For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 17, 2003
March 16, 2003 Press Availability with President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, President Aznar, and Prime Minister Barroso
Community Activity Center Ballroom
Terceira, the Azores, Portugal
5:30 P.M. (Local)
PRIME MINISTER BARROSO: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I
am very pleased to welcome here in the Azores the leaders of three
friends and allied countries, the United States, Spain and United
Kingdom. President Bush, Prime Minister Aznar, and Prime Minister Tony
This meeting in the Azores also shows the importance of
transatlantic relations, and also shows the solidarity among our
countries. Actually, these agreements have approved two statements,
one statement on transatlantic relations, and a declarative statement
We have joined this initiative and we organized it here in the
Azores because we thought this was the last opportunity for a political
solution -- and this is how we see it, this is the last possibility
for a political solution to the problem. Maybe it's a small chance, a
small possibility, but even if it's one in one million, it's always
worthwhile fighting for a political solution. And I think this is the
message that we can get from this Atlantic summit.
As I was saying, for my English-speaking guests, I'll speak English
now. First of all, let me say, welcome, George Bush, to Europe. I
think it's important that we meet here, in a European country, in
Portugal, but in this territory of Azores that is halfway between the
continent of Europe and the continent of America. I think it's not
only logistically convenient, it has a special political meaning --
the beautiful meaning of our friendship and our commitment to our
So welcome to all of you. Welcome to you. And I now give the
floor to President George Bush.
THE PRESIDENT: Jose, thank you very much for your hospitality.
You've done a great job on such short notice. And I'm honored to be
standing to here with you and two other friends as we work toward a
great cause, and that is peace and security in this world.
We've had a really good discussion. We've been doing a lot of
phone talking and it was good to get together and to visit and to
talk. And we concluded that tomorrow is a moment of truth for the
world. Many nations have voiced a commitment to peace and security.
And now they must demonstrate that commitment to peace and security in
the only effective way, by supporting the immediate and unconditional
disarmament of Saddam Hussein.
The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a
threat to the security of free nations. He is a danger to his
neighbors. He's a sponsor of terrorism. He's an obstacle to progress
in the Middle East. For decades he has been the cruel, cruel oppressor
of the Iraq people.
On this very day 15 years ago, Saddam Hussein launched a chemical
weapons attack on the Iraqi village of Halabja. With a single order
the Iraqi regime killed thousands of men and women and children,
without mercy or without shame. Saddam Hussein has proven he is
capable of any crime. We must not permit his crimes to reach across
Saddam Hussein has a history of mass murder. He possesses the
weapons of mass murder. He agrees -- he agreed to disarm Iraq of
these weapons as a condition for ending the Gulf War over a decade
ago. The United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1441, has
declared Iraq in material breach of its longstanding obligations,
demanding once again Iraq's full and immediate disarmament, and
promised serious consequences if the regime refused to comply. That
resolution was passed unanimously and its logic is inescapable; the
Iraqi regime will disarm itself, or the Iraqi regime will be disarmed
by force. And the regime has not disarmed itself.
Action to remove the threat from Iraq would also allow the Iraqi
people to build a better future for their society. And Iraq's
liberation would be the beginning, not the end, of our commitment to
its people. We will supply humanitarian relief, bring economic
sanctions to a swift close, and work for the long-term recovery of
Iraq's economy. We'll make sure that Iraq's natural resources are used
for the benefit of their owners, the Iraqi people.
Iraq has the potential to be a great nation. Iraq's people are
skilled and educated. We'll push as quickly as possible for an Iraqi
interim authority to draw upon the talents of Iraq's people to rebuild
their nation. We're committed to the goal of a unified Iraq, with
democratic institutions of which members of all ethnic and religious
groups are treated with dignity and respect.
To achieve this vision, we will work closely with the international
community, including the United Nations and our coalition partners. If
military force is required, we'll quickly seek new Security Council
resolutions to encourage broad participation in the process of helping
the Iraqi people to build a free Iraq.
