|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 17, 2003
Press Gaggle by a Senior Administration Official
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Tokyo, Japan
October 16, 2003
4:31 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me start off -- good afternoon, everybody. We are going to do this as a background briefing with a senior administration official, who will give you a little bit of a briefing on our first stop, as well as maybe touch on the resolution that passed the United Nations earlier today.
And just so everybody knows, we'll do a series of background briefings over the next several days, like we do normally, to make sure you get readouts on meetings and things like that. So with that, I'll just turn it over to a senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hello. Well, let me just start by saying it's obviously been a good day for one of the elements of the President's strategy in Iraq, which is to increase the international presence and support for the effort in Iraq. I want to emphasize that we've had a large international presence in Iraq from the very beginning. More than 30 countries are involved there. Many of the NATO allies are already involved there.
But today's U.N. Security Council resolution is, I think, an important statement by the international community that it recognizes the -- how critical the -- bringing a stable and secure and prosperous and democratizing Iraq can be to the entire international community. And so it's much appreciated. A lot of hard work when into it. The President, of course, really made a lot of strides when he was in New York in talking to the French and to the Germans, and when he had President Putin at Camp David.
But a lot of hard work went into getting this. I think it was -- it's a very good thing for the United States and for the people of Iraq, most importantly.
It's also been a good day in that -- yesterday, late yesterday we learned that the Japanese have made a large $1.5 billion donation to Iraq for immediate needs in the reconstruction, and has said that it will look at what more needs to be done. We also had announcements that the international financial institutions are going to be very involved.
So all in all, I think the internationalization strategy is on track. And we're looking forward to continuing it. The President is looking forward to this chance to meet with his colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region. He has a number of agenda items -- I think I was with you earlier in the week to talk about them, but let me just emphasize that obviously the President has had three important goals -- he cares deeply about the war on terrorism, keeping the country safe, and we have good partners in that. He'll have a chance to talk to those good partners in this very region which really has a lot of very difficult problems with terrorism.
Secondly, the President is concerned about economic security -- economic security for American workers, for the American people, and he's a big proponent of free trade, but free and fair trade. And he'll have an opportunity to talk to these countries about a level playing field, because the President believes that an American worker can compete anywhere in the world if the playing field is level. He will have conversations across the board about the importance of trade, the importance of economic growth. And of course the growth of the American economy is essential to all of these countries.
And then of course the third great priority is homeland security, but that of course is served very much by the partnerships that we've developed. And he'll have a chance, I think, with Mexico, with President Fox, to talk about some of the very excellent progress that we've made in border security. He'll also -- he will not have a meeting with Prime Minister Chrtien, but obviously they'll have a chance to talk also about some of the things that have been going on at the Canadian border. This has been a real focal point for Tom Ridge and his colleagues to think about, the North American border issues.
So those are some of the issues, but it's been a really very good day, and everybody is very pleased.
Q There was a description when we were briefed that the trip to Japan was a layover. It seemed to suggest that it was not kind of a full fledged visit. Is that how the administration sees it, as a layover, or is it something more than that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When you go to Japan, it's never a layover. This is one of our best friends, one of our best allies. And the President is really glad that he's going to have an opportunity to spend time with Prime Minister Koizumi, who has been one of the most steadfast of our allies on everything -- Iraq, North Korea. It's a particularly propitious time to be going, since the Japanese have made this commitment to Iraqi stabilization. This is also a person the President just has an excellent personal relationship with, and so they'll have a nice dinner, and it will give him a chance to relax a little bit after a long trip. But every time you go to Japan there is serious work to be done, and they'll do some serious work.
Q You said, $1.5 billion for the first year. Do you know how much over the four year period this will amount to?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Japanese are looking at needs, and I think they'll probably say more at Madrid. But the important thing is that they really step forward with an immediate amount of money that can be spent for most important needs in Iraq.
Q Do you expect that they will at some point supply troops, too?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, Japan is looking at what it can do within what are pretty large restrictions. I mean, Japan has considerable restrictions on what it can do with its forces. But the Japanese have been very helpful with non-combatant roles, and I expect that they'll do more of that.
Q How important will the discussions with Koizumi be on currency matters, such as, should they be intervening in markets to keep the dollar versus the yen at certain levels?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you know the President's view on this. He stated it to the Asian journalists that the markets ought to set the exchange rate. We have a strong dollar policy. And I think they probably will talk a lot about economic fundamentals. They'll talk a lot about the importance of trade. But our position is very clear on this.
