For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 15, 2005
March 15, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
Hezbollah..................................1-2, 6-9, 13-14 Italy/troops
in Iraq...............................2-3, 11 Majority Leader
DeLay....................................3 Iraq war/marking of
Chavez/anti-American actions.....................9-10 Northern
Ireland........................................10 China loan
guarantees...................................11 President's comments on
Israeli settlements..........12-13 Iran/support for
Hezbollah...........................13-14 Video news
releases.....................................14 Sale of fighter jets to
India and Pakistan?..........14-15 Karen Hughes' role/reaction in
Muslim countries......15-16 Mexico/terrorists crossing border into
U.S..............16 Energy Secretary lobbying OPEC
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release March 15, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:14 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. The President was
pleased to welcome King Abdullah back to the White House today. They
had a good discussion about the importance of supporting efforts in the
Middle East to move toward the President's two-state vision. They also
had a good discussion about our continuing efforts in the war on
terrorism. And we also appreciate Jordan's strong statement calling on
Syria to withdraw completely from Lebanon. They join Egypt and Saudi
Arabia and a number of other countries in the international community
who are making it clear to Syria that they need to withdraw completely
and fully from Lebanon. And we appreciate those strong statements of
support for the Lebanese people.
And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions.
Q Specifically, what would the President like to see Hezbollah
do in Lebanon to join the political mainstream?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Resolution 1559 spells out what needs to
happen. And our focus right now is on making sure that there are free
and fair elections without any outside intimidation or interference.
The Lebanese people should be allowed to choose their own future and to
chart their own path, and that's where our focus is. This isn't about
Hezbollah, this is about allowing the Lebanese people to freely choose
their leaders without any intimidation or outside interference. And
you can't have that as long as Syria remains inside Lebanon.
And that's why we are making it clear, as well as other nations,
that Syria needs to completely withdraw all its military forces and all
its intelligence services from Lebanon, so that those elections can
proceed forward in a free and fair and credible way.
Now, if you have free and fair elections, I think experience shows
that people tend to choose leaders who are committed to improving their
quality of life, not terrorists. But in terms of Hezbollah, nothing
has changed in terms of our views. You've heard from administration
officials over the weekend; you heard from the President earlier
Q The President -- does he recognize that Hezbollah is a potent
political force in Lebanon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Our view
has not changed when it comes to that. And 1559 also calls for all
militias to be disarmed. And we want to see 1559 fully complied with.
Q Scott, what is your understanding of Italy's position on
withdrawing troops from Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, last week Prime Minister Berlusconi
spoke to, I believe, the Italian Senate and addressed this issue. He
said that, as Iraqis are able to assume more responsibility, we will
work in agreement with our allies and start to withdraw some of our
forces. And that was something he said, I believe it was just about a
week ago -- last Wednesday, I think.
Q But has this come to a head, then, today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw the comments he made today and I think they
were very similar to the comments he made last week.
Q What does this do to our overall troop strength there? And is
it hurting our effort, in general, in --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think so, because if you look at what he
said last week and what he said again today, this will be based on the
ability and capability of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi government to be
able to assume more responsibility, and that he will work in agreement
with allies in the region before taking those steps. And we certainly
appreciate the contributions of the Italians. They have served and
sacrificed alongside Iraqis and alongside other coalition forces.
Our focus remains on making sure that the Iraqi forces are fully
trained and equipped and ready to assume more responsibility for their
future, and that's where our focus will remain, so that eventually our
troops will be able to return home with honor.
Q How much of this reflects the tension between the United
States and Italy over the shooting incident?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure that I'd make a connection there. I
don't view it the same way.
Q Is there any connection?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q So no connection at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I -- I haven't heard any comment to that
effect from Italian officials.
Q Scott, you addressed this to some degree yesterday, but it
bears bringing up again because there's some new developments.
Majority Leader DeLay today denied any wrongdoing in a couple of trips
he took overseas a couple of years back. Does the Majority Leader
still enjoy the full faith and confidence of the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Majority Leader is someone that we
support. He is someone we'll work very closely with in Washington to
get things done on behalf of the American people. And we join with
Speaker Hastert and other leaders in Congress who have talked about how
he is a valuable member of the congressional leadership.
Q Is the President confident that there was no wrongdoing,
either in the trips that he took or in the corporate donations to his
Texas political action committee?
MR. McCLELLAN: We join with other congressional leaders in our
support for Congressman DeLay, and we will continue to work closely
with him to get things done for the American people. Those questions
can be directed to his office.
