For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 18, 2003
Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Elementary School
1:53 P.M. CDT
MS. BUCHAN: Let me start by telling you a little bit about the
President's day today. He began his day with his usual intelligence
briefing. He then spent the morning working on the ranch, clearing
cedar. And he looks forward this afternoon to visiting with friends
who will be visiting him, and also working on some official business.
On Sunday the President will travel to Fort Hood where he will
attend church service. After service, he'll return to the ranch, and
then he will return to Washington on Monday. And later in the week the
President will travel outside of Washington -- and we'll have more
details on that, in terms of the specifics, next week. But he will
travel outside of Washington to speak about both progress in Iraq and
also to promote his jobs and growth plan.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q Is there any chance he's going to meet with the POWs at Fort
Hood, who are returning there this weekend?
MS. BUCHAN: If we have any updates to the schedule, we'll let you
know. At this point, he's planning to attend church.
Q And that's it right now?
MS. BUCHAN: At this point, yes.
Q Does the President still plan to send someone to talks in
North Korea -- in China, on North Korea?
MS. BUCHAN: We've seen the statement by North Korea and we're
consulting with other interested parties, including Korea, Japan and
China on where we go from here. And once we have a clear sense of the
facts and the views of our friends and allies, we'll make a decision
about how to proceed.
Q Can you say how alarming this report is about the
MS. BUCHAN: As I said, we're consulting with our -- with other
interested states, and once we have a clear set of the facts and the
views of our friends and allies, we'll make a decision as to how to
proceed. So we're evaluating the statement and we're consulting with
Q Does that mean that the facts are in question, essentially?
The facts of whether they're actually reprocessing or not?
MS. BUCHAN: It means that we're consulting with others, we're
reviewing the facts. And once we've had an opportunity to do that,
we'll have a clearer sense of how to proceed.
Q So it could go either way?
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry?
Q It could go either way, depending upon what you learn, it
could either --
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything new on the meeting at this
point, but we are continuing to consult and to review the facts and
then we'll have a clearer sense once we've done so.
Q That seems to indicate that there could be a change in the
current status, once you learn more. You could decide to do it or to
not do it?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we will make a decision as to how to proceed
once we've completed those discussions and that review.
Q -- making a decision this weekend?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have a time table for you, but discussions are
Q How alarming is their announcement that they're reprocessing
fuel rods? How alarming is it?
MS. BUCHAN: We're reviewing the statement. We're consulting with
others. And we'll know more after we've had an opportunity to do
Q -- that this is serious enough where these kinds of -- these
kinds of outside consultations are necessary?
MS. BUCHAN: At this point, we have seen the statement. We are
going to talk with China, we'll talk with Japan, with South Korea. And
we'll have more to say after that.
Q Back on the POWs, might he meet them tomorrow, or is that --
MS. BUCHAN: At this point, his schedule is that he will go to Fort
Hood on Sunday to attend church.
Q -- Sunday remains an open question?
MS. BUCHAN: If there's anything to add, we'll always let you
know. At this point, he's attending church and returning to the
Q -- anticipated tomorrow?
MS. BUCHAN: Not at this point, I don't have anything.
Q Will the POWs be at the church service, though? The Fort
MS. BUCHAN: We'll see -- if we get word that they're going to be
there, we'll let you know if we're able to do that.
Q Claire, what's your reaction to the latest Saddam tape? And
has the President seen it?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't know if he's seen it, I wasn't able to
determine that. We don't know whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead,
but what we do know is that the people of Iraq are free of the threat
from Saddam Hussein and the people of the United States and the world
are also free of that threat.
Q You said you're going to consult or you are consulting. Do
you know if any of the consulting with the allies is going on right
MS. BUCHAN: We are consulting.
Q Is the President involved in those consultations? Is he
reaching out to the leaders of any of those countries?
MS. BUCHAN: He has not made any phone calls to foreign leaders
today. If there's anything to update you on, we will.
