Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 4, 2003 (Full Transcript)
QUESTION: On that trip, what are they going to discuss?
I understand it's also the Middle East and Northern Ireland. And on
the Middle East, is it possible that this could be the trip that the
road map is released, or because of the complications with the
confirmation of a Palestinian that won't be happening?
MR. FLEISCHER: The trip will focus on the operations in
They will talk about the status of the ongoing military operation,
they will talk about the humanitarian relief efforts, they'll talk
about reconstruction and they'll talk about the role of the United
Nations. They will also talk about the peace process in Northern
Ireland. And I think the subject of the Middle East could come up,
well. I don't have anything further for you about any specifics on
Middle East about the road map. I don't know if that's the case.
QUESTION: Safe to say not to expect that, or --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't like to predict every outcome of
meeting, but there's nothing that I've heard or seen that would
me to believe that to be the case.
QUESTION: This morning you said that the President
believes the U.N.
will have a role in post --
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
QUESTION: Can you spell it out a little more?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the focus of the future in Iraq --
I want to caution everybody, is not yet here. We still are in the
middle of a battle, we still are at war. There are many dangers
can still lie ahead. And so while, yes, there is a look ahead, I
to make certain that everybody has this in the proper perspective,
America's military is still in the middle of armed conflict.
But as people look ahead and they focus on the future of Iraq,
what the President sees is an Iraq that is free, that is
where the people govern themselves. The people of Iraq are well
educated. The infrastructure of Iraq is actually spread throughout
the entire country of Iraq. And the Iraqi people are very capable
Through the military operation, as you can tell by the precise
nature of the military campaign, much of the infrastructure of Iraq
being maintained, so the Iraqi people will be able to quickly
themselves. The United Nations, in the President's judgment,
and will have a role. The role will be involved in humanitarian
efforts. The role will be involved in help on the reconstruction
But, principally, the future of Iraq is for the Iraqis to
decide. The United States, of course, is on the ground providing
security, and that's an important part of this. But there will be
role for the U.N. The exact nature of it, I think, is still a
early to talk about, or to know about. I think there will be some
conversations about it. That's where it lies.
QUESTION: While I have you, could I just ask one
non-related question? Is
there any possibility that the President and Blair will discuss any
kind of peace proposal? Is there anything coming through the
MR. FLEISCHER: Vis-a-vis Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the mission is the mission. The mission
will be completed with the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's regime
with the regime being changed.
QUESTION: So there's no peace proposal that's in the
MR. FLEISCHER: No, you should not look for that.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? What you're
talking about in
terms of the Iraqis taking over their government is more long
We haven't --
MR. FLEISCHER: Not necessarily.
QUESTION: Well, who have you identified there who is
in a position
to move in and --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, when it comes to the infrastructure
of course, the vital services, the municipal services, the running
the food programs, water delivery, things of that nature -- of
course the civilian infrastructure can take over, we hope, as
as possible as events on the ground dictate.
Now, when it comes to the over-arching larger political
questions of who will run Iraq, in terms of the broader political
sense, it's impossible at this date to give names. What the
has said is that this should be a matter for Iraqis from both
and outside Iraq to govern their country, and that the territorial
integrity of Iraq must be maintained. That's our approach.
QUESTION: But back to the U.N. role, I mean, you said
the U.N. will
help in the reconstruction effort. But others in the
are on the record -- Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell have
talked about having U.S. officials moving in and taking over
administrations or, you know, departments that still exist --
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
QUESTION: -- and not having the U.N. move in
immediately and do
that, versus what Prime Minister Blair has said.
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think they said anything about not
having the U.N. move in. As you know, the President made a
in the Azores, which everybody -- that's the American position,
that is that there will be a role for the United Nations, exactly
said, exactly as Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Powell have said,
involving humanitarian aspects and reconstruction aspects.
Don't think for a second that means the United States will not
continue to have the role that we are playing and the mission that
are moving forward on to help continue to provide for the Iraqi
as the security situation goes forward, as well as some type of
civilian administration that reports to General Franks.
QUESTION: Finally, representatives from France,
Russia and Germany
today to talk about this very issue. Have there been any
between our government and theirs to -- about the U.N. role? Or
you strictly dealing with Blair?
MR. FLEISCHER: Secretary Powell met in Brussels with
23 nations -- I believe it was 23 -- from the European Union.
