Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 6, 2003 (Full Transcript)
QUESTION: And just one final thing, if I may. At the U.N., you've not got less than a month before oil-for-food expires. You may even need -- it may be necessary for the Iraqis to even import oil if they can't things -- refineries, and so forth working fast enough. How close are you to putting forth a resolution to lift sanctions, and how critical is the time factor at this point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the oil-for-food program and the resolutions at the United Nations remain in effect until -- it's either June 2nd or June 3rd, if I recall. I think it's June 3rd. And today is May 6th, and so there is time here. I was talking with the U.N. this morning about it, and they understand the timetable. Diplomats are still talking to each other. So it's impossible yet to put any date on when the diplomats are prepared to move. But they know what they're working against, in terms of the date.
QUESTION: Ari, I'd like to go to Iraq and oil. Was there a new interim oil minister for Iraq appointed over the weekend, Thamir Ghadhban?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I've seen those reports. I have no reason to think that they're not accurate.
QUESTION: Can you confirm it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd put it the way I have because I haven't gotten official confirmation from anybody. I have no reason to think it's inaccurate.
QUESTION: The person installed, to what extent is he free to run the oil drilling as he sees fit? Or does he have to answer to some council, or, in this case, I believe there's an executive ex-CEO from Shell -- does he have to run by the plans there? Or how quickly can they pump oil?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, for much of what's happening inside Iraq with the reconstruction, there's combined effort. You'll see Iraqis increasingly taking the helm, wherever they are in different regions of the country, at different paces. And there are -- a team of American advisory groups that are there to help them, as well. And I think what you'll find is the Iraqis, in most cases, welcome the fact that the Americans are there to provide expertise and assistance. Certainly in the case of the oil industry, as we're seeing in many different industries around Iraq, a lot of the resources and wealth of Iraq were looted and plundered by the leaders and not reinvested in the infrastructure of the country. And so the oil industry there is an older industry. It is not as modern as other nations, for example, in the region. And so I think they do welcome assistance and help from experts.
QUESTION: How long will they answer to this guiding council?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I'm not sure you can say that they answer to it. We're talking to work this together, as you would imagine. And that will be for whatever period of time is helpful. We've always said that we intend to stay for as long as necessary, but not longer, and that applies to all facets of what we're doing there.
QUESTION: Six months, a year?
MR. FLEISCHER: I couldn't put a finger, a guess on it.
QUESTION: And I just want one on Iraq. The coalition continues to capture ex-members of Saddam Hussein's Cabinet, or high, top officials; the lady who's known as Dr. Anthrax was just captured. But the President said on the weekend that Tariq Aziz is not telling the truth. And are you getting any information at all from all the people you've detained -- any serious information?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, I'm not at liberty to discuss what we are getting specifically from any of these of briefings. But at different levels, we do get information that we analyze and assess. And sometimes it's valuable, sometimes it's not.
QUESTION: Let me follow up with that. I'm really talking about assistance leading up to the outbreak of war. We're getting reports that are filtering out that the French, in particular, have aided Saddam's regime. The Russians have also done so. The convoy that was fired on six weeks ago leaving Baghdad were Russian diplomats secreting documents out of the country. They haven't commented on the contents of those documents. Have we asked for any kind of explanation from these two countries regarding situations like that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, with the question of the French, the story, of course, is just out in the papers this morning. The French -- there was a spokesman for the French government quoted in there saying nothing like that would have occurred since the war began, I think was his quote. And I know that you have the ability to ask follow-up questions to French authorities and dig into this matter. There's nothing more. I indicated I can't confirm that report, so I don't have anything more to offer on it.