Crucial days lie ahead for the world. I want to thank the leaders
here today, and many others, for stepping forward and taking
leadership, and showing their resolve in the cause of peace and the
cause of security.
PRESIDENT AZNAR: Good evening everyone. I would firstly like to
thank the Prime Minister, Jose Durao, for his hospitality and welcome,
which I particularly am grateful for. And I'm very pleased to be in
the Azores once again.
I have short remarks on our debate on this situation and on the
documents we've agreed on during today's meeting. I'd first like to
refer to our document on Atlantic solidarity. We have renewed Atlantic
commitment on our common values and principles, in favor of democracy,
freedom and the rule of law.
We understand that the expression of this commitment is essential,
by way of guarantee of peace, security and international freedom. And
I honestly believe that there is no other alternative to the expression
of the Atlantic commitment in terms of security. We are committed on a
day-to-day fight against new threats, such as terrorism, weapons of
mass destruction, and tyrannic regimes that do not comply with
international law. They threaten all of us, and we must all act,
This transatlantic link, this transatlantic solidarity has always
been, is, and should continue to be, in my opinion, a great European
commitment, and as such, amongst other things, we express it this way
-- without this commitment, today's Europe could not be understood.
And without that commitment, it would be very difficult to picture the
Europe of tomorrow.
So I would like to invite our friends, our allies, to leave aside
any circumstantial differences and to work together seriously for that
commitment of democracy, freedom and peace, so that this becomes a
commitment of us all.
We've agreed on launching, on boosting the Middle East peace
process, and on our vision that that peace process has to accommodate
with all necessary security guarantees and putting an end to
terrorism. And this should end with the peaceful coexistence of two
states, an independent Palestinian state and the Israeli state.
In view of the situation created by Iraq, with their continued
non-compliance of international law, I would like to remind you that we
all said before we came here that we were not coming to the Azores to
make a declaration of war, that we were coming after having made every
possible effort, after having made this effort, continuing to make this
effort, to working to achieve the greatest possible agreement, and for
international law to be respected and for U.N. resolutions to be
And we would like to say that we are aware of the fact that this is
the last opportunity -- the last opportunity expressed in Resolution
1441, adopted unanimously by the Security Council, and that being aware
that this is the last opportunity, we are also making the last effort.
And we are ready to make this last effort of the very many efforts
we've been making throughout these last weeks and months.
We are well aware of the international world public opinion, of its
concern. And we are also very well aware of our responsibilities and
obligations. If Saddam Hussein wants to disarm and avoid the serious
consequences that he has been warned about by the United Nations, he
can do so. And nothing in our document, nor in our statement, can
prevent him from doing so, if he wants to. So his is the sole
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Thank you, Jose Maria. Thank you, Jose, for
hosting us today. And I think it's just worth returning to the key
point, which is our responsibility to uphold the will of the United
Nations set out in Resolution 1441 last November. And for four and a
half months, now, we've worked hard to get Saddam to cooperate fully,
unconditionally, as that resolution demanded.
Even some days ago we were prepared to set out clear tests that
allowed us to conclude whether he was cooperating fully or not, with a
clear ultimatum to him if he refused to do so. And the reason we
approached it in that is that that is what we agreed in Resolution
1441. This was his final opportunity; he had to disarm
unconditionally. Serious consequences would follow if he failed to do
And this is really the impasse that we have, because some say there
should be no ultimatum, no authorization of force in any new U.N.
resolution; instead, more discussion in the event of noncompliance.
But the truth is that without a credible ultimatum authorizing force in
the event of noncompliance, then more discussion is just more delay,
with Saddam remaining armed with weapons of mass destruction and
continuing a brutal, murderous regime in Iraq.
And this game that he is playing is, frankly, a game that he has
played over the last 12 years. Disarmament never happens. But
instead, the international community is drawn into some perpetual
negotiation, gestures designed to divide the international community,
but never real and concrete cooperation leading to disarmament.
And there's not a single person on the Security Council that doubts
the fact he is not fully cooperating today. Nobody, even those who
disagree with the position that we have outlined, is prepared to say
there is full cooperation, as 1441 demanded.
