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 Home > News & Policies > April 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 15, 2003 (Full Transcript)

Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 15, 2003

QUESTION: Ari, does this change anything in terms of what the President envisions of other countries doing for post-war Iraq? In the past, we haven't invited France, or Germany, or Russia to these talks. But now -- was the conversation today with Chirac, does this change anything?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, which talks have we not invited people to?

QUESTION: Some of the ones going on now in Iraq that --

MR. FLEISCHER: You mean the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shiites?

QUESTION: Yes. We've invited our coalition partners, but not the objectors, the ones who objected to the war.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, the coalition that is on the ground is on the ground, and therefore in a position to engage in these talks.

QUESTION: My broader question, though, is does this conversation between President Bush and President Chirac suggest a thaw in the rift in the alliance?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me put it to you this way -- the French have said this, so I feel comfortable in quoting President Chirac's words -- President Chirac told President Bush that he wanted to play a "pragmatic role" in reconstruction events in Iraq. So I leave it at that, that was President Chirac's statement.

QUESTION: Did they discuss the U.N. role to any extent?

MR. FLEISCHER: I do not recall that they discussed the U.N. role. As you know, the President has said the U.N. will have a vital role.

QUESTION: Is the United States putting on warning all the countries that have weapons of mass destruction, or only Syria?

MR. FLEISCHER: The United States has always said that we hope nations around the world will comply with treaty obligations and will rid themselves of weapons of mass destruction. We have consistently said that, particularly in the region in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Why is the focus on Syria?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the focus is on Syria is because Syria is the nation that's harboring Iraqis.

QUESTION: Do you have proof of that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly, we would not have said it, Secretary Powell would not have said it, the President wouldn't have said it.

QUESTION: Why don't you present the proof, then?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as always, Helen, this is an old argument. We have information that comes into our hands for a variety of means. We prefer to keep getting that information. We feel confident --

QUESTION: Don't think it will enhance your credibility if you showed us?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think our credibility is rather strong.

QUESTION: Does the fact that several Shiite leaders did not attend the meeting in Ur today raise any concerns about the viability of that enterprise?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think what you're going to see -- number one, this is first of many meetings to come, preliminary meetings on the formulation of a future interim government. There are many Shia leaders who did attend. And so you're seeing people who have different opinions in Iraq. And today should be always remembered as a day where Iraqis expressed different opinions and weren't shot for it. They were able to speak about it.

QUESTION: The ones who did not attend, why didn't they attend?

MR. FLEISCHER: Ken, I cannot give you their reasons. I'm not their spokesman.

QUESTION: Unrelated question, did the White House encourage Senator Fitzgerald to take himself out of the senator race?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have no additional information beyond the announcement.

QUESTION: Ari, last week from this podium, you made some pretty unequivocal statements about the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A week later, we still have got any definitive proof that we've found some. Are you beginning to become concerned about those statements you made last week?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, absolutely not. In fact, if you saw General Brooks' briefing this morning, I think his word was unwavering in our confidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and they will be found. And then he did, actually, a very detailed walk-through of the process operationally that DOD is using in the pursuit of them.

QUESTION: Do you expect any announcements soon on some of those tests?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think that when we have something to report, it will duly get reported, of course.