And, of course, he met with his counterparts from several of those
nations that you just mentioned, if not all. And the talks were
described as very positive and productive. It's part of the
But the central point remains that the future of Iraq, in the
President's judgment, will be governed by the Iraqi people. Iraq
govern itself. The United States will have its presence there,
because we will stay for as long as is necessary to provide the
security and for the infrastructure to be protected and to be
administered, until the point where the Iraqis can take it over
QUESTION: But that'll be the United States staying
there, and not
the U.N., until the Iraqis can take it over --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but the U.N. -- exactly as I said, the
U.N. will have a role. Sometimes we do things side-by-side.
QUESTION: But at what point will the Iraqis take over
government? Because there are some of them who seem to --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's too soon to say.
QUESTION: Well, some of them seem to expect, in
that they've made, to do it right away. But isn't the U.S.
going to effectively govern for at least an interim period?
MR. FLEISCHER: The U.S. military will effectively continue
fight a war that we're in the middle of. I still want to remind
everybody that is the status of events on the ground.
QUESTION: Yes, but I'm talking about after
hostilities or --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's why I say it's too soon to say. I
it all depends on how long hostilities last, and we don't know how
long hostilities will last. But the situation -- the design is
up so that once the security situation is taken care of, then
from both within and without Iraq will be working as part of the
interim Iraqi authority to govern Iraq.
QUESTION: But you're not saying how long a time
MR. FLEISCHER: -- it's not knowable. How can anybody say
long it will be with accuracy?
QUESTION: Ari, you and Pentagon officials have
emphasized that the
President is not micro-managing this war, that he approved the
war plan and has left the execution to the commanders. But now
approaching the battle of Baghdad, with the prospect of not only
casualties -- heavier casualties for coalition forces, for
troops, but also for Iraqi civilians.
At this point, will the President get more closely involved with
the day-to-day decisions?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is closely involved with the
to-day, but to state the obvious, when the plan was written, it was
anticipated that the plan would involve fighting in Baghdad.
part of the plan. It was anticipated. And the plan is being
implemented. And so General Franks will continue to make the
decisions, the timing decisions about the best way to conduct that
plan, to implement that plan, which I assure you, includes how to
QUESTION: So basically nothing has changed in regards
planning for the battle of Baghdad since before the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: The structure remains exactly in place,
the President begins each day with the briefings from the field,
through the National Security Council about the plan, how it is
implemented. He ends his day with updates on the plan, and then
continually in between as necessary.
So that's how the President approaches it. These decisions
remain decisions made by the field commanders because that's the
effective way to win a war.
QUESTION: Ari, there's a new Saddam tape out in which
he mentions the
downing of a U.S. helicopter on March 24th. Does this prove that
alive? Have you made any sort of determination?
MR. FLEISCHER: The tape does not give us any firm
one way or another. As has happened in the past, the tape will go
through the typical analysis, the technical analysis to determine
whether the voice is, indeed, Saddam Hussein's, et cetera. That
be done. At this stage, all I can tell you is we don't know. I
also tell you in the bigger scheme of things, it really doesn't
matter. Because whether it is him, or whether it isn't him, the
regime's days are numbered and are coming to an end.
I do note that there was one reference in the tape -- Saddam
Hussein saying that coalition forces, or United States' forces went
around the defenses of Baghdad. Which, of course, is not the
The facts, if anybody was there to witness the facts, are we
the forces defending Baghdad. We hardly went around them. So I'd
QUESTION: Follow-up on Elizabeth's question. What
role do you anticipate
for -- does the administration anticipate for exiles in the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is already a role being played
exiles in the current mission in Iraq. As you know, the nation of
Hungary, to whom we are most grateful, provided training for a
of exiles. They went to Hungary and then have gone into the
with the military. And they served very helpful roles there as
translators and guides and performing other services for the
And one of the interesting things was that we saw as a sign of
success in Afghanistan -- that I think we will see as a sign of
success in Iraq -- is a willingness of people to return to their
country. These people, in some instances, are Americans, but they
want to return to where they were from because they taste for the
first time that Iraq may be free. And we anticipate that many
who fled tyranny and torture will want to return to Iraq from
the world, not just in the United States, as freedom grows on the
ground in Iraq.