Q How is the President going to mark the second anniversary of
our war against Iraq and the start of the third year?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's still a few days off until the date
that we began the liberation of Iraq, and --
Q The invasion of Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the Iraqi people showed that they
appreciate the sacrifices of the coalition forces, of Iraqi forces, and
our men and women in uniform of the U.S. military, who helped --
Q Well, we're still there and we're still fighting, aren't we?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- to provide them with the opportunity to
determine their own future, and to move away from their past of
oppression and terrorism. And, obviously, we will --
Q How is the President going to mark the anniversary?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we will have more to say as we move closer to
that, to express our eternal gratitude to the men and women of our
Armed Forces who have served and sacrificed in the defense of freedom,
and who have helped to liberate some 25 million people in Iraq. We are
Q That isn't why you went in.
MR. McCLELLAN: We are forever grateful to our men and women in
uniform. And the Iraqi people have expressed their gratitude, as well,
and showed that they are committed to defying the terrorists who want
to return to the past by going to the polls and voting for a future
based on freedom and democracy. And the National Assembly that was
elected by the Iraqi people, the transitional National Assembly, will
be meeting for the first time tomorrow. It's an important step on the
path to democracy. And we stand with the international community in
doing everything we can to support the transition to democracy in
Iraq. We stand with the Iraqi people, and we are greatly appreciative
of our men and women in uniform who continue to serve and sacrifice for
this important cause. We are also grateful to their families who have
made sacrifices, as well.
Q How many people are dead?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, April.
Q Scott, on the anthrax attacks. The latest anthrax attacks
reminds Americans that we have not found the origins of who or a group
of people or one person who sent the anthrax in October of 2001 at --
this has all gone on as we're spending so much money for biodefense.
Why have we not found the person or persons responsible for the anthrax
attacks of 2001?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a matter that remains a priority. It
remains under investigation. The FBI continues to pursue it. In terms
of the issue today that you're bringing up, let me just make clear that
there was a preliminary -- or some preliminary tests that came back
positive. But there has been additional testing that has come up and
that has been negative. So there's still some testing going on. We
expect to be seeing more definitive results soon. So I don't think we
should jump to any conclusions at this point. The proper authorities
are looking into the latest matter to determine what exactly this
substance was on these letters, and when we have more definitive
results then maybe we'll be able to talk about it at that point.
Nevertheless, I would also point out that we take a number of
precautionary measures when something like this happens. And we have
made sure that those who may have been exposed to this substance,
whatever it may be, are able to receive antibiotics if they need it.
There's been no indication whatsoever that anyone has shown any
symptoms of exposure to anthrax. So we need to see what those final
Q But, Scott, it somewhat makes -- some of the critics of this
Bush administration are very concerned, as we're talking about
preventing terrorism abroad in the Middle East and the oppression and
tyranny there, we're still very vulnerable to terrorism here, and still
have not, again, found the origins of the anthrax attack of October
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let me repeat -- I would not try to draw
conclusions yet on some of the current information that we have seen in
the news, or the current matter relating to these Department of Defense
facilities. There's been a lot of additional testing that came back
negative. But they're continuing to pursue it, because anytime
something like this shows up positive, it becomes a high priority, and
that's why a number of authorities are working on it. Health
officials, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI obviously will
be involved, and trying to determine exactly what this substance is.
But in terms of the issue you brought up, we have made preventing
bioterrorism a top priority, and that's why we have worked on
initiatives to address those issues. And the President will continue
to make sure we are doing all we can to better protect the homeland,
while also staying on the offensive abroad to prevent terrorist attacks
from happening in the first place.
Q So does this show that there's still a vulnerability to this
type of attack, these latest incidents?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, these latest incidents are a matter that is
still being looked into. There haven't been any definitive results
drawn, so I don't think you can --
Q Whether there is a definitive result or not, does this still
say we --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're asking me to draw conclusions, and I don't
think I can draw conclusions until we see definitive results.
Q Scott, if we can go back to the President's remarks earlier
today, he said, we view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I
hope that Hezbollah would prove that they're not by laying down arms
and not threatening peace. Is the President giving Hezbollah an
opportunity to change, to renounce terror? And if so, will the United
States consider it a legitimate political organization?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're asking me ifs. Those are very
Q Well, the President brought up the hypothetical when he said,
I hope the Hezbollah would prove that they're not by laying down arms
and not threatening --
MR. McCLELLAN: Right.
