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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 27, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Istanbul, Turkey

3:08 P.M. (Local)

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we're working on getting senior administration officials over to the filing center this afternoon following the President's meeting with Secretary General du Hoop Scheffer. And those administration officials can give some us read-outs on the meetings today and maybe discuss some of the issues coming up at NATO, as well.

I think that's all I've got to top things off and whatever questions you have.

Q Can you say that again --

MR. McCLELLAN: So whatever questions -- she'll fill you in later.

Q Allawi has said that because of the security situation on the ground in Iraq elections might have to be postponed for a couple of months into March, or the spring. Does that concern the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen exactly what Prime Minister Allawi said, but obviously we're moving forward on the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And we'll be there to work with them and help them move forward on holding elections, as well -- so those are issues that we'll be discussing with the interim government, working to support their efforts to move forward as soon as they can to hold elections.

Q So is that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen -- I haven't heard about his specific comments, Dick. I understand what's been reported, but --

Q I understand there was an agreement where the elections would be held no later than the end January. Is that no longer the case? Is it now just as soon as possible? Or is it still by the end of January?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I will need to look into the specific remarks and find out more. Obviously, those are remarks that may have been made out of Iraq. But we're going to be there to help them move forward on holding elections so that there will be a representative, democratic government in place --

Q When do you --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- because that's critical to the region, and critical to making the world a better and safer place.

Q Is the plan still to have the elections by the end of January?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, those are -- obviously, you're going to have an interim government that will be put place within the next couple of days. They will be assuming full responsibility for their future. These are very strong and capable leaders who dedicated to moving forward on holding elections and bringing about a representative, democratic government for the Iraqi people. And again, I just haven't seen -- I haven't seen those specific remarks, but we're going to be there to help them move forward on holding those elections.

Q But you're not giving us a time frame. Before you've always said -- by January -- December or January, now you're not saying that any more?

MR. McCLELLAN: Adam, what I'd like to do is take a look at what he said and find out more information about what Prime Minister Allawi said. But I can tell you what our views are.

Q Scott, how does the taking of the hostages, the three Turkish hostages, affect the atmosphere of the summit?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would just say that, one, we're in contact with the Turkish officials about the hostages. I think it shows the true nature of the Zarqawi network. They are barbaric terrorists who have no regard for the life of innocent civilians. And they want to shake the will of the international community and the Iraqi people, but they will not prevail. They will be defeated.

Q Does it in any way cast any shadow over the summit? Or is it just more of what you --

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, we're in contact with Turkish officials on this issue, and I think people are seeing the true nature of the Zarqawi network -- I think that's the way I would describe it.

Q Is there anything the multinational force and really do to stop things like these kidnappings? We've seen very targeted kidnappings to make political points. But it's just snatching random people off the street. How does -- is there anything that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there actually have been some successes in bringing to justice some lieutenants within the Zarqawi network. And as you're aware, the coalition has carried out operations on some safe houses for that network. And there are some members of that network who are no longer able to carry out their attacks.

Q Scott, is it your understanding that -- that the training of Iraqi troops by NATO forces, are the Germans and the French still insisting that this should be done outside Iraq? Are you insisting it should be done inside Iraq? Is that a bone of contention between you two?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think what -- you saw the letter of Prime Minister Allawi, asking for the help of NATO in training Iraqi security forces. And in his letter, he asked for help of training those security forces inside Iraq. And I think you have some positive initial reaction out of NATO ambassadors for helping to train Iraqi security forces, and we hope that NATO will follow through and respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request for help in training the security forces. And I think again, these senior administration officials later this afternoon might be able to talk a little bit more about some of the progress that's been made in that --

Q But the French and the Germans can say no to that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, the senior administration officials might have a further update on the ground when we get to Istanbul about where things stand in terms of NATO's support for training.