QUESTION: So to be more specific, do you agree with a
report in the
Wall Street Journal today that the President rejected advice from
aides to the Vice President and the Defense Secretary to give
posts in the Iraqi-post war government to exiles?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we don't know exactly who is going to
what role in a post-government yet, so I think it's impossible to
speculate about that. The exact makeup of the post-government
leadership is not yet defined.
QUESTION: So the President wouldn't be opposed, then,
to roles for
exiles as opposed to consensus from the Iraqi people?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I've always said that the future
Iraq will be comprised of people from both within and outside
Always it's been both.
QUESTION: Just to follow-up on that. There are
reports that say that some
in the administration want to have the government led mostly by
in the short-term -- right now, maybe in southern Iraq, maybe in
around the airport to sort of get things up running. Is that
something that the White House is projecting at this point? Or are
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I should think for the structure of the
government-to-be it is soon to say. And this is why I keep wanting
remind everybody -- just days ago people were saying we were
down; and now they're saying, describe for us and give us the names
the government that's going to be running Iraq in the future.
still in the middle of war. So these things still are early.
still unknowable. We are thinking about them. But we don't have
answers yet. And we couldn't be expected to have precise answers
QUESTION: Just to clarify, the idea of the role for
the exiles in
any government, as far as the White House is concerned? You're
that you don't want them to necessarily take the lead while the
are on the ground?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me say it again. The President has
said that the future of Iraq will be governed by Iraqis from both
inside and outside Iraq. If they are from outside Iraq, they are
QUESTION: Following-up on that, are you referring to
eventual Iraqi government or a interim authority? The question
to be over the makeup of an interim authority. Previously, the
administration has said that a group of Iraqis from inside and
Iraq would meet to choose the composition of an interim authority,
which would lead the way to a permanent government. So are you
talking about the interim --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think even the membership on the interim
authority is just not knowable with precision. But as I just
reported, there already are people from outside Iraq who are now
inside Iraq, who are trained to go there to be a helpful part of
mission. And we will continue to work with the Iraqi people from
inside and outside Iraq on the makeup of the interim authorities,
well as the more permanent government.
QUESTION: So are you saying that several news reports
today that the
Pentagon has already chosen the composition of an interim-type
authority to help govern Iraq during the process, that those
MR. FLEISCHER: No, this still is in the development stage
not every point of it is yet set in stone. We're still fighting a
QUESTION: But that would require a presidential
decision, would it
not? The President would be the one who would decide whether or
we try to establish an interim government and who would be
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the President has already said
that we will work through an interim Iraqi authority. That's what
has said. There were calls for a provisional government to be
announced now -- and we do not support those calls, we support a
interim Iraqi authority, the exact makeup of it is too soon to
QUESTION: And what is the difference between a
government and an interim Iraqi authority?
MR. FLEISCHER: A provisional government, there are some who
called for the naming today of the Iraqi leader -- who will not
necessarily be inside Iraq. That's a provisional government and
history has seen its share of provisional governments. The
the President has taken is an interim Iraqi authority.
QUESTION: But is he having any -- it would be his
the Defense Department's, right? If, in fact, he decides to name
interim Iraqi authority?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, these are decisions that the President
makes and he works together with his team of national security
advisors to make those decisions.
QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure it was a
and not -- yes, right.
Now, is there -- has a decision been taken, what is the White
House view on whether or not an interim Iraqi authority should be
declared at this point or in the next few days?
MR. FLEISCHER: Too soon to say.
QUESTION: After the hostilities are over or --
MR. FLEISCHER: We're still fighting hostilities; it's too
QUESTION: So you wouldn't do it until after
MR. FLEISCHER: I just said it's too soon to say today.
QUESTION: Ari, last week, the military plan that has
been set in motion
for a war in Iraq was very much criticized, including by many ex-
generals and colonels and some in active duty in Iraq.
MR. FLEISCHER: I noticed.
QUESTION: Does the President feel that the quick
taking of the
airport and the closing in on the troops in Baghdad vindicates the
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has always felt that what is
important, particularly in war, is to be steady at the helm and to
lead and to do what he thought was right, and to implement the plan
that he always felt was on progress. He understood that there were
going to be some criticisms.
And I think it's worth pointing out there was a rather
remarkable correction printed in one of the nation's leading
newspapers pertaining to what General Wallace was alleged to have
said. Because he did not say, as was reported, that the enemy that
are up against is not the enemy we war-gamed.
