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 Home > News & Policies > December 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 1, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

9:19 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me start with one announcement to add to the schedule. The President will meet with King Abdullah of Jordan on December 6th, at the White House, to discuss developments in the Middle East, as well as key bilateral issues. And the President looks forward to welcoming King Abdullah back to the White House on December 6th. King Abdullah and Jordan have certainly been a staunch ally in the fight against terrorism and King Abdullah has been someone who has played a key role in helping to bring stability to Iraq and peace for the Middle East.

Q At the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: It will be at the White House on December 6th.

The President is having his usual briefings right now, aboard the airplane. The President looks forward to going to Halifax and Pier 21 to personally thank the Canadian people for their kindness and hospitality following the September 11th attacks. The people of Halifax, as well as provinces in the Atlantic region played a very helpful role to Americans who were in need during this difficult time. They took in stranded Americans -- the President will talk about it -- more than 33,000 Americans were stranded in Canada on September 11th and right after September 11th because of the flights that were diverted, or landed in Canada.

The President will also talk about the bilateral relationship with Canada. Canada is a great friend, and the President will talk about the importance of our relationship and continuing to strengthen what is already a good relationship. And he'll talk about our ties and our common values that we share.

The President will also talk about the importance of reaching out to some of our closest allies over the next four years. And in that respect, he'll talk about how he wants to foster a wider international consensus on three big goals. And those begin with, you know, first a commitment to defend security and spread freedom by making sure that we build effective multi-lateral institutions. And so he'll talk about the importance of working through multi-lateral institutions and the important role they can play to make the world a better place; but it's important that those institutions focus on results and focus on our collective security. So he'll talk a little bit about that.

And the second commitment, he'll talk about the importance of continuing to work together to fight the global war on terrorism with all our resources. Obviously, that -- with Canada, in particular, that includes both staying on the offense against terrorists in places across the world, as well as strengthening our defenses in North America. And we've worked very closely on border security and other areas, and so the President will touch on that as well.

Then the third commitment the President will talk about is the need to enhance our own security by advancing freedom and hope and democracy in the broader Middle East. He'll talk about how advancing freedom is key to making the world a more peaceful and stable place. And he'll talk about the importance of supporting efforts in the broader Middle East to promote freedom and hope and democracy.

And that's kind of a quick summary of the remarks today.

Q Is there anything new about that? He's been trying to do all three of these things, anyway.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, some of these efforts are things that have begun more recently than others. Obviously, the war on terrorism is an ongoing priority of the international community. And advancing freedom -- the broader Middle East initiative is something we have talked to leaders with and have gotten strong commitment from the international community to work together on the broader Middle East initiative.

Q Is he hoping --

MR. McCLELLAN: These are the great goals, as he will refer to them, where we should work together to strengthen our alliances and build international consensus.

Q Is there any hoping to move the debate beyond Iraq, where a lot of our allies --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Iraq is part of that, and certainly, I mean, what he'll talk about, as he did in the meetings with Prime Minister Martin, he'll thank the Canadians for their efforts in places like Afghanistan, Haiti and their contribution of troops there. And he'll talk about their contributions of financial resources to the efforts in Iraq. And Prime Minister Martin -- I think he'll refer to some comments Prime Minister Martin made about how, you know, whether we disagreed in the past, we all agree now on the importance of moving forward to build a free and peaceful Iraq for the Iraqi people.

Q Is there anything between this wave of foreign leaders coming to the White House and either this three-part, great goals that you talk about, or some broader reconciliation effort with other countries? Or are the leaders coming through the White House -- is that just backlogged meetings after campaign --

MR. McCLELLAN: It certainly depends -- I mean, for various reasons. Sometimes leaders are already coming to Washington, and these are -- I think it depends on each meeting, we talk about each one, individually, probably a better way to approach it. That's why I announced King Abdullah today and what the purpose of that meeting was. Obviously, he's someone that the President has met with on a number of occasions and has worked very closely with.

Q Can I ask you, the number of U.S. casualties spiked last month to, I think, 134. Should Americans brace for this level of violence through the Iraqi elections? Or is this because of the Fallujah offensive?

MR. McCLELLAN: There were tremendous sacrifices for the efforts to bring stability to the Fallujah area, both Iraqi forces, as well as American forces. We're all working together to bring about stability throughout Iraq, so that we can move forward on elections at the end of January. And the Iraqi election commission has set the date for January 30th, and we are all committed to helping the Iraqis move forward to hold these elections. But we've always said that as we move closer to elections and move forward on building a democratic Iraq, that the terrorists and the Saddam holdouts would become more desperate and seek to derail that transition.

What we are seeing is that they are being defeated, but we cannot forget the sacrifices of our men and women in the military who are partnering with the Iraqi people to prevail in this central front in the war on terrorism.

Q Sounds like you're bracing Americans to hold tight, it could be this bad for a couple more months.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President has talked -- the President has regularly spoken about what we are working to achieve in Iraq, what we are working with the international community to achieve in Iraq. And coalition forces are there, partnering closely with the Iraqi forces to build a brighter future for the Iraqi people. And certainly that is critical -- a free and peaceful Iraq is critical to making the world a safer and better place.

Q Does the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: And we always remember the sacrifices of our men and women in the military are helping to make the world a better place.

Q Does the President think there should be a new election in Ukraine to end the suspicions of a rigged election?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, there are a number of ideas that have been discussed. But what the President has said is that our position is that there should be a democratic outcome that reflects the will of the people in Ukraine. And you heard him say yesterday how he had spoken with President Kwasniewski, and President Kwasniewski and some other European leaders are traveling to Ukraine today to help move forward on a resolution that achieves that result in a peaceful way. So we look forward to hearing more about those discussions after they take place. We continue to urge the process to move forward in a peaceful way and achieve that democratic solution, and as it reflects the will of the people.

Anything else? Thanks.

END 10:29 A.M. EST