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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
April 17, 2003

Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Elementary School
Crawford, Texas

12:47 P.M. CDT

MS. BUCHAN: Okay, let's get started. The President began his day this morning with a call to Spanish President Aznar, called him at 7:30 a.m., Crawford time. It was a warm call between close allies and friends, part of the regular close consultations. They discussed Iraq, including European support for a new Iraq and coalition efforts; potential progress on Israel-Palestinian issues; and they agreed to remain in close touch. The call lasted about 20 minutes, but I think there was some interpretation on the call.

He then has his intelligence briefing, his national security briefing. And he has been working on the ranch since then and spending time with Mrs. Bush.

I'd be happy to take your questions.

Q In discussing European support for Iraq and new coalition efforts, did they discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions at the U.N. on Iraq?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't have the specifics of their call.

Q Does the administration want to introduce a resolution lifting sanctions before the U.N. sends teams of inspectors back in and before the U.N. declares Iraq's weapons program is dead?

MS. BUCHAN: We have not set a specific time line. As the President said yesterday, now that the regime of Saddam Hussein has been ended, the current sanction situation doesn't reflect the situation on the ground in Iraq. The sanctions are outdated, and we look forward to working in the U.N. to lift the sanctions against Iraq so that they can become traders in the global economy.

Q The reason I ask is, as I understand it, the April '91 resolution that imposed sanctions said they could be lifted only when the Security Council agreed that Iraq had completed disarmament. Do you know whether that's the administration's read also?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, as I said, the sanctions clearly don't reflect the current situation in Iraq. The weapons of mass destruction are not in the control of Saddam Hussein's regime. And we look forward to, at some point in the future, working with the United Nations to lift those sanctions so that Iraq can participate in a global economy.

Q Claire, I couldn't understand all of his question, maybe it was included in that -- but Blix wants to go back to Iraq because he says that will aid the United States credibility if we come across weapons of mass destruction -- his presence would be helpful. Does the President agree with that, that Blix's presence would be helpful in establishing credibility?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, the military operations are still underway in Iraq, and finding weapons of mass destruction continues to be one of their goals. At some point the U.N. inspections will be an issue that will need to be addressed. But at this point the U.S. and coalition forces are still engaged in actions.

Q But as long as there's hostile action going on, the U.S view would be that it would be unsafe for Blix to go there -- is that the reasoning?

MS. BUCHAN: I didn't say that. What I said is that the United States and coalition forces continue to have military operations underway. Finding the weapons of mass destruction is one of their goals and they're continuing to work toward that end.

Q On humanitarian relief to Iraq, there's been some reports that Christian groups might be providing --

MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, what?

Q On humanitarian efforts to Iraq, the relief efforts, there are some reports that Christian groups who are providing supplies, or want to, might be providing Scriptures with that. Is there any concern by the White House that Muslims might be offended by proselytizing?

MS. BUCHAN: I haven't' seen the reports, we'll look into them.

Q You said at some point the U.N. inspections will be an issue. Is there a time frame on that?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't have a time frame, no.

Q Is it solely on military action and the progress of the campaign?

MS. BUCHAN: If we have an update on specific time line, we'll get you one. At this point, I don't have one.

Q Claire, can you talk about -- confirm or just address the New York Times story that says that the administration is weighing keeping up policy towards Cuba, adding sanctions, and sort of responding to the crackdown in Cuba?

MS. BUCHAN: The United States has clearly condemned the Cuban regime's crackdown on independent civil society. It's important to note that the international attention and condemnation against Cuba; the U.N. Human Rights Commission has passed a resolution expressing concern about the human rights situation in Cuba. Secretary Powell recently denounced this most significant act of political repression in decades. And he called on Castro to end the repression and free the prisoners of conscience.

Cuba's efforts to silence voices of opposition only make our policy goal of encouraging rapid, peaceful transition to democracy more relevant and more urgent, and we'll continue to work with independent Cuban civil society and with the Cuban people; and are willing to consider steps to advance that policy goal in this climate.

Q Is that a long, not aware of any new measures being considered to punish Cuba?

MS. BUCHAN: It is as I said.

Q I was wondering if you could confirm the fact that the U.S. is preparing to send up to one thousand scientists and technicians to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction?

MS. BUCHAN: That's a question you ought to put to DOD.

Q Claire, do you have anything on Syria's proposal to create this kind of weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including that of Israel? Is there any kind of response to that suggestion?

MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, I didn't hear your question, Suzanne.

Q Syria's proposal that there's a weapons-free zone within the Middle East, including Israel, as well? Is that something that the administration is even listening to or considering? And d you know where that is?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, Syria -- we have made clear what Syria needs to do. They know our views and I will leave it at that.

