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For Immediate Release
November 21, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow and National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
Aboard Air Force One
En route Andrews Air Force Base
6:58 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Let me begin. The press office is just about to release a statement, we'll give it to you guys first and then you can get it on the ground.
A joint statement by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq: "We are pleased to announce that we will meet in Amman, Jordan, on November 29th and 30th to continue our consultation on building security and stability in Iraq. We will focus our discussions on current developments in Iraq, progress made to date in the deliberations of the high level joint committee on transferring security and responsibility, and the role of the region in supporting Iraq. We would like to express our gratitude to His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who has graciously offered to host our consultations. We look forward to meeting with His Majesty in Amman. We reiterate our commitment to building the foundations of a peaceful, democratic, secure and unified Iraq and to strengthening the partnership between our two nations." End of statement.
I am joined by the National Security Advisor, who will be happy to discuss this, and also answer any questions you may have on the President's trip to Singapore, Vietnam or Indonesia.
Q So that's being released even as we speak?
MR. SNOW: We figure we'll let you guys call it in, then we'll release it.
MR. HADLEY: If you guys want to go file your stories, I can come back later.
Q No, no, we might as well go ahead.
MR. HADLEY: Okay. The purpose of the meeting really is fairly self-evident. You may remember that the President and the Prime Minister established a joint commission to look at how to accelerate the transition of security responsibility to Iraqi security forces. He asked them to look at ways we could do that, ways we could strengthen Iraqi security forces and give Iraqis and the Iraqi government and the Prime Minister more control over those forces. That commission will then have an opportunity to respond and report to the two Presidents [sic] on the progress they've been making in that regard.
It will also be an opportunity for the President -- I said "the two Presidents," I mean, of course, the President and the Prime Minister -- it will also be an opportunity for the President and the Prime Minister to review the situation in Iraq more generally and talk about the way ahead in order to do things, accomplish -- move towards our objectives in a more effective and expeditious way.
Q Why not in the United States, or why a third country? And how long?
MR. HADLEY: The President is going to be in the region anyway; this will come at the end of his trip to Riga, for the NATO summit. It seemed, therefore, a good opportunity to do it. Coming to Jordan makes a lot of sense. Jordan has been very helpful and supportive of the unity government in Iraq, so that made it a particularly good venue. It was a venue, obviously, the President could reach easily, since he was in the region, and a venue that the Prime Minister could reach easily since it's next door.
Q So he's going to the NATO summit and not coming back. And what is it, one day, an overnight, what?
MR. HADLEY: He'll probably get there late afternoon, into the evening, do some business in the evening, do some business in the morning of the next day and then come home. So he'll go from Riga to Amman and then back to Washington, overnighting in Amman and then back to Washington.
Q How long has this been in the works?
MR. HADLEY: The idea came up probably maybe a week ago -- though, it's maybe a little longer than a week ago. But, obviously, things accelerated as you do on these things in the last couple days.
Q Let me ask one thing. What do you think about the warmth of relations between Syria and Iraq, and Iraq and Iran?
MR. HADLEY: Well, we have said that it is important for those two countries to be supportive of the Iraqi government. There have been ongoing relations between, obviously, Iraq and Syria, and Iraq and Iran. There have been visits between the leaders, between -- the Prime Minister has gone to both countries. And we think it is important that Iraq be speaking directly to these countries and making it clear to them that they need to play a positive role in seeking security, stability and democracy in Iraq.
So we think that -- and we are supportive of Iraqi government officials as they deliver that message, and that is the message they've been delivering, as you know, both privately and publicly.
Q Steve, will the internal reviews that the NSC and Defense and others have been making be completed before this meeting?
MR. HADLEY: No, there's obviously been good progress going on those reviews. The President will have an opportunity to review that progress here in the next several days. But this is a process that's going to go on for a while. There are many voices the President will want to listen to. He will want to obviously talk with the congressional leadership. He'll want to hear what the Baker-Hamilton commission has to say. He'll want to hear what Prime Minister Maliki wants to say, who's obviously been developing his own ideas on the way forward.
So this is a process that will allow the President to draw from a variety of sources to try and make up his mind about how the best way is to proceed in Iraq.
Q In the absence of those internal and external recommendations, will it be likely that the President and Prime Minister can reach anything in the nature of a decision?
MR. HADLEY: We'll have to see. Remember, the focus is on the report of this joint commission that the two of them chartered three or four weeks ago. And the question will be whether that work has progressed enough so that there will be something to announce. But we're not looking for a big, bold announcement. This is an opportunity for the President and Prime Minister Maliki to get together, to get a report from this commission they have adopted. This is obviously an important time for both Iraqis and Americans in
developing a way ahead. And since the President was going to be in the region, we thought it was a good opportunity for the two of them to get together and talk face to face.
As you know, they talk frequently on the phone; we've used the SVTS. But there is really no substitute for the two men getting together, sitting across a table and talking face to face and we thought it was an opportunity we should take advantage of.
Q Thanks a lot.
END 7:04 P.M. EST