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 Home > News & Policies > April 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 29, 2003 (Full Transcript)

12:23 P.M. EDT

QUESTION: At the U.N., where do you stand in preparations for a resolution to lift sanctions? And will you include a lot of other issues in one resolution, such as endorsing any potential Iraqi Interim Authority and that sort of thing?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one, the timing is a little early still. The oil-for-food program has been extended to June 3rd, and so the timing of any action that we would offer a resolution still remains some time into the future. Right now the process is a consultative one. We're talking to allies, we're talking to people at the United Nations about timing, about language. And the fundamental goal remains the total lifting of sanctions.

QUESTION: There are those who think that time is running short, because this is likely to be as big a wrangle as the debate over 1441.

MR. FLEISCHER: Hard to imagine anything will be that size. But the date is until June 3rd, and we'll see exactly what the timing allows.


QUESTION: Ari, can I ask you about Iraq? Why have coalition commanders in Iraq signed a cease-fire with an anti-Iran guerrilla group that is on America's list of terrorist groups? Was that cleared here? And does this not undermine America's case in the war on terror?

MR. FLEISCHER: In this instance, during the operations that took place in Iraq -- and the group that you refer to is called the MEK, Mujahedeen e-Khalk -- U.S. Forces engaged formations of the MEK, which were integrated into Saddam Hussein's defensive forces. Following the fall of the regime, our forces have now been working to promote security throughout Iraq. As part of that process, the MEK agreed to stop fighting and to confine its forces to designated areas. We expect the MEK to remain in these designated areas and refrain from any military or security operations. So this is part of the ongoing, immediate post-combat effort to enhance security on the ground. This is not necessarily the final word, but this is the word in the immediate, post-combat security environment.

QUESTION: Does this not undermine the case that we make, that terrorist organizations -- we don't ask who they're attacking, but if they're on our list --

MR. FLEISCHER: Our goal remains an Iraq that is free, and that is also free of all terrorist organizations. We're reviewing what the next steps will be, so you're watching a story unfold. There may be more to this. But for now, it's focused on the immediate security on the ground. They are a terrorist organization, they deserve that label, and we are reviewing what the next steps will be.

QUESTION: Okay, just real quickly, was that approved here ahead of time, or is that something that the commanders on the ground can do without having to come to the White House first?

MR. FLEISCHER: This instance, Mark, I don't know. I couldn't tell you whether this was done operationally on the ground. It very well may have been.


QUESTION: This is a two-part question. It's becoming apparent that France may have been aiding Saddam's regime up until the war broke out. When might the President phone President Chirac about this? Second part of the question: If members of the Iraqi regime turn up in France, what agreements do we have in place to ensure that they'll be turned over to the U.S.?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, on your second question, I remind you that President Chirac agreed with President Bush when the focus was on whether Syria was indeed receiving anybody who had fled from Iraq, and President Chirac spoke to the Syrians and stressed to them that they should not harbor. And we expect that's a principled stand that France takes that would apply everywhere.

On the first question, I have nothing to report on that topic.

QUESTION: Ari, I have two questions. What's happening to those millions of U.S. dollars in hundred dollar bills found at presidential palaces and residences in Baghdad? And has the Secret Service determined the money is real?

MR. FLEISCHER: The last update I had was that it did appear that the money is real. It will be saved and used for the people of Iraq. It is their resource, and that is -- it will be saved for them.

QUESTION: I have another question. Is it true that when the President goes to the G8 meeting in France next month, he is going to sleep across the border in Switzerland?

MR. FLEISCHER: It is not. (Laughter.) It is not true.


QUESTION: A second question on Iraq. What role, if any, did the President have in the decision to grant asylum to the Iraqi who helped lead to Jessica Lynch?

MR. FLEISCHER: I know Homeland Security made that announcement today. I'd have to take a look at the exact chain of policy determinations made by this. I don't know what role the President had in this, but I know that it's a welcome announcement. This was somebody who acted heroically and it's a welcome announcement.

QUESTION: Did he weigh in on it --

MR. FLEISCHER: I was indicating I'd have to find out for you.


END 12:58 P.M. EDT