies who remain dedicated to hitting -- and hitting the United States, and hitting the United States in ways that if they could would be horrible. As Secretary Powell said, as the President said, if on September 11th our enemies had other weapons at their disposal, they would use them. So the sad fact is, this does remain the reality of today. The good fact remains, the American people and the American government have never, ever before let any challenge stop us from achieving our national objectives. And that is the reality of the world we live in today.

Q Ari, the President has said he would welcome a second U.N. resolution. Is that desire strong enough that he would go back to the U.N. and speak directly to the Security Council?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not in a position to make any predictions. But I would not suggest to you that because the President did it on September 12th would be any need for him to do it again. I think now the burden falls on the shoulders of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council to review the facts, to review the intelligence that has been shared, to evaluate what they know about Saddam Hussein and his possession of weapons of mass destruction, his absolute failure to comply with the inspectors -- who were sent there not to hunt around the country in search of weapons but to verify that he has actually disarmed from the weapons he has.

The President believes that they will make those judgments, and this is a real time of telling for the United Nations Security Council on whether they are, indeed, an effective body in the 21st century.

Q Can you give us a little bit of readout on President Jiang Zemin's reaction during that telephone conversation? Can you do the same with President Chirac? What was his reaction to what President --

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, the two agreed about the importance of continuing to consult with each other. And I think that sums it up.

Q Did Chirac, for instance, indicate any willingness to consider something other than endless inspections? Did he indicate that there was a limit to his patience on Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: You know, again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak for foreign leaders, but --

Q I'm only asking you to convey what he indicated to the President of the United States.

MR. FLEISCHER: I appreciate the opportunity to speak for foreign leaders. But, no, it's not my place to do that. They had a warm call and the President again indicated that he respects France and it's important to continue the consultations, and they will.

Q You indicated the President wanted any new resolution to reinforce 1441. Obviously, as you indicated, diplomatic discussions will determine the exact language and how far it goes. But is there a minimum that the United States needs to see in a second resolution? Would it, for instance, have to declare that Iraq is yet again in material breach? Is there some minimum level here that would be required for it to actually reinforce 1441?

MR. FLEISCHER: The minimum is that it would to enforce what Resolution 1441 meant. And what Resolution 1441 meant was it was final, the words of the United Nations -- final. It said that Iraq is and continues to be in material breach. And it said if they are in material breach there will be serious consequences. That's what the President believes. It must disarm Saddam Hussein.

Q One other thing, if I may. The Attorney General indicated this morning that one of the threats received mentioned something about the end of the Hadj. I gather from that, that this particular threat warning will be in place at least through the end of the Hadj?

MR. FLEISCHER: It would not be my place to predict how long it would be in effect. And as I've indicated on numerous times, this is information that gets reviewed on a daily basis. And I will not try to predict when it will go down.

Q So there's no decision on that today, about --

MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, no. No.

Q Ari, with the threat level now at orange, what does that mean for us ordinary citizens? How are we to be protected or how can we protect ourselves against chemical, biological attacks?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think Secretary Ridge addressed this in his remarks, and General Ashcroft did, as well. I provided you the information about what this means to the government, what the government would be doing. As you've heard, everybody in our society can play a role in being vigilant and that's what has been called for.

Now, I recognize that it can sometimes be a nebulous phrase, but nevertheless, everybody -- Richard Reid is the perfect example of where vigilance stopped an attack that could have been a devastating one.

And the job of the average citizen is to continue to be vigilant, while knowing that the agencies of the government that the taxpayers pay for, at the federal level, the state level and the local level, will be kicking it into higher gear to provide greater protections, based on the new warning.

Q Ari, I have another one -- it's a different question.

Q She gets two? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: That would be a cutback from the normal number of ones everybody has had so far in the first two rows. So this represents a 33 percent reduction in the number of --

Q Well, not everybody.

MR. FLEISCHER: That's true, Bill. (Laughter.)