Q The Japanese commitment of $1.5 billion -- I guess estimates are that we need as much as $50 billion from foreign sources. Is there -- do you have any inkling of any other money in the pipeline, any other possibilities?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think now that you have the U.N. resolution, you'll see, for instance, in time -- it may not be immediate, but in time, this will permit the international financial institutions to get involved. That's an important source of resources for the Iraqi people. And the Madrid conference is coming up. The United States is -- the $20 billion is our share of what we believe to be the immediate needs in that $50 billion.
But let me just note that that $50 billion isn't all over one year. I mean, this is over a number of years. And so multi-year commitments from countries will be perfectly fine from the point of view of being able to use the money for reconstruction needs.
Q Back to currency again. For China and Japan, what should we expect to come out of it on -- with regard to currencies, will there be any change -- are you looking for change, are you pressing for it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're having good discussions with these folks about the President's principle here, which is that the market sets its rates.
Q Can I ask you about yesterday's terrorist attack in Gaza? There's been a lot of talk amongst the Palestinians about increasing anger towards the United States, and perhaps a view taking hold that the United States is too close to Israel or is not representing them enough, the Palestinian side. Do you see targeting of Americans as evidence of that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You can make all kinds of excuses for terrorism. There is no excuse for terrorism. The fact of the matter is that these were people who -- were security forces for diplomats who are there to interview Palestinian kids for Fulbrights. How more helpful could you be to the Palestinian people than to try to give their youth opportunities to study on Fulbrights? These terrorists are not the friends of the Palestinian people.
And I believe the Palestinian -- a number of members of the Palestinian Authority made that point. These are not people who associate themselves with the dreams and the aspirations of a peaceful Palestinian state, living side-by-side with Israel and allowing the Palestinian people to get on to their lives. These are people who are insisting on violence, who are insisting on taking the youth of the Palestinian people and turning them into suicide bombers. They should not masquerade or be allowed to masquerade behind any sense that they are doing good on behalf of the Palestinian people or that they are expressing the anger of the Palestinian people or any such thing -- they're killers, pure and simple.
And what the President said yesterday is that the Palestinian leadership needs to recognize that it's time to do something about this problem, it's long since been time, and to break up these terrorist groups so that we can get on with the building of a Palestinian state.
Q If I can just follow on that. Do you have any information confirming that those responsible were part of the offshoot of Arafat's Fattah movement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I read the reports, but I think we're still in the process with authorities of trying to figure out. There were some arrests made. I think that's a good thing for the Palestinian Authority to have done. And that is a good first step. But eventually, the Palestinian Authority has got to create an empowered Palestinian Prime Minister who can have security forces that are unified and then these security forces can begin to break up these terrorist groups, and we can get back on track on the road map, which is still there as a reliable guide to getting to the President's June 24th speech.
Q Back on the Iraq money. How important is it that this first-year commitment be a grant? And is it okay with the U.S. if out years were loans?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You mean the U.S. commitment?
Q I mean the U.S. commitment and the commitment from allies, as it comes up.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the President has been very clear that he believes that grants are important here. This is a country that's heavily burdened with Saddam Hussein's debt, which Saddam Hussein used to fuel his weapons of mass destruction programs and build palaces for himself. And the Iraqi people shouldn't be saddled with more debt. We're going to have to try to come to some understanding about the state of the current Iraqi debt. And the G7 signed a -- had a very helpful statement out of the Doha meetings -- Dubai meetings that talked about the need to restructure the debt.
But it is a heavily indebted county. These needs are immediate. There's really not, right now, a partner to enter into loans. Eventually there will be. But, for instance, the money that the international financial institutions put up will have to be in loans.
Q Have to be in -- sorry?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Will have to be in loans. I mean, that's just the structure. There can be some small grants, but the fact is, we'll have to see whether Iraq qualifies for the loans.
Q The President has been asking the President to shift more away from loans --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And we would like to have them do that, for the poorest countries. It remains to be seen how Iraq will qualify.
Q Well, the World Bank is going to be considering loans, not grants. Is that a disappointment for the administration, when at the same time you're asking everyone else to give just cash?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. The international financial institutions use principally that structure. Bilateral aid, we believe, should be as much as possible in grants. And one reason that the President has held fast in the Congress on this is that the more that we do grants, the better position we are in to argue for grants.
Q Do you have an estimate at this point now how much total you expect from Madrid, given the $1.5 billion we have from Japan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will see when we get to Madrid, but I think it's going pretty well.
Q Is Japan's going to be the largest non-U.S. contribution?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know that yet. We're still a week from the conference, and so a lot of phone calls are being made.
