|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2004
Press Gaggle with Claire Buchan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Louisville, Kentucky
10:00 A.M. EST
MS. BUCHAN: Let me start with the President's day today. He had his usual briefings in Washington before leaving. When he arrives in Louisville he will be met by Freedom Corps greeter Marina Partee.
And Marina -- let me tell you a little bit about her. Marina is an honors student at Jefferson Community College where she studies computer information systems. In 1995 she sought assistance from the Center for Women and Families, which is a non-profit organization which helps women in crisis. Today she has been a volunteer -- in fact has been a volunteer for three years at that women's crisis center, and she speaks in the community about overcoming domestic violence and the importance of financial responsibility. She is a volunteer with the Common Wealth Individual Development Account, which helps low-income individuals with their financial skills. And she volunteers at the Louisville Asset Building Coalition, which promotes financial stability for individuals and families.
The President will then go to ISCO Industries, where he'll participate in a conversation on the economy. ISCO -- I'll tell you a little bit about it. It's a small irrigation supply company. It has 160 employees in 13 states, and it's grown in the past several years, adding eight new locations and 60 employees. The conversation participants will be both the ISCO Chairman, President of a machine company, President of Mac construction company, as well as an employee for ISCO and -- actually two employees for ISCO.
Q Claire, added 60 employees over the last how many years?
MS. BUCHAN: Three years.
Q How many?
MS. BUCHAN: Three. Then the President will participate in a Bush-Cheney '04 fundraiser. He will then depart to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he will be met by Laura Spencer, who quit her job at Accenture in October of 2003 to become a full-time volunteer. She volunteers as part of the Adult Basic Literacy Education Program at the Central Piedmont Community College, where the President will be having his meeting on the economy. She also volunteers with Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc. She is a lunch buddy to a nine-year old student and she serves as the assistant coach of an elementary Girls on the Run team.
The President will then participate in a meeting on the economy at Central Piedmont Community College, which is the largest community college in North Carolina. It serves about 70,000 students annually, and they are a leader in workforce development and job training for displaced workers. The meeting participants there will be business and community leaders, and they will be talking about the activities that we can do to help workers prepare for good jobs in the future. The President will then have a press pool with you all, pool at the end. And then he will participate in a Bush-Cheney fundraiser before returning home.
I also want to tell you -- and we'll have a statement for you when we're done here -- we'll be issuing a statement by the press secretary -- Libya has taken significant steps in implementing its commitment to disclose and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction programs. While there remains more to be done, Libya's actions are serious, credible and consistent with Colonel Ghadafi's public declaration that Libya seeks to play a role in building a new world free from WMD and from all forms of terrorism. The President has made clear that Libya's decision to renounce these programs voluntarily would open the path to better relations with the U.S. And in recognition of Libya's concrete steps to repudiate WMD and to build the foundation for Libya's economic growth and reintegration into the international community, the U.S. will take the following five steps. Let me just outline them for you, and you'll get the paper on this.
First, the Secretary of State will today rescind the restriction on the use of American passports for travel to Libya. Second, the Treasury Department will issue a general licence for all travel-related expenditures in Libya. Third, U.S. companies with pre-sanctions holdings in Libya will be authorized, as of today, to negotiate the terms of their reentry into operations in Libya. Fourth, the U.S. invites Libya to establish an interest section in Washington. And fifth, the administration commits to increasing contacts between Libya and American societies and exploring cooperation in humanitarian projects.
Q How about the -- how about the economic, the main economic and trade sanctions, those are -- remain in place?
MS. BUCHAN: Other sanctions remain in place, and as the President has said, as Libya moves forward with its good-faith efforts, we will move forward with our good-faith actions. And you're seeing that today.
Q Can we get a copy of that before we land?
Q Before we land?
MS. BUCHAN: Yes.
Q Claire, can I ask about the 9/11 Commission? Speaker Hastert has said he does not support extending the Commission's time frame for doing their work. Will the President push him to change his mind and support an extension and let an extension go through Congress?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President has made his views clear. He supports an extension of the 9/11 Commission. That is the White House view. And we've worked very cooperatively with the 9/11 Commission to ensure that they have all the information necessary to do their job. So the President believes it's important work.