Q What are they looking for? What is the administration actually looking for and hoping for in terms of actual numbers inside --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Prime Minister Allawi is requesting. Prime Minister is the one who made the request, and we would like help from NATO with the training of our security forces. And so I think it will be important for NATO to answer those calls and respond to their request and help them in that way. And I think, again, the NATO summit just going to be getting underway. There will be some officials to talk to you about that.

Q Scott, Paul Wolfowitz in Washington said a few days ago that he would like to see NATO troops protecting the new U.N. contingent whenever it arrives in Iraq. Is that something the President will be asking for?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, let's let the meetings take place. You're going to have senior administration officials come by later today, and they're going to talk about some of these issues. I think where our focus is on working with NATO to respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request.

Q Has the administration gotten any specific information from the interim government about how much training is needed, how many troops need to be trained, how much equipment might be needed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's let these officials come over to the filing center later and talk to you more, see if there's more detail that they can provide on those issues. I'm sure there have been some discussions. But they may be preliminary in nature. Let's find out about those issues.

Q When did the President find out about this hostage -- what was his immediate reaction?

MR. McCLELLAN: I believe it was yesterday when this was first reported.

Q Did it come up in the discussions?

MR. McCLELLAN: They discussed it.

Q When you say they discussed it, you mean in the Erdogan meeting? In both meetings -- in both with the President and the Prime Minister?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll double-check with the officials who are coming over later.

Q But when you said they discussed it, you were referring to the Erdogan meeting?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, both.

Q Did the President do anything last night? It's his first visit to Turkey? Did he see anything, do anything?

MR. McCLELLAN: Last night, we went to the hotel -- went straight to the hotel. And this morning, obviously, he was able to go to the tomb of the first President of Turkey's Republic. And that was quite a memorable experience, and a moving experience for him.

Q Is that the first time the President -- the former leader of a country in a glass box, as it were, displayed? (Laughter.) He hasn't --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about that off the top of my head.

Q -- been to see Mao's tomb in Beijing?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about that off the top of my head.

Q Do you have any comment about the statement in Iran about the foreign minister there saying that they intended to continue to build centrifuges, but maybe would hold off on enriching uranium?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. First of all, Iran needs to come clean and fully cooperate with its international obligations. Iran's continued failure to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and continued failure to stop all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities only reinforce the concerns we have expressed. It runs counter to the commitments Iran has made to the international community, and it shows a continued defiance of the international community by Iran. This latest move only reinforces our concerns and further demonstrates Iran's true intentions to the international community.

Q What's the next step? What do we do now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the IAEA sent a very strong message just recently, rebuking Iran for its failure to comply and come clean, and called on Iran to meet its international obligations. We've expressed concerns within the IAEA about the need to consider looking at sending this matter to the Security Council at the United Nations. And I think this latest move may only serve to convince others of the need to seriously consider that step for addressing it.

Q That seriously consider the step being a referral to the Security Council, which is the sanction option, right.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I said.

Q Is Iran still a member of the "axis of evil," Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Dr. Rice talked about that earlier on the Sunday shows, and nothing has changed in terms of what the President said on that.

Q That's a yes.

Q Do we know what the President is going to do to mark the handover on the 30th?

MR. McCLELLAN: No update on the schedule at this point.

Q When will you have an update?

MR. McCLELLAN: We will let you know.

(Interruption to proceedings.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think Prime Minister Allawi is talking about a security situation. But obviously, we're going to be there after the transfer of sovereignty to help the interim government address the security threats and partner with them to eliminate those threats. And in terms of what was brought out in the Security Council resolution, it called for holding elections by the end of January. And we remain committed to that. But obviously, we understand the concerns that the Prime Minister has expressed about the security situation. And that's why we're working with him to address those issues.

Q So you remain committed to January?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we still remain committed to that -- to what the resolution says. But we also understand the concerns that the Prime Minister is raising about the security situation. That's why it's important that we continue to train and equip and beef up the Iraqi security forces to work with them to address these security threats.

END 3:22 P.M. (Local)

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