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 Home > News & Policies > April 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 17, 2003 (Full Transcript)

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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 The sanctions are outdated, and we look forward to working in the U.N. to lift the sanctions against Iraq so that they can become traders in the global economy.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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.

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

MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, what?

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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?

QUESTION: 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.

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


QUESTION: 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.