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 Home > News & Policies > July 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 2, 2003

President Bush Names Randall Tobias to be Global AIDS Coordinator
The Roosevelt Room

     Fact sheet In Focus: Office of National AIDS Policy
     Fact sheet Fact Sheet: The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

10:59 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all; please be seated. I appreciate very much our Secretary of State for joining us, and Tommy Thompson, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary. I want to thank Andrew Natsios, who's the administrator of USAID. I want to thank Joe O'Neill, who is the Office of National AIDS Policy, for joining us. I want to thank Elias Zerhouni, who is the director of the NIH. Where are you, Elias? There you are; thank you for coming, Doctor. And Tony Fauci, is here, as well -- honored you're here, Tony.

President George W. Bush announces his nomination of Randall Tobias to be the Coordinator for International HIV/AIDS Assistance in the Roosevelt Room Wednesday, July 2, 2003. A newly-created position, the coordinator will have the rank of Ambassador and oversee all U.S. international HIV/AIDS assistance.  White House photo by Paul Morse It's good to see Richard Lee Armitage, who is the Deputy Secretary of the Department of State. Thank you for coming, Rich. I appreciate the Tobias family for joining us. Marianne, thanks for coming; and Paige and Tim and Todd and Amy, I'm honored you all are here, as well.

Five weeks ago I signed into law the emergency action plan for AIDS relief. It's one of the largest humanitarian undertakings in our history. The plan will provide $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS abroad. Millions of lives depend on the success of this effort and we are determined to succeed.

To direct this mission, I have chosen a superb leader who knows a great deal about lifesaving medicines, and who knows how to get results. I'm pleased to announce my nomination of Randall Tobias to serve as the Global AIDS Coordinator.

Randy is one of America's most talented and respected executives. He was Vice Chairman of AT&T International and Chairman of ATT International, guiding the firm through immense organizational challenges. He went to head Eli Lilly and Company, one of our nation's largest and most innovative pharmaceutical companies.

He is a highly regarded civic leader and philanthropist in his home state of Indiana. Throughout his career, Randy has shown the ability to manage complex organizations and to navigate government bureaucracies. He has earned a reputation as an executive of great energy, resourcefulness, good judgment and integrity.

As Global AIDS Coordinator, Randy will have the rank of Ambassador, and will report directly to Secretary of State Powell. He will coordinate all of our international HIV/AIDS activities for all of our government departments and agencies. He will oversee all resources of this program. And he will work with the faith-based and community groups to get the job done. He will report regularly to Congress on the progress and effectiveness of our efforts.

Randy Tobias has a mandate directly from me to get our AIDS initiative up and running as soon as possible. We'll work quickly to get help to the people who need it most by purchasing low-cost, anti-retroviral medications and other drugs that are needed to save lives. We will set up a broad and efficient network to deliver drugs to the farthest reaches of Africa, even by motorcycle or bicycle.

We will train doctors and nurses and other health care professionals so they can treat HIV/AIDS patients. Our efforts will ensure that clinics and laboratories will be built or renovated and then equipped. Child care workers will be hired and trained to care for AIDS orphans, and people living with AIDS will get home-based care to ease their suffering.

Throughout all regions of the targeted countries we will provide HIV testing. We will support abstinence-based prevention education. Faith-based and community organizations will have our help as they provide treatment and prevention and support services in communities affected by HIV/AIDS. And we're developing a system to monitor and evaluate this entire program, so we can be sure we're getting the job done.

Next week I will go to Africa to meet with leaders of African countries and with some of the heroic men and women who are caring for the sick and are saving lives. They deserve our praise. They deserve our help, without delay. And they will have our help.

When I visit Africa I will reaffirm our nation's commitment to helping Africans fight this disease. America makes this commitment for a clear reason, directly rooted at our founding: we believe in the value and dignity of every human life. We're putting that belief into practice.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we're eager to get started. I'm hopeful that the Senate will act quickly to confirm Randall Tobias as our Global AIDS Coordinator, and that the United States Congress will fully fund my request for this lifesaving initiative. I'm also hopeful that other nations of the world will join us to combat the AIDS pandemic.

I want to thank you very much for coming. May God bless our work, and may God bless the work of Randy Tobias.

MR. TOBIAS: Mr. President, thank you very much. It's an honor and a privilege to be asked to take on this role, and I approach it with enthusiasm and with optimism.

The statistics that describe the HIV/AIDS pandemic are really nearly incomprehensible. AIDS has already killed almost 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the number one cause of death. And without intervention, it will claim the lives of one-quarter of the population in the next decade. Of those in the world who are infected with this disease, 75 percent -- nearly 32 million people -- live in Africa or in the Caribbean. More than 14 million children have been orphaned by this terrible plague.