Not a single interview has taken place outside of Iraq, even though
1441 provided for it. Still, no proper production or evidence of the
destruction, or, for example, -- just to take one example, the 10,000
liters of anthrax that the inspectors just a week ago said was
unaccounted for. And that is why it is so important that the
international community, at this time, gives a strong and unified
And I have to say that I really believe that had we given that
strong message sometime ago, Saddam might have realized that the games
had to stop. So now we have reached the point of decision, and we make
a final appeal for there to be that strong, unified message on behalf
of the international community that lays down a clear ultimatum to
Saddam that authorizes force if he continues to defy the will of the
whole of the international community set out in 1441.
We will do all we can in the short time that remains to make a
final round of contacts, to see whether there is a way through this
impasse. But we are in the final stages, because, after 12 years of
failing to disarm him, now is the time when we have to decide.
Two other points, briefly, on the documents that we've put before
you. The first is the -- President Aznar was just saying to you a
moment ago on the transatlantic alliance is, I think, very important.
Some of you will have heard me say this before, but let me just repeat
it. I believe that Europe and America should stand together on the big
issues of the day. I think it is a tragedy when we don't. And that
transatlantic alliance is strong and we need to strengthen it still
And secondly, we've set out for you that should it come to
conflict, we make a pledge to the people of Iraq. As President Bush
was just saying to you a moment or two ago, it is the people of Iraq
who are the primary victims of Saddam: the thousands of children that
die needlessly every year; the people locked up in his prisons or
executed simply for showing disagreement with the regime; a country
that is potentially prosperous reduced to poverty; 60 percent of the
population reliant on food aid.
And what we say is that we will protect Iraq's territorial
integrity; we will support representative government that unites Iraq
on the democratic basis of human rights and the rule of law; that we
will help Iraq rebuild -- and not rebuild because of the problems of
conflict, where if it comes to that, we will do everything we can to
minimize the suffering of the Iraqi people, but rebuild Iraq because of
the appalling legacy that the rule of Saddam has left the Iraqi people
-- and in particular, Iraq's natural resources remain the property of
the people of Iraq. And that wealth should be used for the Iraqi
people. It is theirs, and will remain so, administered by the U.N. in
the way we set out.
Finally, on the Middle East peace process, I welcome very much the
statement that President Bush made the other day. I think it's
important now. He said he wanted a partner on the Palestinian side. I
think the coming appointment of Abu Mazen is so important there. It
allows us to take this process forward. The road map give us the way
forward. The appointment of Abu Mazen gives us the right partner to
take this forward. And I believe that that will demonstrate, and it's
important to demonstrate, in particular at this time, that our approach
to people in the Middle East, in that troubled region is indeed
even-handed. And all of us will work to make sure that that vision of
the Middle East, two states, Israel confident of its security, a
Palestinian state that is viable, comes about and is made reality.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. They couldn't hear the question.
Q I was asking the Portuguese Prime Minister, how does he see
the result of this summit. Does the Prime Minister think that starting
now, Portugal has more responsibilities with this war that seems to be
PRIME MINISTER BARROSO: The results of the summit, as I described
them and as all the other heads of state and government said it, too,
this summit is -- this is the last opportunity for a political
solution to this very serious problem for the international community.
This has been said here. It's been said here that tomorrow --
tomorrow we'll start with these last initiatives towards a political
solution. And it's for that reason I am very, very happy with the
results of this summit.
