|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 27, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:33 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Welcome. A couple of preliminary items of business, and then we will do questions. The President met a little while ago with a delegation from the United States Senate to talk about the line-item veto. Let me provide for you a list of those who were in attendance. Also, as you know, he gave a speech just a few minutes ago to the Manhattan Institute -- that was already announced earlier this morning. Those who attended the meeting with the President on line-item veto included: Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senator Thad Cochran, Senator John McCain -- let's see -- I've got the wrong list here, so I'm going to switch until I get the right list.
We also had Senator Kit Bond, Senator Judd Gregg, Senator Susan Collins -- I'm speaking from memory here. I'm trying to envision the room. I don't want to forget anybody, because then I'll create a big incident. Senator Ben Nelson was there.
Q Any consensus?
MR. SNOW: Any consensus? Well, yes. The idea of a line-item veto, everybody wants to get a handle on government spending. (Laughter.) You laugh. Let me just -- I apologize, I thought I had the whole thing right in front of me, but naturally, I didn't. So let me just -- permit me to fidget here for a moment so that I can get all the names out and not -- make sure that we're not missing anything.
Frist, Gregg, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Kit Bond, John McCain, Ben Nelson. How about that, I had them all. Okay.
Q Did you have John Kerry?
MR. SNOW: John Kerry was not there, although he is a supporter, and we encourage and welcome his support.
Personnel note -- we have a personnel announcement to make. Nicolle Wallace, White House Communications Director, will be stepping down, effective Friday. We're going to miss her. Nicolle is not only a terrific professional, but also somebody who is just an absolutely wonderful colleague. As you know, she and her husband, Mark, have been separated since he became an ambassador and is serving in our U.N. mission, and they thought that they would decide to live together as a married couple. So we wish them both the very best.
And that concludes the preliminary announcements. Now time for questions.
Q Who is replacing her?
MR. SNOW: We don't have a replacement yet. She is, of course, irreplaceable. But we are looking for somebody to fill the position. No, there's not a -- obviously, we'll do this as quickly as we can.
Q Separated only by distance, not separated?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Hitting a little close to home, Kelly. That's absolutely right. Separated by distance, united by love.
Q The Ayatollah's comments -- a snub, do you consider them? I mean, a month ago the President offers direct talks.
MR. SNOW: No. No. The President has never offered direct talks. Again, keep in mind what I've said many times, which is you're going to get a number of voices from Iran, as the Iranian government and factions within the Iranian government try to figure out how they are going to proceed with not only the United States offer, but also the EU3, a package of incentives if the Iranians agree to renounce uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
At this point we've heard varying responses from different quarters, and as a matter of fact, if you take a look at the Ayatollah's remarks today, they are ambiguous. But we've been pretty clear here. The original set of incentives was transmitted from Javier Solana to Ali Larijani, and we expect Ali Larijani to transmit the response through Javier Solana. So we're going to let different factions within the Iranian government publicly and privately figure out how they're going to respond. We expect a formal response to come through the channel by which it was transmitted originally.
Q Tony, this is not just another faction. I mean, Ayatollah Khamenei is the final arbiter of state issues. He can't be sort of dismissed as one in the chorus.
MR. SNOW: He's not dismissed, but if you take a look, the comments are ambiguous. And again, we've been pretty clear about the proper method of transmission. He may not be one in the chorus, but as I've said before, Jim, we've been watching this since the original announcement was made, and we have seen different -- we have seen people provide different kinds of answers, sometimes different responses between morning and afternoon. We are waiting for a consistent, official response, and it would be conveyed through the channel, again, through Ali Larijani to Javier Solana. Yes, I know, he is a man of consequence in Iran, but you go back and read the statement; I don't think you see something that's absolutely definitive, and we expect the response to follow the proper channels.
Q He's saying that they don't need negotiations with the U.S. over nuclear programs -- it's, if nothing else, it's disappointing and discouraging, isn't it?
MR. SNOW: Go back -- no, no.
Q It's not disappointing or discouraging?
MR. SNOW: No, because we don't have an official response from the Iranian government. We will wait to act and to respond and to give you a state of mind when we have a proper, official response through the government.
Q One follow on this, Tony, because I'm wondering in terms of the time frame how things like this, statements like this affect this squishy area -- are we talking weeks, are we talking months? And if you certainly don't get it by the G8, how do you see this unfolding, aside from we know -- we've made it clear the time frame in which you want to hear from them. They're making it just as clear that they don't care what you want.
