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 Home > News & Policies > April 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 16, 2003

Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan

12:05 P.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, or good afternoon, depending on where we are right now to everybody. Let me run through the President's day. The President this morning, at approximately 7:35 a.m., participated in a phone call with Prime Minister Koizumi. The President thanked the Prime Minister for his strong support on Iraq. The two leaders also discussed cooperation on reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The Prime Minister welcomed progress on multi-lateral talks with North Korea. And both leaders pledged to continue close cooperation on the issue and the next diplomatic steps, as well. I'm sure we'll come back to this in a minute, but let me continue through the schedule.

Following that, the President had his usual briefings. During the FBI part of the intelligence briefings, the President

-- Governor Ridge recommended to the President that the threat level be lowered, to yellow. And the President agreed. That was approximately 8:20 a.m. this morning.

Q I'm sorry, what time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Approximately 8:20 a.m. And following that, the President participated in an NSC meeting. Then he met with the Secretary of Defense, his usual, daily meeting with the Secretary of Defense.

At approximately 9:55 a.m., the President signed the emergency supplemental bill in the Oval Office. And the President -- a couple remarks on this. The President thanks Congress for moving very quickly to pass this bill, which supports our troops, provides for reconstruction and humanitarian aid in Iraq and protects the homeland. The President does remain concerned about the flexibility provided to him in the supplemental. It is less than ideal, so we may well need continued cooperation from Congress to match these resources to our evolving needs. And we are confident that we will receive that cooperation.

We arrive in St. Louis a little bit before 12:00 p.m., central time. The President will meet a Freedom Corps -- participate in a Freedom Corps service recognition with a gentleman named John Sant, S-a-n-t. He's a 70 year old retired man who has been involved in community service throughout his life, and now focuses his volunteer efforts toward programs that help disadvantaged children improve academic achievement.

Q Excuse me, Scott, do you mind spelling his last name?

MR. McCLELLAN: S-a-n-t.

Q How old?

MR. McCLELLAN: Seventy years old. Then the President will, upon arrival at the Boeing F-18 production facility, the President will participate in a tour. Let me kind of give you a little bit of information on the Boeing Integrated Defense Systems headquarters. The Boeing Company, based in Chicago, is the world's largest manufacturer of satellites, commercial jet liners and military aircraft. It's work force is nearly 165,000, and located in more than 46 states and 70 countries.

The Integrated Defense System, which is one of five major units, is headquartered adjacent to the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. It employs approximately 15,500 workers who design and produce fighters, bombers, transports, rudder craft, aerial refuelers, missiles and munitions, and it leads much of the military's research in unmanned weapons development.

You now have over 30 different military systems in production at IBS, including most notably, the Apache long bow helicopter; the AV 8B Harrier aircraft, the C40 Navy transport jet, and the F15 Eagle and the F/A 18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jets. And just one point of interest relating to Iraq -- three squadrons of the F18 E/F fighters, each comprised of 12 planes, are flying today in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The F/A 18 E/F Super Hornet production facility employs 420 workers. And this plane, the F18 -- well, the F18 E/F will eventually replace the Navy's F/A 18 C/D line; and is 25 percent larger, carries 35 percent more fuel and requires 40 percent fewer parts. So that's just some information on the facility we'll be visiting.

The President's remarks -- there will be approximately a thousand guests, mainly Boeing employees and military personnel who work at the facility. The President's remarks will focus on the progress we are making in Iraq. And I expect he will touch on the economy, as well.

In his remarks he'll spend a good portion of the speech talking about the future of Iraq. In addition to an update on the military operations, the President will provide an update on reconstruction and humanitarian efforts and our efforts to bring freedom to the Iraqi people and help Iraq build a government of, by and for the Iraqi people.

I do expect him to talk about how now that the Iraqi people are liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on Iraq. And as I mentioned, he will also touch on the economy, emphasizing the need for Congress to act quickly on his jobs and growth plan.