Q You got a unanimous vote in the U.N. Do you expect that to have a greater significance, as far as inspiring other nations to donate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think a unanimous vote was important more for what it said about the fact, now, that the international community seems united on the essential element here, which is that the Iraqi people need to be supported as they move forward. I don't doubt that there are still some disagreements about exactly how this ought to move forward. But the world -- the Security Council found itself capable of coming together, and I think sending an important message to the Iraqi people that everybody wants this to succeed, and everybody is going to play a part in that success.
Q How expected was this? Was it down to the wire, as far as getting Syria on board?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we've been getting signals for 24, 48 hours that it might be going well. We were -- the United States was willing to listen to people's concerns. I think that was also important. I frankly don't know if people thought Syria was going to vote for the resolution. That might have been a more recent surprise.
Q Do you expect this to free up, also, troops? I mean, India was sort of standing on the sidelines. Do you think this is also going to help you get troops?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I suspect that we -- to the degree that countries are able to do this, to send troops, this helps them to be able to do it. Now the truth of the matter is, there's not that much combat power in the world. There are a lot of countries that have concerns and restrictions that would probably minimize their ability to participate. But this does, at least, open up the possibility of countries now starting, I think, their domestic considerations of whether or not they would be able to send forces.
Q Are you expecting anybody to come forward because of this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not right away. Not right away. This is going to take a little bit of time. But I think we will get help. I want to remind everybody though -- we already have international troops on the ground. We are not there by ourselves with the British. The Spanish are there, the Australians are there, the Polls are there. And countries are filling the void.
Q Turkey, for example. At this point, you are -- when Turkey has voted in its parliament to do it, but at this point, we have not decided, because of some opposition within the Governing Council, to their deployment. Are we going to see them deployed, or is that actually an open question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is obviously something that is being discussed among the parties. The Iraqis are obviously an important party in this. I think it's time to just let people try and work it out.
Q So it's not for sure that they will be deployed.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's just let people try and work it out.
Q When you say that the Iraqi people should be heard on this --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course. They have to be heard. It's their country. But I would not jump to the conclusion that this cannot be worked out. I just think that this is something that may take some time.
Q -- officials have described the people in Iraq who are causing all these problems as either foreign fighters or holdovers from the old regime.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Dead enders?
Q Given that -- what do you think the addition of international troops could do to solve that problem if anything were -- if these people are --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a very good question, and I -- look, in a sense, I think anything -- international money, international troops, a U.N. resolution -- is more a signal to the Iraqi people that this is a broad-based effort on their behalf. But really, the key to what -- to getting to what you're talking about is really the Iraqis themselves. In that sense, I think the creation of Iraqi forces is much more important than anything else. Iraqi police, the Iraqi army, it's the main reason that such a large chunk of a supplemental goes to the acceleration of the creation of Iraqi forces, because Iraqis have got to defend their own evolution from this terrible democracy -- terrible tyranny to democratic development. And they are doing that. If you look at the way that they are responding now to some of these terrorist attacks that didn't completely come off, Iraqis are responding to it. And that's really the key to this question. I think the foreign troops is actually not so much important as --
Q Are Muslim troops important? Is it important for Pakistan to contribute troops, other than Turkey, other countries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that anybody who can contribute is helpful, but I really do think the most important thing is the Iraqis themselves.
Q Of course, but in the transition, would it be helpful to have Muslim troops on the ground, to show that this is not a non -- an occupation by a non-Muslim force?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it depends, it depends. I think that there's a lot of history in the region.
Q So not all Muslims would be welcome.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's a lot of history in the region, and I don't think we want to call -- you don't want to make blanket statements about any of this.
Q Will anything new on North Korea come out of the meeting? North Korea, any new developments?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the President is really looking forward to having a chance to sit down with the three leaders about this, because he's absolutely committed to the six-party talks, believes that we've made a lot of progress in six months. If you look back a few months ago, when people were telling us, well, you really, really have to have bilateral talks with the North Koreans, and now these six party talks have put the North Koreans in a position where everybody at the table is saying the same thing to them, you've got to give up this nuclear program. So he's committed to that. He's going to listen, he's going to talk to people. And I think they will talk about what way forward there may be.
Q Is there a dialogue between the Prime Minister of Japan and the President on North Korea in terms of how Japan might react if North Korea does test a weapon, for instance?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not in the sense of an immediate Japanese response, no. But everybody, I think, feels the same about the North Koreans -- the more that they demonstrate that they are a state that cannot be trusted, the deeper their isolation gets. And that's true whether you talk to the Japanese or the South Koreans or the Russians or the Chinese, for that matter. But the one thing the President is clear on is that the Japanese have some real concerns with the North Koreans, for instance, on abductees. And that is a cause that we believe is worth resolving, too. North Korea has a lot of work today before it could really enter the international community.