MR. SNOW: Well, no they're not. And keep in mind that there is difference between public and private statements, and I don't want to go any further than that, except that we are not the only -- there have been conversations between members of the EU3 and the government of Iran. And we expect the Iranians to provide a proper answer within the span of weeks and not months. And we are not going to conduct further negotiations from the podium.
Q And the conversations that have been had are enough so that it can shape your sense of security about the fact that these negotiations are ongoing?
MR. SNOW: The question is -- this is on the Iranians. The Iranians have to make the decision. And again, you go back and you parse all the statements, they vary -- there have been all sorts of different sort of shadings of meaning and whether they're for or against. The Iranians are going to have to decide. And the decision is not merely whether they're going to suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities, but whether they're going to go ahead and take the path that leads them toward the basket of incentives, which we hope they will do.
But that debate, I think it's safe to say, is ongoing within circles in Iran, and they're going to have to make that decision. So, at this point, the government of Iran has not spoken with one official voice, and I dare say that various people speaking on behalf of the government of Iran have not spoken with a unified voice.
Q Tony, regarding the disclosure last week of the SWIFT monitoring program, I understand the theoretical argument that this impedes the ability to conduct intelligence, but does the White House know for a fact that it's demonstrably changed and lessened the ability --
MR. SNOW: We took this up yesterday, which is, you're not going to be able to assess definitively within a day. But I think what you're likely to have is negative confirmation in the sense people change their behavior. This is a program that had worked, that had worked -- not only had been successful in intercepting terrorist funding and foiling terrorist plots and saving lives. And The New York Times story itself said as much. It's not as if terrorists are going to say, oops, got to stop doing that. You're not likely to get a lot of intel traffic. But on the other hand, I can imagine that over a period of time you're going to see some sort of patterns emerge.
Keep in mind also the idea that there's going to be a snap decision on this. The way the program worked was, you did not track bank transfers in real time. There was a lag. For instance, if you were going to seek a subpoena, you would have to cite specific intelligence, it would have to be reviewed by outside auditors, it would have to have allowed a certain amount of time to elapse. None of those things have had time to proceed. So we really don't have any basis right now for knowing exactly how it's influenced things, but I think it is safe to say that once you provide a piece of intelligence, people on the inside act on it.
Q One quick follow-up. Two weeks after 9/11, or approximately two weeks after 9/11, the President announced that the U.S., through the Treasury Department, was going to be reaching out to banks all over the world and trying to freeze terrorist assets, and also get all information they can. And if the banks did not comply, the U.S. would stop doing business with those banks. So is it not -- I mean, wasn't the message sent right then and there that --
MR. SNOW: No, there's a difference -- there's a difference between the theoretical constrict, which is we're going to choke off financing, and talking about sources and methods, or ways in which you do it. There's a real difference, because the terrorists --
Q This wasn't just talking about financing, this was --
MR. SNOW: Well, but, again, I'm simply -- you're raising the question. I'm telling you that when you make a general construct about how you try to choke off financing, do all those things, you don't tell how you're doing it. And in point of fact, since September 11th, this particular program has been useful in helping us get Hambali, the mastermind of the Bali bombing. It got the fellow in Brooklyn for $200,000. It has helped to reveal terror cells. It has also been effective, at least according to the British, in helping track down some of the people responsible for the bombings there. So, in point of fact, regardless of what the President had said some years back, the program was working. It had results.
Q I guess what I'm asking is -- and I'm sorry for not being specific enough -- but is there the belief that even though terrorists had clearly been tipped off from the very beginning by the President that there was going to be an aggressive attempt to get as much financial information as possible, that they did not know about the SWIFT Bank?
MR. SNOW: I am absolutely sure they didn't know about SWIFT. There are -- when you have key government officials around the world saying, we didn't know about it -- there may have been a lot of activity, but it is a program that was not well-known, including among people who have pretty high positions in the banking industry. So, yes, this is not the sort of thing that everybody knew.
Q The Chinese and the South Koreans were meeting today, again, about the North Korean crisis. Given that China provides 70 percent of North Korea's oil supplies and the South provides large amounts of food aid to the North, what kind of pressure does the U.S. want these two countries to apply on North Korea? And also, has the administration given any thought that this may be a big bluff on North Korea's part to try to force the U.S. towards direct negotiations?