Following the speech, you all depart for Crawford, where the President will arrive approximately 3:00 p.m. in Waco, and then about 3:25 p.m. at the ranch. And the President looks forward to spending Easter at home. The President will attend to official business, spend some time doing some work around the ranch; and spending time with Mrs. Bush, family and friends while he's there.

Now, there are no public events scheduled over this period. We will let you know about church service later in the week, as it gets closer.

Q Is that not certain?

MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, if there is church, you know, pool coverage.

Q I heard he's moving away from the Baptist church. Is church in --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll update you on the schedule when it gets closer to that day, later in the week.

Q That he'll go, though, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: I do expect him to go to church service, and we'll have pool coverage -- we'll have pool coverage of that.

Q In his remarks you said he'll talk about how now that people of Iraq are liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions. Is he calling on the United Nations to lift economic sanctions?

MR. McCLELLAN: We previously said that once the regime is removed and the Iraqi people are free, that the sanctions should be lifted. And now --

Q He's going to reinforce that or --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he'll mention that in his remarks when he talks about the future of Iraq -- that now with the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime the web of sanctions on Iraq is no longer necessary and should be lifted. Those aren't words in his speech, but that's kind of giving you some context to this. These are sanctions that prohibit countries from buying oil, or from selling goods to Iraq, other than through the Oil for Food program.

And those are no longer needed, those sanctions. In the future, Iraq should be able to trade freely. And we need to transition from the Oil for Food program as soon as possible and help restore a normal trading relationship with the global economy. So in the near future we'll seek a resolution to those sanctions on Iraq.

Q Could this be interpreted as a declaration that the war is over?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think the President will continue to emphasize what he talked about just as recently as yesterday, that we have made tremendous progress, but there are still objectives that we are working to accomplish. And he will remind people of that.

Q Well, the regime is over, so therefore the sanctions can be lifted, but the war is not over?

MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?

Q The regime has ended, so, therefore, the sanctions can be lifted -- but the war has not ended?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well there still -- as CENTCOM and the Pentagon have indicated, there still are military operations ongoing; there are still objectives that we're working to accomplish. While the major combat operations may be over, there is still a military conflict going on.

Q What does the President want to do with the terrorist Asu -- no, Abu --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first, I think the President is pleased that a well-known terrorist is going to be brought to justice. And there should be no mistake about the message that the capture of Abu Abbas sends. We will track down terrorists, find them wherever they are and bring them to justice. In terms of the -- your question was related to what do we expect? I think that that will be addressed, discussed and reviewed through the appropriate channels. I think we're looking at options now.

Q What options are there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't want to get into those. I think those need to be addressed through the appropriate channels right now --

Q Is there some sense of vindication? The President had said that this man was being harbored in Iraq and this would seem to vindicate his argument that Iraq has been a sanctuary for terrorists. Is there any sense of that today?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's a very good point you brought up. One of the reasons -- one of the primary reasons that we had to take action in Iraq was because of that danger that is posed by a regime like Saddam Hussein's that possesses weapons of mass destruction and has supported terrorists in the past. And now we've gone after terrorist camps in Iraq, we arrested this -- captured this terrorist yesterday. And that is a reminder of the danger that can be posed when you marry a regime with weapons of mass destruction with terrorists.

But this is a clear reminder that terrorists can run, but they cannot hide. We will find them and bring them to justice.

Q I'm sorry --

Q Can you confirm that the U.S. is going to start talks with North Korea?

MR. McCLELLAN: I can. But it's -- well, the initial talks will be trilateral. It was at our urging that the Chinese at very senior levels pressed the North Koreans to agree to multilateral talks. South Korea and Japan did so, as well. The North Koreans, as you are aware, were insisting on bilateral talks with the United States only. But agreed when the Chinese finally counter-proposed talks with its full participation, along with the United States.

So the initial talks will be trilateral with the Chinese, North Korea and the United States. And we're very pleased with the involvement of the Chinese. The Chinese agree fully with the United States that the Korean Peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons, as do all of North Korea's neighbors, and that's important.

Q Do you --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I expect soon, possibly as early as next week. I think State is working through those details right now.