Q -- that they could become a legitimate organization, not a
MR. McCLELLAN: Because 1559 calls for Hezbollah to disarm, like
other organizations -- terrorist organizations -- in Lebanon. That's
what's spelled out in 1559. Again, let me emphasize what we have said
previously. You can't have a democratic society and a society based on
rule of law where you have groups, organizations, that are committed to
violence. And that's why what our focus is on right now is getting
Syria to fully comply with Security Council Resolution 1559. That
calls for the complete withdrawal of all their forces, military and
intelligence, and it says in the resolution, fully and urgently. So we
want to see that withdrawal happen as soon as possible. It's important
that it happens before the parliamentary elections in May take place,
because, in order for those elections to be free and fair, you need to
remove the Syrian presence from Lebanon.
And, again, experience shows that when people are given the
opportunity to choose their leaders, they tend to choose people who are
committed to improving their lives, not terrorists.
Q Is the President saying today, when he says, I hope that
Hezbollah would prove that they're not -- being not a terrorist
organization -- by laying down arms and not threatening peace, is he
giving Hezbollah an opportunity here to prove, if they lay down arms,
if they renounce terrorism, that the United States would work with
Hezbollah in the future and consider it a legitimate --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what you're stating would be that they would
be -- it would change the dynamic if they disarmed and renounced
terrorism, in your own words. So that changes the situation. We're
not -- this isn't about Hezbollah. This is about supporting the
Lebanese people. The President believes that the future of Lebanon is
in the hands of the Lebanese people. We saw that yesterday, again, in
the massive demonstration taking place in the square in Beirut, where
the Lebanese people were saying, we want freedom and democracy, and we
want Syria out; we want the outside intimidation and outside
interference in our country removed, and that means Syria needs to
leave. So that's where our focus remains.
The step that needs to happen now is Syria needs to leave. And we
appreciate all those other countries that share our view, and are
calling on Syria to withdraw. We have confidence that the Lebanese
people will be able to determine their future and make the choices that
are best for their country. So we want those decisions to be in the
hands of the Lebanese people, and the way for that to happen is for
Syria to get out.
Q But, Scott, the President's comment was about Hezbollah. And
what he said -- and you said, that would ultimately change the dynamic
if they were to lay down their arms and renounce terror. If they were
to change the dynamic, would the administration deal with Hezbollah?
Would they consider Hezbollah a legitimate organization? Is the
President creating that opening for this organization to change its
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me repeat -- would and ifs are hypotheticals.
I'm not into hypotheticals. No, the President made very clear that our
views have not changed when it comes to Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a
terrorist organization. They need to disarm, as called for in Security
Council Resolution 1559.
We have -- we support the ability of the Lebanese people to chart
their own future. And so we want to support them as they move forward
on holding elections in May. And the best way to do that is to
continue to call on Syria to leave, and to leave now.
Q So we're not to read into this, the President's comments, that
if they were to disarm, if they were to lay down their arms and not
threaten peace, that there would be an opportunity here for the United
States to recognize Hezbollah as an organization that it can --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's not what the President said. That's not --
you were asking what the President said. I just said he said that our
views have not changed when it comes to Hezbollah. And I'm not going
to get into hypotheticals. But you, yourself, pointed out if they
renounce terrorism, in your question, and if they disarm, well, then
that does change -- change the dynamic.
Q Scott, how much concern President has over the $4 billion gas
deal with India and Iran through Pakistan? Because many in India are
warning that terrorist may blackmail India over this gas pipeline from
Iran to India, so -- and also U.S. is also closing the deal. So what
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't really had a discussion with him. I'll
see if there's anything else to add to it. I think the State
Department might be able to address it.
Go ahead, Carl.
Q Does the administration believe that once a terrorist
organization always a terrorist organization, or that any organization
is redeemable, specifically Hezbollah?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into that in the context of
Q Well, it's a policy question about whether or not a terrorist
organization can change its behavior, moderate its actions, and change
its relationship with the U.S. administration.
MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, I think that in terms of Hezbollah -- you're
asking this question in terms of Hezbollah -- I just stated what our
views are. Those views remain unchanged and --
Q And do they ever change?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to -- you're asking in the context of
Hezbollah, and I think I've just made our views clear again what our
views are, and I'm not going to get into playing "what ifs" when it
comes to Hezbollah.