MR. SNOW: Well, if it's a bluff toward direct negotiations, it's a non-advisable way to do it. As far as the South Koreans and the Chinese, obviously, because they are neighbors and suppliers for North Korea, they can assert considerable influence. What we are hoping is real simple, that they will use it constructively to say to the North Koreans, come on, you don't want to do this. Let's abide by your moratorium, come back to the six-party talks. When you do that, you also have the parallel track outlined in the agreement of September 19th of last year. You got a lot to gain by coming back to the table. That is the kind of argument that they can make.
As regards any kinds of behind-the-scenes statements, I'm not going to comment on those.
Q Given that the, as I said, the Chinese provide so much oil --
MR. SNOW: No, I understand. The Chinese -- they have enormous economic leverage over the North Koreans. Understood. Still not going to talk about anything they might say.
Q Coming back on Iran, you said that you were getting positive statements from Iran. Can you tell us where they're coming from? Is it the Iranian regime --
MR. SNOW: I suppose what's happened is you've had different spokesmen with the Iranian regime who have given different shadings, sometimes appearing to sort of welcome, or at least be willing to think about some way of trying to reach out to the EU3. In other cases, you've had things that sounded categorical. So that's really what I meant; it's the approach. I've also cautioned repeatedly don't read too much into any of that. It is people publicly trying to figure out what their position is going to be, and in some cases, they're speaking to their publics and they're making their arguments. And what we expect is for the inner councils of the Iranian government -- which even though there's a lot of public statements, the internal activities of that government still remain fairly opaque, it's not a transparent government -- at some point, they are going to have to decide what their position is going to be, and they will have to transmit it through the proper channels.
Q Are any of those representatives speaking for Ahmadinejad that the United States is aware of?
MR. SNOW: Any of them speaking for him? I think he's speaking for himself. I don't know that he's deputized anybody to speak for him.
Q So those back channels don't involve anybody --
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not at liberty to talk about back channels. Again, what I'm simply saying is the public statements that we have seen give you differing impressions about how people may be reacting, not only to what the United States has suggested it would do, but also to the package of incentives offered by the EU3.
Q Tony, two questions. Quick, one, the United States Congress is not very much happy with the United Nations, the way they are doing business, 191 members. This week the Congress is debating funding for the U.N. How much trust and faith you think the President has now in the U.N. and also General Secretary Kofi Annan?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, General Secretary Annan is at the end of his tenure. So I think what we're doing now is looking forward to the next Secretary General of the United Nations and working with them on issues of mutual interest. As far as what concerns we may have with the U.N., I will let our United Nations Ambassador handle those. He does an able job of it.
Q Second, as the Chinese expansion is concerned -- in the U.S. and Latin America and Africa, how much is the U.S. concerned, worried, because the expansion is going on in Asia and now in Africa and Latin America --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, the Chinese expansion?
Q Yes, and also ties with countries in Africa and Latin America.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think you're asking me to get involved in diplomacy that is beyond my brief. I'm just -- I'm not even going to try.
Q Have the French and the Egyptian governments been involved in mediation to try to get the kidnapped Israeli soldier returned back to Israel? I have two questions. First, is the U.S. involved in any of those talks?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of. I know nothing of it.
Q Secondly, I know the U.S., for the most part, cut contact with the Hamas government. If the alternative is, on the one hand, a large-scale Israeli invasion, and on the other hand, a much more active U.S. involvement in talking to Hamas, is the U.S. willing to take that step?
MR. SNOW: Again, you're asking theoretical statements. There's so much in the air right now just trying to figure out what the facts are on the ground, including what Hamas and Fatah may have to say with relations to Israel, that I'm not willing to entertain hypotheticals about what we would do. Furthermore, whether the alternatives you have posed are actually the actual alternatives is, in itself, argumentative and would get us into a long debate about what the possible outcomes are should different people behave in different ways. It's -- to use the term that David Gregory used a while back, I don't want to be facile with this, and I think that would be facile trying to set up clean alternatives of that sort.
Q -- the Hamas-Fatah agreement?
MR. SNOW: No, because as far as -- we haven't seen anything in print. I mean, you've got to see something written out and you've got to find out exactly what they say. But it's pretty clear -- our position on recognition of the government, you've got to abide by the positions that's been taken by the Quartet. Once again -- we can all recite from memory now -- you will recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terror, and abide by all past agreements. Those are the preconditions.