Q You just mentioned before that the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are no longer in control -- or no longer being controlled by the Saddam Hussein regime, since that regime has ended. In whose control are those weapons currently?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, Saddam Hussein is clearly not in control of Iraq. We continue, as you know, as part of -- one of the goals of the operations in Iraq is to seek to find the weapons of mass destruction.

Q So it's not under anyone's control at this point?

MS. BUCHAN: We are seeking to find them. But Saddam Hussein is not in control of Iraq.

Q And also, on Syria, how would you characterize the

state of U.S.-Syrian relations right now?

MS. BUCHAN: I would characterize it that we have made clear our views, the President has made clear, the Secretary of State has made clear what Syria needs to do. Syria knows what they need to do.

Q On Cuba, do you expect the President to make a public statement or issue of the situation in Cuba in the coming days or weeks?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything on that, Mark.

Q Can you give us any kind of a readout on the President's video hook-up discussion yesterday with General Franks?

MS. BUCHAN: No. I can look into it for you. Which one is this?

Q Well, it was in the paper yesterday that the President got -- when General Franks was in Baghdad yesterday, that he had a video conference with the President. Is that --

MS. BUCHAN: Okay, I can look into that. I don't have anything on it.

Q Can you find out whether General Franks told the President that the war is over and that victory has been declared?


Q Does the President agree with Andy Card that Saddam is probably dead?

MS. BUCHAN: As Secretary Card said, we don't know. And he addressed it as well, this morning. What we do know is that Saddam Hussein is not a threat to the people of Iraq or to the people of the United States or the world.

Q Can you talk about -- apparently two members of the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property resigned over the issue of looting and whether it was effectively prevented or not. Can you talk about that, and whether they might have some, you know, fair complaint, fair issue with whether there was really a plan to prevent this kind of looting?

MS. BUCHAN: You're talking specifically with regard to the museum?

Q Yes.

Q Can you repeat the question please?

MS. BUCHAN: The question had to do with the looting of the museum in Iraq and the resignation of an individual on the Cultural Advisory Committee. As we have said, the United States, in liberating Iraq, worked very hard to protect the infrastructure of Iraq and to preserve it and the valuable resources of Iraq for the people of Iraq. It is unfortunate that there was looting and damage done to the museum. And we have offered rewards, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, for individuals who may have taken items from the museum, to bring those back. And we're hopeful, certainly, that that will happen.

Q Is there concern in the administration that now this has come to the level that two members of this commission have resigned over the issue?

MS. BUCHAN: As I said, the military -- at the time that this occurred, there were military operations that were continuing to be underway. And the military did work very hard to preserve the infrastructure for the people.

Q Claire, can you tell us who is at the ranch, in terms of staff and family and friends?

MS. BUCHAN: Mrs. Bush is at the ranch, Dr. Rice, Joe Hagen, representing the Chief of Staff's office. And other military and other support that the President normally has with him.

Q No friends, social friends?

MS. BUCHAN: If he has friends joining him, I don't have a list of them.

Q What about his parents?

MS. BUCHAN: At this point, I don't have anything on that.

Q Do you know or can you --

MS. BUCHAN: If we get any updates on his visitors and can share them with you, we will.

Q First of all, I want to be a hundred percent clear that this these two people did resign, Sullivan and Vikan. You didn't address directly whether they did resign.

MS. BUCHAN: I believe they did, yes.

Q What was Scott's question?

MS. BUCHAN: Scott wanted to make clear that these individuals did resign from the cultural advisory committee. Is that what it's called?

Q The Advisory Committee on Cultural Property.

MS. BUCHAN: The President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property. And my understanding is that certainly at least one of them did.

Q Can you check on the second one? Sullivan is the first, according to the Post; the second one is Vikan.


Q My other question is, can you read out Sunday, what Easter Sunday is looking like at this point?

MS. BUCHAN: We are still under the 48 hour rule, so we will give you specifics on Sunday, tomorrow. But you should anticipate the President will attend church service. It will be pool coverage. And we'll have details on that tomorrow.

Q How far from the ranch?

MS. BUCHAN: We will have details on that tomorrow.

Q Any remarks, Claire? Is he likely to say anything?

MS. BUCHAN: No, he's not likely to say anything. He'll attend church.

Q When you do let us know, can you include things like Easter dinner menu and guests and possible other family friends who might be there?

MS. BUCHAN: We will try and endeavor to get the menu. Anything else?

Q Thank you.

MS. BUCHAN: Thank you.

END 1:00 P.M. CDT