Clearly, HIV/AIDS is first and foremost a health problem, but the implications of this pandemic reach into every aspect of life. As but one example, in a part of the world where malnutrition and starvation are already rampant, 7 million agricultural workers in Africa have already died from AIDS.

When you signed this legislation into law, you said that the United States of America has a long tradition of sacrifice in the cause of freedom and a long tradition of being generous in the service of humanity. You reminded us that we are the nation of the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, and the Peace Corps. And now, Mr. President, thanks to your leadership, we are also the nation of the emergency plan for AIDS relief.

Over the past few weeks, I have had the unique opportunity to witness firsthand the strength and the depth of your personal commitment to this effort. And I look forward to working with you and those in your administration, with the Congress, and with the many non-governmental faith-based and community organizations who are already so engaged in doing so much. And I look forward to listening to and learning from the leaders and the people of the nations who are most impacted by this extraordinary crisis -- for, in the end, they are what this is all about.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to help.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Randy. Good job.

I'll answer a couple of questions here today. Let me start off with Deb.

Q Mr. President, a posse of small nations -- like the Ukraine and Poland -- are materializing to help keep the peace in Iraq. But with the attacks on U.S. forces and the casualty rates rising, what is the administration doing to get larger powers, like France and Germany and Russia, to join the American occupation there?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we'll put together a force structure who meets the threats on the ground. And we've got a lot of forces there, ourselves. And as I said yesterday, anybody who wants to harm American troops will be found and brought to justice. There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they're talking about, if that's the case.

Let me finish. There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation. Of course we want other countries to help us -- Great Britain is there, Poland is there, Ukraine is there, you mentioned. Anybody who wants to help, we'll welcome the help. But we've got plenty tough force there right now to make sure the situation is secure. We always welcome help. We're always glad to include others in. But make no mistake about it -- and the enemy shouldn't make any mistake about it -- we will deal with them harshly if they continue to try to bring harm to the Iraqi people.

I also said yesterday an important point, that those who blow up the electricity lines really aren't hurting America, they're hurting the Iraq citizens; their own fellow citizens are being hurt. But we will deal with them harshly, as well.

Q Sir, Liberians are hopeful the U.S. will send peace-keepers. What's the likelihood of that, and how soon will you decide? And is there a danger of U.S. forces being stretched too thin?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, we're looking at all options. I've tasked the Secretary of State to talk to Kofi Annan on how best to deal with Liberia. We're concerned when we see suffering, people are suffering there -- the political instability is such that people are panicking.

But the good news is there's a cease-fire in place now. And one of the things that Colin is going to do is to work closely with the United Nations to see how best to keep the cease-fire in place. We're exploring all options as to how to keep the situation peaceful and stable.

One thing has to happen: Mr. Taylor needs to leave the country. And Colin has made that a -- I made it clear publicly; I've just made it clear again; he made it clear to Kofi Annan. In order for there to be peace and stability in Liberia, Charles Taylor needs to leave now.

We're looking at all options, Steve, and Colin has got the -- has got the diplomatic initiative taking place.

Q Mr. President, we understand you talked with President Putin this morning.

THE PRESIDENT: I did. He wished me a happy birthday. (Laughter.)

Q It was a birthday phone call?

THE PRESIDENT: I expect you to do the same thing. (Laughter.)

Q Happy birthday to you, a few days early.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It's not until the 6th, however. (Laughter.)

Q You can never be too early with these things.

THE PRESIDENT: That's right. (Laughter.)

Q But did you discuss the situation in Iran and did you --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we did.

Q -- and did you discuss the situation in Liberia?

THE PRESIDENT: No, we did not discuss the situation in Liberia. We did discuss the situation in Iran. I thanked him for keeping the pressure on the Iranian government to dismantle any notions they might have of building a nuclear weapon.

And we're making progress on that front. Not only does Vladimir Putin understand our concerns and shares the concerns, the EU, for example, has sent out a very strong statement to the Iranians that the world expects them to conform with the IAEA, to cooperate with the IAEA, and to get rid of any plans to develop a nuclear weapon.

We also talked about North Korea. And I appreciate his understanding that the best way to deal with North Korea is to do so in a multinational forum, where the United States and China and South Korea and Japan and, hopefully, Russia all sit down with the North Koreans and make it clear that the world expects them to dismantle a nuclear weapons program, and at the same time will be willing to help the starving North Korean people.

We're making progress on those fronts, and it's helpful to be able to cooperate with Russia in dealing with matters of international security.

Yes, Terry.

Q Mr. President, do you support, or do you oppose a federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know if it's necessary yet. Let's let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing. What I do support is the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Any other questions? I'm willing to exhaust questions, today. I feel like I'm on a role. (Laughter.)