Now, coming to our responsibility in case there is a conflict, I
must say that the responsibility falls entirely on the dictator Saddam
Hussein. He bears the entire responsibility because he has not
respected for all of these years international law and consistently
violated the U.N. resolutions. And in that case, if there is a
conflict, I want to repeat it once more, Portugal will be next --
side by side with his allies. And the fact that we are here today in
the Azores with the United States, with Spain and with the UK, this is
As it's been said here before, the transatlantic relationship is
very, very important, not only for Europe and for the U.S., but it's
very important for the whole world. I remember a few days ago, Kofi
Annan in the European conference in Brussels, said the same thing --
he said this is very important. It's very important for Europe and the
U.S. to remain united and not separate, because the world needs the
U.S. and Europe working together towards the same direction, in the
same sense -- not only about the security, but also fighting
under-development and all the other tasks that fall to the
PRESIDENT BUSH: Ron Fournier.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Before I ask my question I just
want to nail down one thing so there's no confusion. When you talk
about tomorrow being the moment of truth, are you saying that is the
PRESIDENT BUSH: Is this the question, or are you trying to work in
Q Yes, sir. (Laughter.) Because there's one thing we need to
make clear. When you say tomorrow is the moment of truth, does that
mean tomorrow is the last day that the resolution can be voted up or
down, and at the end of the day tomorrow, one way or another the
diplomatic window has close?
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's what I'm saying.
Q Thank you, sir. And now for the question --
PRESIDENT BUSH: And now for your question?
Q That being the case, regardless --
PRESIDENT BUSH: That being my answer --
Q Regardless of whether the resolution goes up or down or gets
withdrawn, it seems to me you're going to be facing a moment of truth.
And given that you've already said you don't think there's very much
chance Saddam Hussein is going to disarm, and given that you say you
don't think there's very much chance he's going to go to go into exile,
aren't we going to war?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether
or not diplomacy can work. And we sat and visited about this issue,
about how best to spend our time between now and tomorrow. And as
Prime Minister Blair said, we'll be working the phones and talking to
our partners and talking to those who may now clearly understand the
objective, and we'll see how it goes tomorrow.
Saddam Hussein can leave the country, if he's interested in peace.
You see, the decision is his to make. And it's been his to make all
along as to whether or not there's the use of the military. He got to
decide whether he was going to disarm, and he didn't. He can decide
whether he wants to leave the country. These are his decisions to
make. And thus far he has made bad decisions.
Q I understand that if tomorrow is the day for taking the final
decision, that means that you consider that there's no possible way out
through the United Nations because a majority does not support a war
action. I would like to know, Mr. Blair, Mr. Bush, whether in that
military offensive you count on many countries, whether it's going to
be the UK and the U.S. carrying out the military offensive? I
understand from what Mr. Blair that you're counting on the U.N. for the
reconstruction. Are you going to look for other countries through the
And for Mr. Aznar, what is Spain's participation in that military
offensive, in addition to your political support?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Resolution 1441, which was unanimously approved,
that said Saddam Hussein would unconditionally disarm, and if he
didn't, there would be serious consequences. The United Nations
Security Council looked at the issue four and a half months ago and
voted unanimously to say: Disarm immediately and unconditionally, and
if you don't, there are going to be serious consequences. The world
has spoken. And it did it in a unified voice.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: The issue is very simply this, that we
cannot have a situation where what happens through the United Nations,
having agreed to 1441, having said there would be serious consequences
if he does not cooperate fully and unconditionally, what we cannot have
is a situation where we simply go back for endless discussion.
Now, we have provided the right diplomatic way through this, which
is to lay down a clear ultimatum to Saddam: Cooperate or face
disarmament by force. And that is entirely within the logic, the
letter, the spirit of 1441. And that is why -- all the way through
we have tried to provide a diplomatic solution. After over four and a
half months since we passed Resolution 1441, we're now three months on
from the declaration that Saddam on the 8th of December that not a
single person in the international community -- not one -- believes
was an honest declaration of what he had. And yet, 1441 said, the
first step of cooperation was to make an honest declaration.
So when people say haven't we exhausted all the diplomatic avenues,
we tried exhausting. But understand from our perspective and from the
perspective of the security of the world, we cannot simply go back to
the Security Council, for this discussion to be superseded by that
discussion, to be superseded by another discussion. That's what's
happened for 12 years. That's why he's still got the weapons of mass
destruction. We have to come to the point of decision. And that
really is what the next period of time is going to be about.
PRESIDENT AZNAR: Well, I would like to say that this statement
we're making today, as we've all said, it's a last chance, one last
attempt to reach the greatest possible consensus amongst ourselves.