Q Well, as an example then, there have been Baathists who have
been helpful to administration efforts in Iraq -- the Baathists clearly
on the negative side of the ledger not too long ago -- because of their
moderated behavior. Isn't that something that could be imaged by
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think -- let's distinguish here, because
you're talking about -- you may be talking about people that may be
members of organizations, but are not terrorists, versus terrorists,
people who have blood on their hands. There's a big difference. And I
think we've spoken to that in the past. But organizations like
Hezbollah have to choose, either you're a terrorist organization or
you're a political organization. They remain a terrorist
organization. The President spoke about their past atrocities and
their past terrorist acts in his remarks earlier today.
Now, we've seen, when I talk about experience shows that people
tend to choose leaders who are committed to improving their own
livelihood, that are committed to improving their own security, that
are committed to improving their own -- or expanding prosperity for
those people, and one example is elections that took place in the
Palestinian Territories. And you saw that there may have been people
elected that may have been members of Hamas, but they weren't
terrorists. They were people who advocated the importance of improving
the quality of life for people in the region, people in the
Territories. And they were businesspeople, they're professionals.
Go ahead, Sarah.
Q Thank you. Scott, Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez,
continues his anti-American verbal attacks. He is also making oil and
arms deals with countries that are not friendly to the United States.
What will the President do if Chavez cuts off Venezuelan oil to the
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he continues -- the government of Venezuela,
under his leadership, continues to take steps that give us concern, and
I think they are concerns shared by others, as well. And our concerns
about the steps that have been taken in Venezuela relate to actions
that move away from democratic institutions and freedom for the
Venezuelan people. We've also expressed our concerns about what
intention -- what the intentions are of Venezuela in the region. And
in terms of the concerns, as I said, they're shared by many in the
region. And that's why we'll continue to work with others in the
region through the Organization of American States, to make sure that
Venezuela is meeting its commitment that it has made under the
Democratic Charter for the region.
Go ahead, Connie.
Q Thank you. To follow up the questions asked yesterday about
Northern Ireland, do you consider the IRA and Sinn Fein now to be
terrorists? And also, how much time will President Bush spend with the
MR. McCLELLAN: How much time will he what?
Q Spend with the McCartney sisters.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll let you know then. He looks forward to
seeing them. They will -- they have been invited to the White House to
attend the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. And I think part of the
message that sends is that we remain committed to the efforts of the
Prime Ministers -- Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern -- to
bring about a comprehensive peace agreement. We share the views of
Prime Ministers Ahern and Blair that continued violence is an obstacle
to reaching a comprehensive peace agreement. Ongoing paramilitary
activity and thuggery stands in the way of a lasting and durable
peace. And we want to make it clear to the parties in Northern Ireland
where we stand. We stand with those who are working to achieve a
comprehensive peace agreement. And there's been a step back from that
process by the parties. There's been a lack of progress. And we want
to see the parties get back on the path toward a comprehensive peace
Q Is this a blanket indictment now of IRA and Sinn Fein? Are
you saying they are terrorist organizations?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've stated our views on the violence that
goes on and the terrorist acts that have continued in Northern
Ireland. And we stand with the Prime Ministers who are working to
bring about a comprehensive peace agreement. I don't think there's
anything to add to what I said.
Q Two brief questions. Following up yesterday on my question in
the afternoon session, I dropped off all the documents from the
Import-Export Bank on the $5 billion in loans and loan guarantees to
China, and specifically to the CNNC, which was involved in building
reactors in Iran and Pakistan. Has anything changed on that since
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have much on it. I just checked into it
initially, and my understanding is that this was a preliminary
proposal. It still has not been adopted. Also, when it comes to the
issue of proliferation, we have agencies that look into those matters
to make sure that what is involved here does not involve any
proliferation concerns. And so you would have agencies that would make
sure that proliferation is not going on, that this is for other
Q Second question I had was this: One of the worst-kept secrets
within the Republican Party is that the President and Karl Rove like to
get involved in primaries ahead of time, and picking nominees for
office or blessing nominees for office. Secretary Martinez is a good
example. Has the President made --
MR. McCLELLAN: Senator Martinez.
Q Senator Martinez, right. Has the President made any overtures
to Lt. Governor Michael Steele of Maryland about running for the seat
that Democratic Senator Sarbanes is giving up?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of, and of course, that
announcement was just made the other day.
Q Back to Italy. Your President, our President and the
administration have repeatedly said there will be no timetable --
MR. McCLELLAN: Everybody else agree? (Laughter.)
Q There is no timetable for --
MR. McCLELLAN: Sometimes I wonder.
Q -- U.S. withdrawal --
Q Awww --
MR. McCLELLAN: I said it with a smile.
Q I meant to say you and the administration. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Me and my President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Herman is waiting to jump in on this one.