Q I've got --


Q There's been some recent good news out of the Middle East, would you like to comment on that? What do you expect the parties to do now, the Palestinians and Israelis?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're pleased with --

Q And when is Prime Minister Abbas coming?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know that yet.

Q Okay.

THE PRESIDENT: We are pleased with the progress in the Middle East. I want to thank the parties in the Middle East for willing to take a risk for peace. I am pleased with the hard work that our Secretary of State has done, along with Ambassador Wolf, who has been shuttling back and forth between parties, reminding people of the commitments they made to our government -- me, personally -- the commitments they made to me, personally, in Jordan.

I am optimistic, but I also recognize the nature of the Middle East. I mean, there are people there who still hate. They hate Israel. They hate the idea of peace. They can't stand the thought of a peaceful state existing side-by-side with Israel. And they are willing to -- may be willing to attack. And what we must continue to do is to reject that kind of thought. That's why we spoke out clearly. I spoke out, the Secretary of State has spoken out, on Hamas. Hamas is not a peaceful organization when they're willing to blow people up and destroy innocent life. And so we are making progress, but the progress will be ultimately made when the world, particularly that part of the world, firmly and finally rejects terrorist activities.

The other thing that needs to happen, Steve, is that institutions that will enable a Palestinian state to emerge need to be -- continued to be fostered and put in place. There needs to be a constitution. There needs to be a capable security force. There needs to be economic hope. The Palestinian people must know that by accepting a peaceful government, by embracing the Prime Ministership of Abu Mazen, that there is a better day ahead for them when it comes to making a living.

And so we will work with all parties to promote economic development in a secure environment. And so we're making progress. I'm pleased. I think we're all, the best way to describe it is we're really happy with what we've seen so far. But we're realists in this administration. We understand that there has been years of hatred and distrust. And we'll continue to keep the process moving forward.

I talked to President Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan today. I praised them for their efforts. I continue to -- I urged them to continue to stay involved in the process, that we all must continue to -- I urge them to continue to stay involved in the process; that we all must continue to reject terror; that we must call terrorists what they -- by their real name. We must condemn terror in all instances. We must cut off money to terrorist organizations in order to keep this progress moving.

Yes, Terry.

Q On weapons of mass destruction, is it fair to say now, after two months of looking for them, that there is a discrepancy between what the intelligence community and you and your top officials described as the threat from Saddam Hussein, and what was actually there on the ground?

THE PRESIDENT: No, Saddam Hussein had a weapons program. Remember, he used them. He used chemical weapons on his own people. Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States, because we removed him. But he was a threat -- such a threat that my predecessor, using the same intelligence, in 1998, ordered a bombing of Iraq. I mean, so, no, he was a threat. He's not a threat now. And the world is more peaceful by virtue of the fact that he is not in power.

See, we've been there, what, how many days? You're counting the days since we've been there? Because I'm not. Eighty, ninety? Frankly, it wasn't all that long ago that we started military operations. And we got rid of him, much faster than a lot of people thought. And so we're bringing some order to the country and we're beginning to learn the truth.

But he played his hand, Terry -- he, Saddam Hussein -- when he used chemical weapons. And then he played his hand by not letting people come in and inspect for the weapons. He had them. And it's just a matter of time. It's a matter of time. The man was a threat to America. He's not a threat today.

But what we're really finding out, as well, is the threat he posed to the Iraqi people. I mean, we have uncovered some unbelievable scenes. I have not seen them, myself; they've been described to me, what it means to see mass graves opened up, with the remains of men and women and children murdered by that regime.

He was a threat to America. He was a threat to freedom-loving countries. He was a threat in the Middle East. But what we're finding out is the nature of this man when it came to how he dealt with the Iraqi people, as well. And it was -- it's unbelievable what he did. And I -- when it comes to the AIDS initiative, we believe in human dignity, we also believe that everybody ought to live in free societies, too.

And so we'll stay the course in Iraq. As I said, there's people there that would like to run us out of there, create the conditions where we get nervous and decide to leave. We're not going to get nervous, and we're not leaving until we accomplish the task. And that task is going to be a free country run by the Iraqi people. And that, in turn, will help the peace in the Middle East. That, in turn, will bring stability in a part of the world that needs stability. And I am -- I'm optimistic about achieving this objective because I believe that people want to be free. I believe it's in the nature of the individual to love freedom and embrace freedom.

And so it has been a great honor to lead our nation in not only the cause of humanitarian relief through an AIDS initiative, but also to lead our nation to free people from the clutches of what history will show was an incredibly barbaric regime.

Thank you all, very much.

END 11:19 A.M. EDT