And I can assure all of you that we've made -- we have all made
-- enormous efforts, and we're going to continue making these efforts
in order to try to reach an agreement, to reach a solution.
We have our own worry, our own responsibility to make U.N.
resolutions be abided by. If the Security Council unanimously adopts a
resolution -- Resolution 1441 -- giving one last opportunity to
disarm to someone who has weapons of mass destruction and we know he
has used them, the Security Council cannot, one year after the other,
wait for its resolutions to be implemented. That would be the best way
to do away with it altogether. And it could do away with all the
United Nations' credibility. And we honestly don't want that to
To me, there is no -- you cannot have the same distance between
illegality and impunity. And neither Saddam Hussein, nor any other
tyrant with weapons of mass destruction can set the rules for
international law and the international community.
Q I'm from the BBC. Can I ask, first of all, Prime Minister
Blair -- you said that you want a second resolution to be put down
and voted on. Could we be clear; is that what's going to happen
tomorrow, under all circumstances?
And either way -- also, if I may, for President Bush -- if you
don't get that second resolution, what is the future for the United
Nations? You talked about Saddam Hussein dividing world community.
Surely, he succeeded.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, on your last point, I think this is
one of the things that is tragic about this situation, that Saddam
plays these games and we carry on allowing him to play them. Now, we
will do, in the next period of time, with respect to the resolution,
what we believe to be in the interest of the U.N.
But I would say why I think it is so important that even now, at
this late stage, we try to get the United Nations to be the root of
resolving this -- because the threat is there and everyone accepts
it: the threat of weapons of mass destruction, the threat of weapons
of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists who will cause maximum
damage to our people. Everybody accepts the disarmament of Saddam has
to happen. Everybody accepts that he was supposed to cooperate fully
with the inspectors. Everybody accepts that he is not doing so.
So, whatever the tactics within the U.N. -- and that's something
we can decide -- whatever those tactics, the key point of principle
is this: that when we came together last November and laid down
Resolution 1441, now is the moment when we decide whether we meant it
and it was his final opportunity to disarm, or face serious
consequences -- or whether, alternatively, we're simply going to drag
out the diplomatic process forever. And that's why I say it's the
point of decision.
Q Vote or not?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I was the guy that said they ought to vote. And
one country voted -- at least showed their cards, I believe. It's an
old Texas expression, show your cards, when you're playing poker.
France showed their cards. After I said what I said, they said they
were going to veto anything that held Saddam to account. So cards have
been played. And we'll just have to take an assessment after tomorrow
to determine what that card meant.
Let me say something about the U.N. It's a very important
organization. That's why I went there on September the 12th, 2002, to
give the speech, the speech that called the U.N. into account, that
said if you're going to pass resolutions, let's make sure your words
mean something. Because I understand the wars of the 21st century are
going to require incredible international cooperation. We're going to
have to cooperate to cut the money of the terrorists, and the ability
for nations, dictators who have weapons of mass destruction to provide
training and perhaps weapons to terrorist organizations. We need to
cooperate, and we are. Our countries up here are cooperating
And the U.N. must mean something. Remember Rwanda, or Kosovo. The
U.N. didn't do its job. And we hope tomorrow the U.N. will do its
job. If not, all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to
make the U.N. work better as we head into the 21st century. Perhaps
one way will be, if we use military force, in the post-Saddam Iraq the
U.N. will definitely need to have a role. And that way it can begin to
get its legs, legs of responsibility back.
But it's important for the U.N. to be able to function well if
we're going to keep the peace. And I will work hard to see to it that
at least from our perspective, that the U.N. is able to be -- able to
be a responsibility body, and when it says something, it means it, for
the sake of peace and for the sake of the security, for the capacity to
win the war of -- the first war of the 21st century, which is the war
against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of
Thank you all.
PRIME MINISTER BARROSO: Thank you very much, ladies and
gentlemen. This is the end of the conference. Have a good trip.
END 6:05 P.M. (L)