Q Claire, who are the friends at the ranch?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have their names.
Q Have his parents arrived yet, and do you know what their
MS. BUCHAN: I do not have any updates on any family that's
arrived. He will be spending the Easter holiday with family and
friends. He has friends visiting him today. But that's all I have at
Q Will they be going with him to Fort Hood or anyone, like his
MS. BUCHAN: His family? I think maybe wait and see on Sunday
which of his family attends with him. It wouldn't surprise me if
members of the family didn't join. For church, that's right.
Q Can you give us any guidance for us at all for planning on
Monday, in terms of time of departure we leave in the morning. And
does he have any public events in Washington -- even if you can't say
what they are, does he have something scheduled? Is it going to be a
news day, in other words, probably, on Monday?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll have more on the time tomorrow. I think we'll
probably leave in the late morning, noon-ish time frame. I don't think
there's anything on his public schedule when he gets back. As I said,
later in the week he'll travel outside of Washington to promote the
jobs and growth initiative and to talk about the progress in the war.
Q Where is he going?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll have more on -- we're still sort of in this 48
hour rule, so I can't give you the specifics on that at this point.
Q -- one stop, though?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't believe so. I think he's going to one city.
Q It's a day trip, though, right?
MS. BUCHAN: It's a day trip. That's my understanding, yes.
Q Claire, kind of a housekeeping thing. The 48 rule went into
effect because of the war and concern of security. Now that the threat
alert is lowered, why is there still this 48 hour rule? Can that be
MS. BUCHAN: We are trying to work on that. We would like to be
able to give you more information. But at this point, this is what
we're being told that the security dictates, so obviously we're abiding
Q If it is determined through these consultations and
investigation that in fact North Korea has gone ahead and started
reprocessing, would the President stand by what Secretary Powell said a
couple of months ago, that such a step would change the landscape, as
far as dealing with North Korea?
MS. BUCHAN: I think we need to let the consultations go forward,
and have the opportunity to have those consultations and determine the
facts before I can --
Q -- the seriousness of what the North Koreans, themselves, say
they're doing. Why no warning or reaction at all from the White House
MS. BUCHAN: Because we're consulting with other interested
parties, and we'll know -- have a better sense, once we've done that,
as to how to proceed.
Q Claire, the North Koreans say they told the United States and
other parties of this, and they've been doing it since early March.
Why, apparently, didn't the government know about this?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't know that that -- that all your facts are
correct. You might talk to the State Department, and get their sense.
But this is what we've got.
Q Has Peter McPherson of Michigan State University been chosen
to head the economic team to rebuild Iraq?
MS. BUCHAN: I've seen those reports. Let me see if we can get you
anything on that. I don't know whether that would be something that
Garner's office would come out with, or whether we'd have any role in
that. But we'll see if we can't get information on that for you.
Q On North Korea, is canceling the Beijing meeting an option
that's being discussed?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, once we've had an opportunity to have the
consultations with South Korea, with Japan, with China and to determine
the facts and the views of these other countries, we'll have a better
sense then as to how to proceed, and we'll made a decision then. We're
evaluating that statement. And I just don't have anything new to add,
Mark, on the meetings.
Q Is it fair to say the administration was surprised by the
North Korean statement?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't know that that is fair. I just don't have any
information to tell me whether or not that's the case.
Q Is anyone talking to North Korea? You mentioned China, South
Korea, Japan --
MS. BUCHAN: Let me find out who might be talking with North
Korea. I don't know if there are individuals from our government or
from any of these other interested governments having discussions with
North Korea. I'll see what we can find out on that.
Q Is the President getting regular briefings on it, on the
MS. BUCHAN: During the day today?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't know. I know he began his day with his usual
intelligence briefing. Dr. Rice is on the ranch, and certainly sees
him from time to time when she's there. So I don't know the extent of
all their conversations.
Okay, thank you.
END 2:04 P.M. CDT