Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 15, 202003 (Full Transcript)QUESTION: Secretary Powell is saying the U.S. will consider suspending the U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Is this something you'd like to see happen?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think if you look at the full context of Secretary Powell's remarks, one, he was responding to a specific question. But our position is very clear. The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone; the sanctions are no longer needed. This is about helping the Iraqi people, helping the Iraqi people realize a better future. And they have suffered through 30 years of a brutal, ruthless regime. With the regime gone, there is no reason to do anything other than lift the sanctions, so that the Iraqi people can become fully integrated into the global economy.
We believe the sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible, and we intend to pursue a vote at the Security Council as early as next week, as Ambassador Negroponte indicated yesterday. But I believe the Secretary was very clear in saying that we want the sanctions lifted, and lifted as soon as possible.
QUESTION: If you suspend them, would it help get the resolution through the Security Council?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, again, we believe the sanctions should be lifted. And the atmosphere in New York, the atmosphere in capitals around the globe has been very positive. And we will continue to press forward to lift those sanctions. There's no reason for these sanctions to stay in place. We're talking about the economic well-being of the Iraqi people. We're talking about a brighter future for the Iraqi people, and beginning that future now by helping them and opening up their markets to trade to the global economy. And it's important that we get -- that we assist the Iraqi people as quickly as possible, and lift these sanctions.
QUESTION: Without going through U.N., you mean, you could do it unilaterally?
MR. MCCLELLAN: No, we're pursuing this through the U.N., Helen, that's what we're doing. And we will seek to pursue a vote on this as early as next week.
QUESTION: Ari? I mean, excuse me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You've been called worse. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'll take that as a compliment.
QUESTION: I have a two-part question, and one half -- additional, because we so rarely have the pleasure of your briefing leading. First, what is the President doing about -- doing at this point about finding Lt. Commander Scott Speicher, who was shot down over Iraq during Gulf War one and is believed by many to be still alive inside the country?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Les, I think that's a question you need to direct to Central Command or the Pentagon. That's a matter you need to address them.
QUESTION: The President is concerned, isn't he?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Absolutely. We've stated our --
QUESTION: And the second part is, Amy Waters Yarsinske, who was a former Naval Reserve Intelligence Officer, says in her book on the Speicher incident that the Clinton administration basically abandoned Speicher by ignoring evidence of his survival and failure to take action to rescue him.
Does the President support Senator Pat Roberts' and Senator Bill Nelson's efforts to have an independent investigation into how the government failed Scott Speicher and was involved?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Les, this is a matter we're still pursuing. I think the specific questions are best directed to the Pentagon or Central Command about our efforts. Our thoughts are obviously with his family, as well.
Let me go on to Dana.
QUESTION: Second question, about Iran, following on -- there's an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, which is now accusing Iran of running a very active biological weapons warfare program. Do we believe those accusations are true? If so, what are we doing about it?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, like I said, we have a number of concerns with regard to Iran. I cannot get into comment specifically on the news reports. I saw those news reports. But we have long made clear our deep concern about their biological weapons program, which is in violation of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.
Our intelligence community has reported publicly that Iran probably maintains an offensive biological weapons program. They have a growing bio- technology industry, significant pharmaceutical experience and the infrastructure to support its program. Iran is actively procuring dual-use bio-technical materials and expertise. Some of those materials may have legitimate uses, but we are concerned that they're seeking them for a biological weapons program. So that is a concern, and we're working with other governments to strengthen controls on dual-use biological materials that could be used in biological programs either in Iran or in other rogue states.
QUESTION: Is the uranium program at a point where it can still be choked off from the outside? Or is it sufficiently advanced that they're passed that?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, again, I think this is something we're working with other governments to better control. But it is a concern.