The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 25, 2004

Remarks by the President and Georgian President Saakashvili in Photo Opportunity 11 26 A.M. EST President Bush
The Oval Office
Here's What We're Going to Do. I Will Make A
Statement. the President Will Make a Statement. I Will Then Call Upon
An American Correspondent to Ask a Question. the President Will Call
Upon a Georgian Correspondent. We'll Have Two Questions Per Side.

Mr. President, welcome. We followed the revolution that took place

in your country very closely. We appreciate your firm commitment to

democracy and freedom. We've had a very interesting discussion. I know

firsthand that the President will do everything he can to earn the

confidence of the people of Georgia by representing their will, by

fighting corruption, by working for a system based upon integrity and

decency and human rights.

I'm impressed by this leader. I'm impressed by his vision, I'm

impressed by his courage. I am heartened by the fact that we have such

a strong friend, a friend with whom we share values.

So Mr. President, welcome to the Oval Office. I appreciate the

candid discussion we've had. And I'm proud to call you friend.

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: It's a great honor for me and for the people

of Georgia to be here in this Oval Office. It's not -- our cooperation

is very deep. We consider ourselves as very close ally and friend of

the United States. We are proud to be friend of the United States. I

am speaking on behalf of every Georgian.

I have to say that this cooperation and friendship -- the U.S. helped

us when we needed it most, and would like peoples -- other peoples in

Europe will never forget that. But our cooperation is -- that held

friendship is not only about security, it's not only about economy,

primarily it's about our shared values. And we are part of -- proud

part of anti-terrorist coalition. We have forces in Iraq. We are

cooperating on other issues.

We are also working very hard on our improved relations with Russia.

I had a very interesting conversation with President Putin in Moscow,

and I believe Russia should become our reliable partner and we should

improve our relations. But at the same time, we believe that America's

help is absolutely essential. And we are grateful, we will stay

grateful, and we want to be not only close ally, but we want to be

strong ally. Georgia will become stronger, Georgia will become more

democratic. Democracy is top priority. Freedom of speech is top

priority. Free enterprise, free market is top priority. And I think

Georgia can become a role model for the whole region. And this is very

important. We need U.S. help in that.

Regarding our revolution, it was the proudest moment of my own life

and of life of the whole generation. And we are so proud that we were

supported in our fight for democracy and for people's right to choose by

the United States, and Washington was the first to come and help us.

And I'm sure we'll never forget that.

Mr. President, I really enjoy being here at the White House. Thank

you very much.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Hold on for a second. Deb, we're going

to --

Q What do you think about --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on. Will somebody translate --


PRESIDENT BUSH: I understand. I understand. Hold on for a second.

The way this is going to work is this.

Q I'm from Georgia.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I know you are, excuse me. We're going to start

with the American press, and then there will be a Georgian press, and

then there will be an American press, and then there will be a Georgian

press. That's the best way to maintain order, so we don't have

everybody yelling at the same time.


Q Mr. President, Chairman Greenspan today suggested trimming

Social Security benefits for baby boomers to deal with the rising budget

deficit. Do you think this is a good idea, a good way to ease the

deficit, which is expected to top over $520 billion this year?

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, let me talk about the short-term

deficit. The best way to trim the deficit is to follow the budgetary

plan I submitted to the United States Congress. We presented a plan

that will cut the deficit in half over the next five years. I haven't

talked to the Chairman or read his comments. I need to see exactly what

he said. My position on Social Security benefits is this: those

benefits should not be changed for people at or near retirement.

As you know, in the 2000 campaign, I articulated a point of view that

we ought to have personal savings accounts for younger workers that

would make sure those younger workers receive benefits equal to or

greater than that which is expected. I still maintain the same

position, but I haven't seen his comments completely.

Q What do you think about Rose revolution in Georgia?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The Rose revolution? It was an historic moment. It

was a moment where the people spoke. It was a moment where a government

changed because the people peacefully exercised their voice and raised

their voice. And Georgia transitioned to a new government in an

inspiring way.

The President and I discussed the ramifications of the Rose

revolution around other parts of the world. The possibility of people

taking charge of their own lives and transforming society in a peaceful

way is a powerful example to people around the world who long for

freedom and long for honest government.

And so the Rose revolution is an inspiring moment of history. And,

again, I want to congratulate the President and his team for insisting

that democracy prevail through peaceful means.


Q Mr. President, in Haiti, the rebels are advancing and a

power-sharing deal has collapsed. Are you prepared to let President

Aristide be overthrown?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Secretary Powell and I have been in close

consultations on this subject. We still hope to be able to achieve a

political settlement between the current government and the rebels. We

are watching the situation very carefully. The Secretary of State has

been in touch with Canadian officials and French officials and Caribbean

officials, all aimed to convince the parties to come to the table and

effect a peaceful solution.

In terms of our own planning here, I have made it abundantly clear to

the Coast Guard that we will turn back any refugee that attempts to

reach our shore. And that message needs to be very clear, as well, to

the Haitian people. We will have a robust presence with an effective

strategy. And so we encourage, strongly encourage the Haitian people to

stay home as we work to reach a peaceful solution to this problem.

Q Do you think it's possible you'll have to send troops there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: What we are -- incident to a political settlement,

we will encourage the international community to provide a security

presence. And that is also being discussed right now. But first

things, first, Steve, is to work on a -- is to work on a political


Q Very complicated problems, with Russian bases problems --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I appreciate you bringing up the Russian bases

problem. We expect the Russian government to honor the Istanbul

commitment. The Istanbul commitment made it very clear that Russia

would leave those places. We will continue to work with the President

and President Putin on that commitment.

I also appreciate very much the President's work with the Russians.

It's important that relations between Georgia and Russia be positive. I

found it a very positive move and a very sophisticated move by the

President that his first trip was to Russia, and I encouraged that, I

thought it was a smart thing to do.

And we will work with Vladimir Putin, with whom I've got a good

relationship, to make sure relations are good with Georgia. It's

important for the Georgian people to have good and strong and peaceful

relations with Russia. There's a lot we can work on. We can work

together to fight terror. Hopefully, as the Georgia economy approves --

improves -- and I'm confident it will -- there will be opportunities for

business opportunities.

So the President has got a good vision and this has been a good trip.

I believe in his abilities and I appreciate his vision. And the people

of Georgia will be well-served by his leadership.

Thank you all.

END 11:37 A.M. EST

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