Q I'm behaving. I'm behaving. (Laughter.)
Q So the policy of the Bush administration has been stated, no
timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. It's conditional on the
basis of establishing an Iraqi security force. What Berlusconi said
today is, already in September, we will begin a progressive reduction
of the number of our soldiers in Iraq. And he said, it's the public
opinion of our countries that expect this. That seems to be somewhat
of a different approach than what the President has outlined.
MR. McCLELLAN: You've heard the President's views, in terms of our
forces. I mean, obviously, every country will make their own decisions
about what they can continue to contribute, or contribute in the
future, when it comes to helping the Iraqi people. But Italy has
contributed in many ways, and we appreciate all the contributions that
they have made to support the Iraqi people as they build a peaceful and
And there are countries that have made decisions previously that
they were going to be there for a set period of time. There are other
countries that -- in terms of forces, there are other countries that
have committed to extending their troop presence. What our focus is on
is on training and equipping the Iraqi security forces so that they can
provide for their own security, so that they can defend themselves
against internal, external threats. And when they are fully capable of
doing that, then our troops will be able to return home with honor.
Q Scott, an apology if this has been covered already, but one of
the President's comments today with the King of Jordan has made a bit
of a splash in Israel. It's a comment, "Israel must withdraw from the
settlements," not specifying which ones and where. Did the President
really mean all settlements?
MR. McCLELLAN: I thank you for bringing that up. What the
President was referring to was the withdrawal plan that is being
pursued by Prime Minister Sharon, as well as the unauthorized outpost,
which the road map calls for Israel to remove. So that's what he was
referring to, what our position is.
Q Scott, the President -- you say that this isn't about
Hezbollah, it's about the Lebanese people, but the President also
implied that it was -- said it was broader than that. He said, both
the United States and Jordan were concerned that Hezbollah will
interfere with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Can you tell me,
to what extent is Hezbollah continuing to train Palestinian terrorists
at camps in the Bekaa Valley? To what extent are they funneling money
from Syria to Palestinian terrorist groups? What plans have you
uncovered that would indicate that they are, indeed, intent on
disrupting the peace process?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think if you look at their history and look
at their past actions, they have been a destabilizing force in the
region. And the President and King Abdullah did talk about their
concerns that Hezbollah might try to have a negative impact on the
Middle East peace process. That remains a concern of ours. They are a
terrorist organization. The President spoke to that earlier today.
And it's important that all parties in the region work together to
support the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and to support
Israeli and Palestinian leaders as they move forward to achieve a
two-state vision, the one that the President outlined.
I don't have anything to update you on in terms of specifics, but
it remains a concern, and given their history, I think, is the best way
to look at it.
Q Have you considered Hezbollah's disarmament part and parcel of
the whole Syrian package that we're looking for?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, and we've spoken to this, what needs
to happen now is Syria needs to get out of Lebanon so that those
parliamentary elections can proceed forward freely and fairly and in a
credible manner so that the Lebanese people can chart their own path.
And 1559 does call for Hezbollah to disarm. We want to see 1559
Q Are you seeing any role with Iran in -- especially with
MR. McCLELLAN: Am I seeing any --
Q Any role with the regime of Iran?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that is an organization that they have
provided support for. We remain concerned about both Iran's and
Syria's support for terrorism. They continue to move in a direction
that is out of step with the rest of the Middle East. They need to
change their behavior and stop supporting terrorism. They need to go
after terrorist organizations that are in their country and deal with
Q Scott, on video news releases, yesterday the Comptroller
General, reacting to the Bolten memo, said that it's not just a legal
question, there are ethical questions. Does our President --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, who said that?
Q The Comptroller General, David Walker. Does our President
think there are ethical questions to be answered concerning the use of
video news releases?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President looks at this and -- in the
sense that there are some clear guidelines in terms of what department
and agencies can or cannot do. There -- and in that memo that you were
given yesterday, it references some of those and says that you need to
make sure you're complying with those guidelines. In terms of these
informational news releases, that is something that has been used for
quite some time now by federal agencies. And as long as that
information is factual and not crossing the line into advocacy, the
Justice Department believes that it is perfectly appropriate. And it's
well-known to the television stations where this information is coming
Q Has the administration reviewed any of these? Have you found
any that you thought crossed a line, or have they all been okay?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. And one thing we wanted to do was make it
clear to federal departments and agencies what the guidelines were and
what they can and cannot do, and so that's why we sent the memo out
last week spelling out those guidelines.