Q You seemed to back off today; there was some talk it would be Wednesday.

MR. McCLELLAN: I saw those reports, but -- it could be as early as next week.

Q Is there some softening of the date and, if so, why?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think it's just State Department working through those details. Again, this is just the start of the process.

Q And do you think -- before you change subjects -- do you think that what the North Koreans saw in Iraq might have intimidated them into this?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's a question to address to the North Koreans. But we're very pleased by the involvement of the Chinese and pressing the North Koreans, as well as South Korea and Japan. They are all involved. And we look forward to future talks, too, that include everybody in the region.

Q -- Jack Kelly, who goes to Beijing?

MR. McCLELLAN: that's what I understand, yes.

Q The signing of --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- will be in China. The initial talks, yes.

Q The initial talks will be Beijing?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. You should doublecheck the exact location with State, but it will -- China will host the initial talks.

Q The signing today of the supplemental was reminiscent of when the President last year signed campaign finance -- big bill, no ceremony whatsoever. It suggests he was perhaps pretty displeased with this bill.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think -- look, Congress -- that's what I said the President thanks Congress for acting very quickly on this. This was something we wanted addressed quickly and it was addressed quickly by Congress, because it's about providing support to our troops and providing support for the reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and also making sure that the homeland is more secure.

So we're very pleased they acted quickly. Now I did bring up the flexibility issue, because that is a concern, and we expect that we'll continue to receive cooperation from Congress as we move forward on that, and as the needs evolve.

Q Is he frustrated, too, by the larding up of other projects in this thing? Is that why the private ceremony today, lack of ceremony?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think -- you know, he may -- I expect he may mention this in his remarks, as well, thank Congress for their action. You know, we're -- again, we're pleased that they moved quickly to provide this important support for our troops.

Q Primary concerns are that the money was directed to the State Department and also that there wasn't enough money for fighting domestic terrorism.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's mainly the flexibility that comes to us addressing needs as they arise, and being able to do what we need. And that's why -- I mean --

Q That's the reference to the State Department.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said, we may well need further cooperation from Congress as we move forward and as these needs evolve.

Q And you're going to ask for legislation to reopen it?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't know that that's -- not necessarily. I think there are ways for OMB to make request, reprogramming funds and so forth.

Q Does the President sign off on every change of the alert status? Must he sign off on each change?

MR. McCLELLAN: The way the process works is -- well, now, Governor Ridge makes the recommendation to the President and he signed off on it, yes.

Q They don't move until he approves on each occasion?

MR. McCLELLAN: The process works that they brief him, make a recommendation, and then he agrees to it.

Q Scott, how much of a factor was the concern of state and local governments about how much the higher alert status was costing them?

MR. McCLELLAN: You know, I think that might be a question better addressed to those -- to the states and localities, as well as the Department of Homeland Security. But if you'll recall -- the Department put out a statement as well, and they addressed their appreciation to the governors, mayors and other representatives from the public and private sector as well, for their support and cooperation throughout the last several weeks, when we put Operation Liberty Shield into place and worked to beef up security measures with states and localities.

But now, as you all are aware, the information is assessed on a daily basis. The intelligence community reviews the threats and then a recommendation is made. And it goes through the homeland security process, in consultation with the Office of Homeland Security in the White House. And the President --

Q I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. If I may skip back for a second. You mentioned the possibility of OMB reprogramming funds. Is your expectation that one of those would involve State Department funds to the Pentagon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't want to speculate at this point. I'm just -- I was jut pointing out that if we need to, which we may well need to get some further cooperation from Congress, then that's a way of going about that.

Q Do you know, is this an OMB request, or OMB does it and they don't object, or what cooperation is required for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's worked through with Congress. But, yes, OMB can make the request for reprogramming of those funds. I don't know the exact sign-off procedures, but --

Q Any indication that Syria is cooperating?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Syria knows our views. And they know what they need to do. I think there are people closer to the situation there that would be in a better position to brief you on the exact specifics of it -- of the current situation.

Q I'm done.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a good place to end it.

Q I agree.

END 12:25 P.M. EDT