Q She gets your question.

MR. FLEISCHER: Bill Plante did not have a question today.

Q I have not yet.

Q Thank you, thank you. And you are to be quiet. (Laughter.)

The President is requesting $110 million in next year's budget for increased military aid to Colombia. What's our intended mission there, anti-drug or anti-terror?

MR. FLEISCHER: It is the both. As you know, as a result of an act of Congress that was passed last year, the counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism efforts in Colombia have been enhanced, as we deal with the situation in Colombia. Our approach is based on that expanded authority that was provided by the Congress.

There are new deployments that are training deployments consistent with these new authorities. And I'll give you an example of one of them. Special forces are providing training to the Colombian armed forces for the protection of the Cano Limon oil pipeline, which is a strategic element of Colombia's economy and a key export. It has been attacked by terrorists on dozens of times per year, causing serious economic and environmental damage. So per the expanded authority provided by the Congress last year, it is both.

Q On the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, if this Zarqawi guy is such a threat, and we know from the satellite photographs exactly where the camp is, we have uncontested control over the air space, why hasn't any action been taken?

MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, you should not in that statement presume that we know exactly where he is, or at all times exactly where he is. We may have reporting on where he has been. Now, if you're asking me to talk about anything that may be a military operation, that, of course, is something I would never do.

Q Ari, since a big part of a second resolution would potentially be to show global support for ultimate action against Saddam potentially, is it important that the White House come away with another 15-0 vote, as it received in the first go-round?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, first of all, I don't think -- nobody has said that that is a standard that must be set. And I think it's fair to recognize that Germany, which is a member of the United Nations Security

Council, has spoken out very strongly on this matter. The President disagrees on this matter, but the President also respects the right of nations to disagree. So I have not heard any standards set about what the vote must be. The United Nations Security Council has its rules about what makes a resolution pass. And that standard remains in place.

Q Publicly and privately, comments from French diplomats don't necessarily jibe. Privately, some French diplomats are actually willing to paint a scenario in which they move into the same camp, or thought, as the White House, as the President. Did you detect, or did the President detect, at all, from his conversation with Mr. Chirac whether or not the French are, indeed, starting to move a little bit closer?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think that at the appropriate time, the vote will take place. And at that time we will learn what the positions are of the variety of nations. I'm not in position to predict what that outcome will be -- collectively or for any individual state of the United Nations Security Council.

The importance of it, however, remains paramount in the President's judgment about whether or not international organizations play a legitimate role. If they don't, in the case of disarming Saddam -- given his total defiance for 12 years -- at what point would they ever have any effect? What message would it send to the next would-be proliferator if their actions are meaningless now?

Q Ari, the President said today that all options are on the table in regards to North Korea. I'm wondering ,is this a reflection of some of the discontent we're seeing on Capitol Hill about our policies towards North Korea? Or is it a reflection of a rising level of exasperation on our part? Because if you recall, when we first went into this, we said, diplomatic course, possible economic sanctions, no military options. Then the economic sanctions disappeared, and it's only diplomacy, only diplomacy. Now we're back, military is on the table again.

MR. FLEISCHER: I hate to get back into this with you, but I think that's a misstatement of what transpired previously. I think it's a reflection of the fact that there may be some on Capitol Hill who have not paid close enough attention to the debate, and failed to observe the fact that the President and members of his administration have regularly said, going back months, that all options are on the table.

And so the President reiterated that longstanding policy today, saying again that he believes, as he talked to President Jiang about it this morning, that his can and should be handled on a multilateral basis and through a diplomatic fashion. And in that, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan.

Q -- now said the game is over in regards to Saddam Hussein.

MR. FLEISCHER: Wait a minute, we have both of you today? (Laughter.) This is four questions. It's the same news bureau. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, Ari. Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER: Ivan, you have the floor.

Q Who says there was a limit? They have a right.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, you have proved there is no limit. (Laughter.)