Q Scott, I think there's a story about the United States selling
fighter jets, F-16s to India and Pakistan. In the meantime, you oppose
the EU's arms embargo lifted towards China. Why the double standards?
Is this all designed --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I did see news reports, I have not seen any
announcements. Secretary Rice is traveling to the region. She is in
India, I believe, today and tomorrow, and then going on to Pakistan.
We have developed good relations with both those countries, and we have
worked with -- to support the efforts of both those countries to reduce
tensions in the regions. And we appreciate the efforts of those
countries in the global war on terrorism, as well.
In terms of any specific announcements, I don't have anything to
add from here. I mean, Secretary Rice is in the -- going to be in the
region, and she'll be talking with these leaders, as well. I'm sure
that defense matters are an issue that will come up, as well. I just
don't have anything to add from here.
Q Can I ask you one more? Are you concerned with the Chinese
military budget? But compared with the United States, it's only about
$30 billion for 1.3 billion people. Is that really too much?
MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Rice did express our concerns about that
Q In the Muslim world, women are considered, at best,
second-class citizens. Is there any concern that Karen Hughes's
effectiveness will be compromised at all because she is a woman dealing
with primarily male leaders in the Muslim world?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, she is someone who has been very effective in
the past, and she is someone who has been a member of the Afghan
Women's Council, and worked to support the rights of women in
Afghanistan and free them from their past of oppression. We have
stated very clearly that when it comes to promoting democracy, it's
important to protect the rights of all -- that means minorities, that
means women. And that remains our position. She is someone who is a
proven communicator, and someone who has some real, practical foreign
policy experience that she can bring to our public diplomacy efforts.
Q You see no gender friction between Saudis, or any leaders who
just do not sit down eye-to-eye with women, and Karen Hughes has said
we need to reach out to Muslim --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one of the most important efforts that we
have undertaken in the global war on terrorism is to advance freedom
and democracy in the world. It's central, as the President has said,
to all our discussions with leaders around the world. The President
talked about reforms with King Abdullah earlier today. He is someone
who has been supportive of reforms in the Middle East.
It is important that we support the aspirations of the people in
the region, and Karen Hughes is overseeing our public diplomacy efforts
to help do just that. And we will continue to speak out very clearly,
what we stand for and what our values are. And we believe those are
values that are shared by people in the Middle East, as well.
Q Scott, has the President received any specific information
about the presence of terrorists in Mexico who are trying to cross the
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get into obviously talking
about specific intelligence matters, but border security is a very high
priority for this administration. We have taken a number of steps to
make use of new technologies to better track people that may be trying
to enter the country illegally. It's a high priority for this
President that we ensure the security around our borders to prevent
people who are coming to this country for the wrong reasons from
entering the country. And that's why we've dedicated additional
resources to the effort. That's why we've expanded the number of
Border Patrol agents along the border. It remains a high priority.
Q But the President shared the concern of some members of
Congress yesterday, for example, that were saying they knew that al
Qaeda has some members in Mexico who are trying to get with the coyotes
to cross the borders illegally into the United States. Has the
President shared that concern? And he trust the Mexican government to
deal with that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, sure, we stay in touch with the Mexican
government on issues like this, and we will continue to do so in the
future, as well. We also will talk to them about our efforts to
implement important reforms that will allow us to focus more time on
the border, going after those who are coming into this country for the
Q Several OPEC oil members have said that they've received phone
calls from Energy Secretary Bodman. I was wondering if you could just
confirm that the Energy Secretary is, indeed, lobbying OPEC to lift
production? And also, my second question is, has President Bush joined
in this effort? Because, generally speaking, he is more effective at
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Energy Secretary can speak to the calls
that he has made. But we do stay in regular contact with OPEC and
non-OPEC producers about the importance of acting in ways that support
our growing global economy and our growing U.S. economy. In terms of
the issue of energy prices, high energy prices are a concern for the
administration. And our view is that those high energy prices are a
drag on our growing economy. And that's why the President believes
it's important that Congress act now on the comprehensive energy plan
that he outlined four years ago. It's a plan that will help reduce our
dependence on foreign sources of energy, and make us more
energy-self-sufficient. Affordable, abundant supplies of energy are
important to make sure that we are meeting the needs of a growing world
economy. And so we'll continue to stay in touch with OPEC and non-OPEC
producers on matters of mutual interest.
Q Has the President, himself, made any of these phone calls?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update, in terms of the
President's world leaders calls, beyond what you already have.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 2:49 P.M. EST