So, again, we just got off the phone. We were investigating this right until we walked in here. We have not seen anything formal. What you have are a series of press stories, the most recent of which had Hamas, I believe, saying that it would not, in fact, recognize Israel's right to exist. We're just going to wait to see exactly what the case is.
Q Well, the press stories seem to suggest that there's an implicit recognition --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'm not waiting for a press story with an implicit recognition. What we want to see is something written so that we can understand what there position is.
Q Back to Iran. You just said there's a difference between public and private statements coming out of Iran --
MR. SNOW: No, no, public and private statements with the government of Iran. In other words, private communications where our allies would be communicating with Iran.
Q Right, but you left the impression -- that there were more receptive statements in private than what we're hearing --
MR. SNOW: No, no, what I said -- let me make it really clear. No, I'm not trying to characterize anything that happened publicly. What I'm saying is that you've had different shadings of meaning in the public statements of different Iranian officials at different times as regards the package of incentives and also the U.S. offer to join the conversation should Iran meet the nuclear conditions that we've outlined.
Q So when you say private statement --
MR. SNOW: What I'm talking about is the private communications between the Iranian government -- let's separate these. All I'm saying is that there have been talks, as you might expect -- Javier Solana having his talks with Ali Larijani -- those are qualified as private conversations. I did not try -- I make absolutely no attempt to characterize good, bad, or indifferent what the tone or texture or content of those conversations may be. So I'm not trying to tell you that there have been positive signs through those. All I'm saying is go back and read the public statements and you get differing impressions at differing times from differing speakers in Iran. And that's really -- I appreciate the chance to clarify -- that's all I meant to say, and I meant to go no further.
Q Tony, yesterday, when my senior correspondent asked you if the President had ordered the shooting down of the North Korean missile if it's launched, you said you wouldn't tell her or tell us, even if you knew. There are naval assets in the area probably capable of shooting down that missile in its boost phase. Wouldn't it be useful for North Korea to know that if they launch it, it would be destroyed by U.S. forces?
MR. SNOW: Well, with all deference to the junior correspondent, I'm not going to respond to that any more than I responded to your wife's query.
Q Tony, two questions. In accordance with your request yesterday, I'm asking again what the President is planning to do to stop the judge-ordered destruction by August the 1st of the 46-foot cross in San Diego that is a memorial to our nation's war dead?
MR. SNOW: All right, we attached this as an asterisk yesterday, Lester, but I'll repeat it. Right now, the President and the administration are actively reviewing both administrative and legislative options for preserving that veterans war memorial.
Q You mentioned the Manhattan Institute.
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q Heather Mac Donald of that Institute's City Journal writes the following: "Al Qaeda has long worked to manipulate the media in its favor. It can disband that operation now knowing that unbidden, America's most powerful newspaper is looking out for its interest," while Gabriel Schoenfeld of Commentary writes of, "The case for prosecuting The New York Times." My question: The President doesn't disagree with either Mac Donald or Schoenfeld, does he?
MR. SNOW: First, since you're flacking both think tanks and publications, both of these appeared in the Weekly Standard. So we'll get it all out.
Q I know, but --
MR. SNOW: But the fact is -- no.
Q -- I have no connection with either.
MR. SNOW: No, but I have had -- the President has no comment on these. These are privately expressed -- or they're the views of Heather Mac Donald and Mr. Schoenfeld, and we'll leave it at that.
Q But they're one -- they're two among a great many that are speaking out very strongly on this issue, aren't they?
MR. SNOW: Exactly, yes. There are a lot of people speaking out strongly on the issue.
Q I talked yesterday with somebody from the NSC about the telephone records being handed over -- by the telephone companies to the NSA. And they wouldn't confirm or deny the existence of the program.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Now, as far as the SWIFT financial records issue that was reported in The New York Times, you seem to have confirmed the existence of that program by the way that you've been talking from the podium.
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q So if that's the case, and the telephone records program was written about also in The New York Times and in USA Today, why not just go ahead and either confirm or deny the existence of this program and just lay the whole thing to rest?
MR. SNOW: Because we are neither going to confirm, nor deny. We are going to be perfectly circular with you here. But having neither confirmed, nor denied before, we're not going to do it. In the particular case with The New York Times, there was a concerted effort to lay before the newspaper the full facts and to try to make the argument that while it might make a good story, it's bad in terms of national security. As far as the other program, we just have never confirmed or denied the details.