Q Are there written assurances at this point that the United States is prepared to provide the North Koreans in order to assuage their concerns?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President has said, in South Korea, that we have no intention of attacking North Korea. But we've got to talk to people about what the next steps ought to be.
Q You have some momentum now with the U.N. resolution and Japan coming up with $1.5 billion. Why not press these people -- why shouldn't the President press these people in these bilats to come up with money now? Isn't he in the best position to do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're doing quite a lot of pressing of everybody, to be generous.
Q Is he?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President is also making calls and sending letters and talking to people.
Q Who is he calling? Can you tell us?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At some point we'll get you a read out. But he's been making a number of phone calls. Obviously these meetings allow him to make the case, although the Japanese are already there.
Q Has he made any today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He has not yet made any today. If he makes some, we'll let you know.
Q Can I ask you kind of a strange question?
Q Is this about the Cubs?
Q There's been a lot of talk in recent days about the filter. And I know you don't deal primarily in communications, but in policy, but is this now -- although we're here and talking about it from the President, from other officials -- kind of a realization or acknowledgment that it is affecting the policy or affecting what is -- the ability to make things happen on the ground in Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just think it's an acknowledgement that it is important for everyone -- particularly the American people -- to see the true picture of what's going on in Iraq. Nobody wants to make the case that Iraq is currently a peaceful, stable democracy and there's nothing to report there. It's difficult. I mean, of course there -- I get up every day, I worry, too, about American forces that are still taking casualties, of course.
But if there's only a focus on that, you miss the entire picture of Iraq, which is that most of the country is stable and returning to normal life and businesses are opening and people are going to school and the soccer team is starting to play. It just gives an impression that there is no progress when there is progress. And you have to -- I think of it in two perspectives -- first of all, the fact that on a daily basis I think there is more to report.
There was a very good piece a couple of -- yesterday, I think, about Iraqi fire fighters, who really are brave Iraqis, who fling themselves into fires with really minimal equipment. What we're trying to do is to get them better equipment. But that says Iraqis are taking control of their own future and they're fighting for their own future. And it would be good if the American people knew and if the Iraqi people knew that that was being taken note of.
In the longer perspective, I know that you all have daily deadlines that you have to meet, the daily news cycle. But this is a big, historic change. And perspective on big, historic changes is also important.
Q But weren't those fire fighters throwing themselves into fires before the U.S. invaded?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Apparently, according to these fire fighters, they were doing so without benefit of training, without benefit of a fire house that was safe, without benefit of -- they focused on the water cooler, which I thought was kind of funny, but apparently the water cooler is a big hit.
So these are going to -- these are better trained people. Iraqi police are now going to be really trained to be policemen, not to be people who intimidate their fellow citizens. The Iraqi army will have pride in defending a democratic Iraq. I mean, that's what's changing. No, these were not people who had any stake in their country and their society, except to keep from getting killed by Saddam Hussein's henchmen, and therefore to keep silent and not raise your head above -- now I really will be -- it will be hard to stay on background.
I studied these kinds of societies. And they are the most dehumanizing societies that you can imagine, because people can't behave in a normal fashion. They can never trust their neighbor; they can never even trust members of their own family. And the best thing you can do is keep your head down. These are people, in Iraq now, who no longer face that kind of future. And that's a huge change. And America ought to be very proud of that, and people ought to be recording it, because Iraqis need to know that Americans are recognizing that they're not just shooting at Americans in the Sunni Triangle, that they are making real strides toward a better life for themselves.
Q I have one question on APEC.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, APEC? Sure, that's where we're going.
Q The WTO was largely derailed last month in Cancun. What kind of language or communiqu is going to be coming out, getting it back on track, or will it get back on track? What's your expectation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we'll have more for you as this goes on. But clearly, Cancun was a missed opportunity. Clearly there were, I think -- there wasn't a spirit and a will to really work the issues. And I think what the President will say is, let's get back to actually a spirit of working the issues. And the draft remains -- the chairman's draft remains. And we can work these issues. But it was a missed opportunity, and I think the President will say so.
Q Mr. Zoellick says he'll deal with can-do nations, that was one of his phrases. Should we look for an FTA with the U.S. and Thailand?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are going to -- we've been talking with the Thais about how we might improve the bilateral trade arrangements. And I think we'll continue to talk to them about it, and we'll see whether an FTA makes sense at that time. But Thailand is a -- has been a good partner. It's worth looking at.
Q When you said earlier, when you were talking about currencies, I know an issue that is a bit sensitive, you said, "good discussions." Did you mean that there's been progress towards bringing them around, or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what I mean is that we have discussions in which the President's people -- John Snow, for instance -- are able to make our concerns known and to state the principle, and we'll see how people respond.
END 4:57 P.M. EDT