He said -- and I'm paraphrasing now -- but as the correction
reported, he said -- I think the actual quote attributed to him
was on the front page of some newspapers was that, this is a
enemy from the one we war-planned against, or war-gamed against.
what he actually said is, the enemy is a bit different from the one
war-gamed against. Which is an important measure, qualitative
of how similar or different it is. That's not as stark as it had
made to -- people have been made to believe.
Now, that's a correction. I can't tell you how many stories are
written off of the incorrect quote. I don't yet know how many
will be written off of the corrected quote.
QUESTION: You have said -- you were quoting
President Bush --
believes General Franks should run military aspects of the war from
the site. Now that they're so close to Baghdad, is there the
possibility a decision will be made instead of troops going in to
Baghdad, maybe surrounding or isolating Baghdad?
MR. FLEISCHER: You need to talk to DOD about anything
operational like that.
QUESTION: What would a decision like that involve for
MR. FLEISCHER: That was John's question, and there's a plan
Baghdad. The plan is being implemented.
QUESTION: Ari, I have two questions. Could you
clarify -- since the
Iraqi people are so fearful of Saddam Hussein, why would the
government be suggesting that it might be irrelevant where he is,
his health, to the beginning of a new Iraqi governing authority or
wouldn't it be important to know where he is and that he's
apprehended or dead?
MR. FLEISCHER: What I said was, in the bigger scheme of
-- in the bigger scheme of things, it does not -- today's tape
not matter, because the regime's days are numbered, in any case.
clearly, the leadership of Iraq matters. And we don't know if
Hussein is alive or dead. We don't yet know what this tape shows
doesn't show or whether or not the information was pre-recorded or
even was pre-recorded with accuracy to be released. We don't
That's why I noted the point about the -- going around the
of Baghdad. That's not an accurate statement to make, as if
were observing events today.
But it is an important issue about the leadership of Iraq
because, clearly, as Iraqi people start to feel comfortable with
fact that the regime is gone -- we have seen it in the south,
continuing to see it in areas where people see the security of the
United States or the coalition forces -- they feel more free.
They're coming out, they're waving more, they're giving the
to coalition forces. Journalists who are embedded are seeing and
feeling that, themselves.
QUESTION: My second question is, for the record,
Michael Kelly was
the first American journalist who was embedded and was killed
overnight. I was wondering if the White House has any reaction.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President expresses his sorrow and his
condolences to the Kelly family. And the President, of course,
expresses his sorrow and condolences to all of those military,
civilian and journalist who have died in this combat.
QUESTION: Ari, is the President proceeding with plans
to try and
create a home-grown police force, particularly in the south? There
are now reports that there are discussions about getting members of
the Shiite majority to actually act as their own police force, the
advantages being obvious.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think it's a little too early to
into that type of discussion in the middle of a shooting war. But
suffice it to say that the Iraqi people are a capable people.
is a difference between the Iraqi people and the top layers of the
regime. And the President sees a bright future for the people of
Iraq, led by the people of Iraq.
QUESTION: If I could just follow-up on Steve's
question earlier, about the
tape. Did you -- and I apologize if I missed this. Did you, in
fact, confirm that this at least shows that he survived the initial
MR. FLEISCHER: No, we don't know. Typically what happens
and what is happening now is the tape will be analyzed by the
to do a voice match, to see if it is his voice. That still,
remains one piece of the puzzle. You don't know if it was
Clearly, there is some information on there that some people might
think could have some indications of something that might sound
contemporaneous. Although, one reference is to something that took
place almost two weeks ago. And the other reference that you could
look at in a contemporaneous way is something that really is
It's not an accurate thing to say for anybody who is on the ground
observing events today. So the bottom line is we don't know,
if Saddam Hussein is alive or dead -- despite today's tape.
QUESTION: Great. But actually what I was asking was
whether it at
least shows that he survived the initial attack? Are you --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, we don't know.
QUESTION: Are you willing to go that far?
MR. FLEISCHER: We don't know.
QUESTION: Even despite the reference to the farmer
and the Apache?
MR. FLEISCHER: Don't know.
QUESTION: And the second question on the U.N., some
of our typical --
traditional allies in Europe have said that a prominent U.N. role
an interim Iraqi government would go a long way towards not only
repairing breaches in our relations with some of our traditional
European allies, but also would help U.S. relations in the Middle
where many, many --
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, I got it.