Q Very briefly, now that the President has said the game is over, does he want a deadline in the next resolution before the Security Council? And if it's not there, will he impose one soon before the end of the month --

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, again, in response to Mark's question, we are still within 24 hours of the President making this statement. And this will be a process. The process will unfold. There will be numerous suggestions, and numerous writers, and it's a serious process. I'm not going to predict any specific wordage, but what's important is the parameter that the President has set which is that this new resolution must enforce Resolution 1441.

Q Mr. Fleischer, yesterday -- you praised Turkey for its support on the war against Iraq, despite that 80 percent of Turkish -- disagree? I'm wondering -- to say about Greece, since the Greek government satisfied all your requests regarding the use of the bases and the air space? Are you satisfied, Mr. Fleischer, at the way Greece is handling the Iraqi crisis under the capacity, having the President of the European Union?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I've said previously, the President has been working, and the State Department, Department of Defense, have been working around the world talking to numerous allies of ours. And it's not my place to characterize what they do unless those nations take a public action. Different nations are contributing and helping out in different ways. I'd have to review the public information on Greece to give you a specific answer on it, but my standard has always been it's not my place to speak for other nations, but the President knows that there are many who have been very helpful to us.

Q You spoke to Turkey --

MR. FLEISCHER: They publicly stated their position. I'd have to verify what Greece has done publicly before I can publicly state it. We're going to keep moving here for a second. We've got hands coming back up on the first rows.

Q Can you tell me, did the President say anything to President Jiang regarding the heightened alert that is in the Pacific region, given the Korean situation, the Korean Peninsula?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, they talked about the importance of a multilateral approach and diplomatic solution. I don't think heightened alert -- no. But I think President Jiang understands, however, that the President has said that all options are on the table, but he believes this can be solved through diplomacy. I think that's a clear understanding.

Q Secondly, Ari --

MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to keep moving, and then we're going to come back.

Q There's a report in Financial Times that much of a British report, lauded by Secretary Powell at the U.N., was actually plagiarized and old information. What's the White House's response?

MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the report, so I couldn't comment it. I think Secretary Powell's presentation spoke volumes and was well received.

Q On some of the second resolution questions, in the Gulf War, the U.N. passed two resolutions condemning Iraq's actions and imposing economic sanctions, but it wasn't until November, when they passed 678, which basically said two things: it authorized the use of force, and it set a deadline. So without specific language, are those two types of things the President would look for, and if not getting into it specifically, does the administration look to this resolution as the last resolution?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I realize, as I said earlier, that this is just almost 24 hours after the President said it. It's a little too soon to start getting into the exact wording. Now, it's almost 24 hours and a couple minutes since I was last asked the same question. My answer remains the same.

It's too soon to indicate, because it is a real process. There will, at some point, be a time when pens are put to paper and language is available or language is knowable. That has not happened today. And that's the -- I think you all understand the process. And I think you would be surprised if it was a knowable answer this quickly.

Q Ari, American citizens continue to privately travel to Baghdad to register their opposition to war, the possibility of war. What does the President think about this?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, again, it remains the rights of Americans to speak out. I think that Americans have to be careful about travel to Baghdad, to be used by the regime of Saddam Hussein for purposes that would be at odds with America's traditions of honesty, credibility and being accurate with the American people.

It's important, if people decide that they want to speak out, to have that freedom within this country. The President accepts that and understands that and respects that.

Q On the President's remarks this morning about all objects being on the table with North Korea. Ever so often, there is a burst of alarm in news coverage about the administration's posture on the use of nuclear weapons. Can you clarify whether or not this administration has changed the longstanding policy with regard to the use of nuclear weapons?

MR. FLEISCHER: There has been a decades-long policy about America's use of nuclear weapons, and it remains in effect. And that is, we don't rule anything in, we don't rule anything out, and we don't comment on it. That has been the decades long policy, that remains the policy.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:50 P.M. EST

Return to this article at:

Print this document