Q In the line-item veto meeting the President had, did the President extract any commitment, or Frist give any commitment to moving it to the floor --
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I mean it was discussed that they want it to happen, but there was no, hey, Frist, are you going to do this for me? Really, it was a general conversation about the need for Congress and the President to work together to find ways to curb the natural impulse and temptation for members of Congress to be able to slip in spending that doesn't necessarily meet the standard of being a national priority. And one of the ways to do that is a line-item veto where -- that also meets constitutional muster.
What has happened in this particular case, we've put together a measure in which the President can look at a budget, he can look at line items; then he resubmits those to Congress for an up or down vote that should meet the Supreme Court's guidelines on this. That, in and of itself, highlighting those kinds of spending items, should in some ways serve to discourage people who might come up with spending that otherwise would seem less than absolutely necessary for the nation's safety and security and for the ongoing operations of the federal government. So they conducted it at that level, and the President obviously made it clear that he thinks this is a priority.
And you take a look at it. You've got an interesting bipartisan group. As Suzanne mentioned not too long ago, Senator Kerry is one of the co-sponsors here. So you've got a lot of people I think who have a vested interest in trying to make sure that there is some sort of fiscal sanity prevailing within Congress, and also that the President would have the ability from time to time to say no to something, and then have Congress have the final say. Congress may decide that it wants to go ahead with this kind of spending.
Q There wasn't any commitment given by Frist or anything?
MR. SNOW: No, none was asked, none was given.
Q What will the Senate find when it completes its detailed look at the President's use of the signing statement?
MR. SNOW: I think what they're going to find is that the President has done the same thing that his predecessors have. As a matter of fact -- let me see, just give me a moment here -- I want to get the first name correct. Michelle Boardman, who is Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel -- I'd direct you to her testimony today before Senator Specter's committee, because she really does lay out not only the history of the use of these signing statements, usually to make points of constitutional interest, or constitutional import, but also to draw parallels with previous presidencies and the extreme similarity, for instance, between signing statements and the justifications and the circumstances under which the signing statements were issued between, say, Presidents Clinton and Bush when it came to things like national security and the presentment clause, and so on.
So I think what they're going to find is this is really sort of business as usual, and that the volume of signing statements is really not that all out of line compared with previous administrations. Somehow people are now taking more notice. I mean, some people have been writing stories about it, but if you go back and you scratch at the surface, you'll find out that presidents generally had the same concerns about defending the presidential prerogatives when it comes to national security.
Or to give you another example, sometimes there are reporting requirements getting back to Congress, seeming to get approval in the process of executing a law that, in the opinion of this and previous administrations, violates the 1983 Chadha Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which talked about so-called legislative veto. I mentioned that in passing this morning in the briefing.
So what you end up doing is finding different ways to meet the sort of desires of Congress, but doing it in a constitutional way. For instance, what you do rather than having a formal reporting to Congress, you have consultations that aren't formal, and therefore members of Congress stay in the loop. In some ways, you have changed the law. The President has done it in the following way. He has tried to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution as he is bound by the Constitution. But he also is enjoined by the Constitution dutifully to carry out the laws and to execute the laws of the United States.
So those -- what the signing statements are designed to do is to make sure that both of those duties are kept in balance, and that the President is, in fact, faithfully executing the laws.
Q This morning you acknowledged this President has used it more, I think you just said, not way out of line --
MR. SNOW: Well, that's because I have been reading some of these stories, and I guess what I ended up doing is going back and reading Michelle's statement. And I'll give you just some of the data she has. I will also give you the caveat, because I think sometimes it depends on how you count these things. But, for instance, during the course of the Clinton administration, there were 110 signing statements -- I'm sorry, 105 signing statements, 110 at this point in the Bush administration. We may be comparing apples and oranges, which is why I want to issue the caveat, but it is also the case -- and again, I'll just refer you back to this testimony. If you need a copy, I'll be happy to email it to you. You can go through that.
Q Last thing on that. I'm confused on how he used them. Does he use them just to make constitutional points, or is he directing interpretation of the law?