QUESTION: -- newspapers, governments, see this as a
MR. FLEISCHER: Got it --
QUESTION: -- U.S.-led invasion?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, on your first question, the purpose of
mission is to disarm the regime and change the leadership. And
includes the top layers of the leadership. So clearly, the future
the fate of Saddam Hussein is a factor. But as I indicated,
he is or is not alive or dead, the mission is moving forward. And
regime's days are numbered.
On the role of the United Nations, again, there will be a role
for the United Nations. And the President is focused on doing what
most effective to help the Iraqi people to govern their own
That's where the President's focus will be. There will be a role
the U.N. in that process.
QUESTION: For the first time, we're getting reports
from the field today
of large numbers of Iraqis fleeing Baghdad. Is the administration
are U.S. forces in the region prepared to deal with that? Does
complicate our planning?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you'd have to talk to DOD about
complications from any planning. But, of course, the Iraqi
Information Minister said the other day that Americans were nowhere
near Baghdad and we haven't even crossed the Tigres. And of
this is another reason why it's important to have embedded
there, so the truth can be seen from reporters eyes, in addition to
briefed by American officials there.
But anything beyond that, DOD will tell you about the plans.
QUESTION: We had had -- there were reports early
on, even before
the war broke out, that we talked with neighboring countries about
possibly receiving refugees. Is there any larger plan for dealing
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a DOD issue, and I think you have to
very precise understanding of how many people are actually moving.
QUESTION: Well, there are reports now that there have
been some chemicals
found, et cetera. Is there any plans by the White House to ask
Blix or the United Nations to verify the possibility that these are
actually chemical weapons?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, we have expert teams on the ground who
would be able to make those decisions and judgments, themselves.
for the future, we have never ruled out that the United Nations
inspectors might have some type of role to play. But in terms of
immediate verification, that's something that the military is
QUESTION: Okay. And, secondly, in terms of the
that they're getting at some of the -- south, that they may calm
down and may pop up again, is there any plans to use coalition
to sort of stay back -- I mean, other than the British and the
Americans, some of the larger forces to stay back and deal with
of those pockets of resistance?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's something that the DOD officials can
QUESTION: Ari, some of the President's allies on
Capital Hill --
including Tom DeLay -- are voicing some concerns about the Middle
East road map. They're concerned that the U.S. will undercut
for Israel. Do they have any foundation for this concern?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President thinks it's very
for all parties to know that he is sincere about implementing his
24th speech in the Rose Garden, and he is going to follow through
it. And the road map is part and parcel of the June 24th speech,
which was received well by all parties in the Middle East.
And so the President believes that there are important
responsibilities on the Palestinians to reform; on the Arab nations
help the reforms take place; and on Israel, as well, to open up the
doors toward more cooperation with a reformed Palestinian Authority
and to see settlement activity as the security situation
And so those are the President's stated messages and that's part
of the road map and it's something the President is deeply
QUESTION: So given the compromises both sides need to
make, the President
is anticipating some resistance?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President is anticipating
contributions to the road map from the parties to the road map,
exactly as he called for in his speech in March.
QUESTION: Ari, to this point -- and I know it's
early and events
may change, just like she said -- but to this point, at least,
have not found any weapons of mass destruction. Like I said, I
it's early, but does the administration believe that it was
in taking the action it has taken in Iraq, even if --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course --
QUESTION: -- no weapons of mass destruction are
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I don't think that's going to happen.
thought you were asking about justified in taking the action. But
you've heard it repeatedly said from the DOD briefers that Iraq has
weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. And we are
confident that they will be found and discovered and seen.
QUESTION: And even if they're not -- the feeling is
action was justified?
MR. FLEISCHER: You're asking about a hypothetical that I
told you I don't think is going to happen.
QUESTION: Ari, on two things. First, your critics
coming out in reference to this regime change and name change
situation. They're talking about -- they're linking regime
and the name changing of the airport. On a serious note, is that a
part of the regime change? Anything "Saddam" will be changed --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course. I think there's nothing
Iraqi people want more than to throw off the yoke of oppression
Saddam has imposed of them. I think that the Iraqis don't want to
have Saddam Hussein statues left behind, they don't want Saddam
Hussein's torture left behind, they don't want his brutality left
behind, and that's a message I think the President is going to hear
today from people who fled Iraq.
