Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 16, 2003 (Full Transcript)
12:35 P.M. EDT
QUESTION: The rules of engagement for U.S. forces have changed in Iraq with new orders allowing the use of deadly force against looters. Has the President signed off on this? Is this something the White House encouraged, given what many citizens of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq thought was chaos on the streets?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the President's focus is on bringing security to the people of Iraq. And that's an area of marked progress in much of Iraq. There are still pockets inside Iraq, inside Baghdad, for example, where there is more room for more progress. And the President leaves it up to the, still, commanders in the field to determine the exact tactics to employ to preserve security. And that way the Iraqi people know they can go about living their lives with as great a resumption of freedom as is possible. And this continues to increase on a day- by-day basis.
QUESTION: So, as far as he's concerned, this new policy of use of deadly force against looters is a good thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President believes that it's best to leave these matters up to the people on the ground who are in the life-and-death situations where they know what level of force must be used to protect the security of people there. And I remind you that as we are working with the Iraqis on a new Iraqi police department, police offices throughout Baghdad and elsewhere, much of the patrolling, wherever possible, is done with Americans and Iraqis shoulder-to-shoulder.
QUESTION: Back to the conversation with the Russian President Putin. Did the topic come up about the plan to control the oil production of Iraq by Britain and the United States? And if so, has the President convinced President Putin to withdraw his opposition? And has any progress been made on the same subject with France and Germany?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, if I recall, they spoke generally about the resolution that is still being discussed at the United Nations. That will come up for a vote sometime very shortly. And the United States continues to be optimistic about its ultimate outcome. We do see a different environment at the United Nations, particularly involving some of the nations that you mention, a will of the Security Council to work together this time. And that will be manifest in this resolution. We'll work together with our friends on it.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Any hint from Russia or the other two countries of a possible veto on this resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: You'd have to talk to them about it. It's not my place to say if that -- if even that were the case.
QUESTION: In a couple of weeks, the President will be at the G8 summit with some of the stauncher opponents of the Iraq war. How important is it to the President to get the issues at the U.N., the current resolution out of the way with a minimum amount of argument or fight before he goes off to that summit?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, the timing, of course, is to help the Iraqi people. That's what this is about. This is not about the timing of the G8. This is about how to help the Iraqi people as quickly as possible so they can assume control over their own future and their own lives. And there is no reason to impose sanctions on the Iraqi people anymore. Sanctions should only have been imposed against the Iraqi regime, which is no longer with us. And that's the President's approach to this.
So the President looks at this as -- the oil-for-food program expires at the United States on June 3rd, so that the United Nations knows it is up against a June 3rd deadline to get their business done. And the faster it is done, the quicker, the better, the more relief for the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: What was the process that resulted in breaking Germany away from the axis of opposition to get them to support lifting sanctions against Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: I did see a story on the wire this morning that said, quoted the German leader as saying that they would oppose sanctions -- or they would support the lifting of sanctions in Iraq. And I do not speak and I do not try to guess the motives of other countries. But as the President said, we are operating now in a different environment at the United Nations Security Council, and he's appreciative of that.
QUESTION: Does the President foresee the Iraqi oil fields and industry being controlled by the new Iraqi government or by private entities?
MR. FLEISCHER: These will be decisions that the Iraqis will make for themselves as they work toward their future. And obviously, different countries have different experiences with private ownership of means of production. And these will be matters that the Iraqi people eventually take final decision-making for.
QUESTION: Is the President considering inviting Abu Mazen, the Palestinian Prime Minister, to Washington?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, the President said publicly, oh, a couple weeks ago, that he would be inviting Abu Mazen to Washington to meet with him at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: When is that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, as with many visits with foreign leaders, these are things that get thought through and worked out in concert with the foreign leaders.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.