MR. SNOW: Well, in some -- no, what you're -- you're making constitutional points about how you execute -- how you can execute the law in keeping with the Constitution. I've got to say, some of the signing statements are -- this is a really great law, I'm really happy about it. I mean, some of the signing statements are also, in effect, "atta boys." But when it comes to constitutional statements, they do generally fall into a series of categories. And you will forgive me if I go back to Michelle's testimony. But she talks about not only national security concerns, but specific constitutional provisions -- the most common being the recommendations clauses, the presentment clauses, and the appointment clauses -- and also, to interpret specific holdings of the Supreme Court like the Chadha decision, which I just referred to before, with regard to the use of the legislative veto. So that's how he uses them.
Q One other quick follow. When he makes these points, are these things he lost on and didn't get the Congress to do --
MR. SNOW: No, no --
Q -- things he forgot to mention --
MR. SNOW: There will be -- no, there will be times when Congress may, in fact, have done things that it hadn't considered. And also Presidents -- you go back and you can read some of the things Walter Dellinger wrote when he was working for President Clinton because he faced the same problem and actually wrote fairly extensively about it, and said, you are not under an obligation every time you see one of these constitutional concerns to veto a bill. Sometimes, what you can do is to make your expressed concern known within the context of a signing statement and find ways to work with Congress, which sometimes will, unknowingly, have gotten itself into this sort of situation.
And therefore, you can solve it that way. This way, you don't have -- you don't veto a bill, you don't create the kind of animosity or tension that you might normally have in the context of a veto, over something that is relatively minor and can be solved with a combination of a signing statement and cooperation with Congress to fulfill the will of Congress, and at the same time, abide by the constitutional injunctions that apply to the President.
Q It's not the same thing as a line-item veto?
MR. SNOW: No, absolutely not.
Q Tony, I have quick follow-up on that.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Why did not a spokesperson from the White House, nor the Attorney General, nor the Deputy Attorney General, nor anybody more senior than the Deputy Assistant Attorney General from the Office of Legal Counsel appear before the committee?
MR. SNOW: Because she's the specialist in that.
Q So the Attorney General is not a specialist --
MR. SNOW: The Attorney General is out of the country right now.
Q What about the Deputy Attorney General?
MR. SNOW: Victoria, are you really -- are you seriously quibbling that you are concerned because the person who specializes in this doesn't have enough -- doesn't have the proper title to satisfy you to testify before Congress?
Q I'm expressing concern that was expressed within the committee.
MR. SNOW: I see. Well, you know what, the committee -- bring to me a specific comment from the committee and I will try to respond.
Q Tony, a very quick question. Would you say that nothing The New York Times does would lead to prosecution, or if so, what?
MR. SNOW: Look let me make this really clear. At the White House, we don't do legal referrals. That's the business of other people. I'm not getting involved in it.
Q Tony, there are reports that Homeland Security is going to be delaying the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative on the northern border. Is the President aware of this? Is the White House aware that what was signed into law may, in fact, now be delayed because of lack of progress?
MR. SNOW: You know, the President may be aware of it, but I'm not. That will have to wait. Ask me tomorrow and I can get you an answer.
Q Can you get him out here? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: He's getting ready for a jog.
Q We'll see him in an hour.
Q Mr. Spokesman, do you have anything to say about the upcoming meeting between President Bush and the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, as I asked you the other day? To be honest with you, I pay a lot of attention to this meeting, since, according to some U.S. think tanks, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan is under real threat by the Turkish General Yaser Bayukanit, who would like to corrupt the political power by a coup d'etat, and this meeting is going to strengthen and consolidate democracy in Turkey.
MR. SNOW: Well, you're asking me about a hypothetical meeting that has not been announced. So without getting into the jockeying between Prime Minister Erdogan and others within Turkey, I will simply go no further.
Q One on Kosovo. According to Italian press, the other day, two more Orthodox Christian churches were attacked in Kosovo and destroyed by Albanian extremists. Neither was protected by KFOR, the military force under NATO command that maintain order in the region. Since President Bush stated specifically in the recent past, quote, "NATO is the dealer of the U.S. foreign policy," unquote, I'm wondering, Mr. Snow, to which extent the President is concerned about that type of catastrophic activities.
MR. SNOW: Well, the President has often expressed concern for people who are victims of any kind of human rights abuses on the basis of their religion or otherwise. And I will refer further questions to KFOR, which have much more operational knowledge of what happened in that particular incident.
And to quote Steve Holland, thank you.
END 1:06 P.M. EDT