QUESTION: If the President has a workable plan for
the Middle East, why
didn't he just put it out now?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the President said, that the road
will be offered upon the confirmation of Abu Mazen. And that has
yet taken place, as he is still appointing his cabinet.
QUESTION: But considerable progress has been made. I
you just kind of waiting now for a formality?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is doing exactly what he
Progress is being made. We're pleased with the reform. Abu Mazen
a reformer. But the President is doing precisely what he said he
going to do. I don't know why you would expect him to do anything
other than that. He said he would put the road map forward and
welcome the contributions on it once the appointment is confirmed,
that entails the cabinet appointments.
QUESTION: What is your current assessment of what
Syria is doing to help
Iraq? And what -- beyond words -- does the administration plan
do to stop it?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's exactly as Secretary Rumsfeld and
Powell outlined, with the providing of some of the equipment to
that raises concerns. And Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld
it all. I have nothing to add beyond what they said.
QUESTION: So in other words, there's no plan to stop
it? Just let
MR. FLEISCHER: Syria has received the message that it
from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. And it's
important message. We hope they receive it.
QUESTION: Apparently, it did no good because the
morning -- military briefer over in the battle area said that
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the message has been sent. It's
important that Syria receive it. And, again, we don't judge
everything day-by-day. It's important they receive that message,
QUESTION: Yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada,
Paul Cellucci, said
that President Bush may have to postpone his state visit to Canada
because of his war itinerary. Do you have any more details on
MR. FLEISCHER: At this moment, I have nothing to report.
always, if we have something to report, we'll share it.
QUESTION: Also yesterday, Richard Perle said
Canadians could well
come to regret the decision to stay out of the war against Iraq.
Should non-coalition countries expect punitive action from the
MR. FLEISCHER: No, people should not expect punitive
But the President does think it was a regrettable decision by
not to join in the coalition. He understands their thoughts, but
is acting for the right reasons. And he's pleased to see how large
the coalition is.
QUESTION: Two questions. I wonder whose idea it was
to have the meeting,
whether it was Blair or the President? Second question, what, if
anything, does the timing of this meeting say about how the two men
view the conflict? I mean, is it, for example, a sign that they
that it's coming to an end quite shortly? Are there any
or decisions that need to be taken about post-war Iraq, the role of
the U.N., need to be taken pretty quickly?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, given the fact that they met at Camp
just a week ago, I don't know that people said that's a sign it's
coming to an end. In fact, at the time they were meeting in Camp
David, everybody was saying, isn't it going terribly; it's off
So they meet as often as they think is necessary. They think
they can accomplish quite a bit in-person. It makes it easier to
in-person than over the repeated phone calls that they have. But
they're coalition allies, they're coalition partners, and the
President values the judgment and the advice he receives from Prime
QUESTION: Whose idea was it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know whose idea it was. Very often,
these are kind of mutual ideas that the staff talks through, or the
President and the Prime Minister talk through. And then they just
agree to meet. I don't know if any one or the other had the idea
before the other. I just don't know.
QUESTION: Was there a symbolic value of picking
Northern Ireland --
somewhere in the mideast, a long history of ethnic strife, where
peace plans have been moderately successful in recent years as a
model? Is that way it's picked? Northern Ireland really
lot of things to people around the world. And so a meeting there
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly, there has been a successful
peace process in Northern Ireland. It's an ongoing process. And
want to talk to them about that process. That's an interesting
QUESTION: Ari, does the President plan to set up a
new government in Iraq
even before the regime of Saddam Hussein is captured and removed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, it's just not knowable about the
timing of when the regime, the interim authority would be set up.
Just same answer as before.
QUESTION: I have another --
MR. FLEISCHER: We're going to -- we'll go back to the
QUESTION: Does the meeting today with the Iraqi
Americans reflect a
concern on the part of the administration that it needs to do a
job of countering the negative public relations backlash that's
evident now across the Middle East and much of the Muslim world?
MR. FLEISCHER: The answer is unequivocally no. But,
the President hopes that people everywhere in the world will listen
the message of these Arab Americans and these Iraqis who saw
what a brutal dictatorship Saddam Hussein has led, the torture that
has used to stay in power. And I think you're going to hear a very
welcoming message about why it's so important for the United States
and the coalition to be successful at ousting Saddam Hussein. I
it's a powerful message, and it's a message the President hopes