Q Will he press Congress to approve the extension as is necessary for the Commission to do what he says he supports them doing?
MS. BUCHAN: As I said, the President has made his views clear, and that's where it stands from our standpoint as the President --
Q So I'll take that as a "no"?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President supports an extension and we've stated that and continue to support it.
Q But when something is really important to him, he often presses Congress over and over and over in speeches and through his staff and public remarks to do what he wants them to do. Will he do that on this issue?
MS. BUCHAN: I've indicated the President's view and he has made that clear. The President's view is that we support an extension.
Q There are reports that Speaker Hastert had rejected a personal plea from Andy Card to extend the deadline. Is that your understanding of it, as well, that Card had requested personally to Hastert to extend the deadline?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have specifics on conversations they've had. But as I said, our view, the White House view, is to support an extension and that's where that stands.
Q Claire, tomorrow the German Chancellor is going to be meeting with the President, and one of the things he's going to ask is a German request to bid on contracts in rebuilding Iraq. What's the President going to be telling him?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll obviously have more of a readout for you on tomorrow's meeting tomorrow. Our views on contracts in Iraq are clear. The President has made them clear.
Q What are they?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we have put forward the list of companies that can bid on the main contracts. Other companies are eligible for sub-contracting, and we've indicated that circumstances can change.
Q Okay, Germany can do something to make changes, then, or what?
MS. BUCHAN: If there's more to report, Roger, we'll let you know.
Q Tell us about North Korea. Apparently there -- according to the Chinese, there was some progress. And then the North Koreans put out a statement saying that the U.S. is responsible for a lack of progress. What's your -- what's the status from the White House view?
MS. BUCHAN: I say we're not going to get into a play-by-play. The six-party talks are underway. And all of the parties have made clear that North Korea must completely, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program. And the talks continue.
Q What about the situation in Haiti? Is there any progress in terms of trying to stabilize the situation there, or is the U.S. position still, we're not going to look at any police presence until there's a political settlement which has been reached?
MS. BUCHAN: Our position on Haiti, the President deplores the violence in Haiti. And he's greatly concerned about the loss of life. We are working with the OAS and with CARICOM on a peaceful political solution to the current situation in Haiti. We continue to be actively involved in the international community toward that end.
Q Was the administration surprised by France's announcement that it felt that Aristide should, indeed, step aside and would the U.S. encourage President Aristide to step aside if that's what it took to reach peace in that country?
MS. BUCHAN: A couple things. One, we have put forward some proposals. Our focus at the moment is on the proposals that we have put forward and we are working with all parties on those proposals toward a political solution within the context of the constitution of Haiti. The President also remains committed to encouraging the international community to provide a security presence as part of any political solution.
Q So the U.S. itself would not be putting any actual security personnel in place for that? That's something that's not on the table right now?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we are committed to encouraging the international community to provide security presence as part of a political solution.
Q Does that mean that the security presence would come to enforce a political or to help police a political solution or beforehand, possibly?
MS. BUCHAN: It means a political solution with security presence as part of the political solution.
Q Just tell me the context, if you could, of the Libya announcement. Why today? What prompted it today? -- release a statement on -- okay, was there any --
MS. BUCHAN: Well, it's consistent with what the President announced in December, when he said that Libya was going to be taking steps to implement its commitment to disclose and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction. And he indicated at that time that when Libya took concrete steps, made good faith efforts, that their efforts would be met with the good faith of the United States.
Q Was it in response to a positive move on the Libyan's part? Is that fair to say?
MS. BUCHAN: That's consistent with what we've said, yes, that as the Libyans make progress, they have an opportunity to improve their standing.
Q So are we to assume that the concerns about Libyan officials' interviews with the BBC not taking full --
MS. BUCHAN: We feel that the Libyan government addressed that yesterday.
Q So that has been allayed, as far as you all are concerned?
Q That included a lifting of the travel sanctions, didn't it?
MS. BUCHAN: Yes. Thank you.
END 10:10 A.M. EST