The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 16, 2008

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Belfast, Northern Ireland

1:38 P.M. (Local)

MS. PERINO: I'll just let Steve start.

MR. HADLEY: We are on our way to our last stop. This has been an extremely successful trip. It's been an interesting blend of looking back and being able to celebrate what the United States and Europe have done over the past now almost -- over 60 years, to develop a Europe whole, free and at peace. It's a great accomplishment.

Secondly, I think that you saw, by the issues discussed by the various leaders and the President with each of them, and their assessments of where we are in cooperating of those issues and the relationship, that United States relations with Europe are in very good shape. We have a broad and deep agenda of issues that are important both to Europe and the United States, and there's a great deal of commonality on our approaches on all those issues, as you could see.

And thirdly, I think, as we talked about in the run-up to this trip, we've been able to advance the policy agenda as a result of this trip. I think you saw one, on Iran, a agreement on the two-track approach: one, to make a refreshed offer to the Iranian people of the benefits that can occur to them if the Iranian regime will change its policy, and secondly a resolution by all of the leaders that if Iran regime denies the Iranian people these benefits and continues its current policy, there will be a return to putting greater -- even greater pressure on the Iranian regime. I think there was a lot of questions some of you had about whether we were knit up with the Europeans on Iran policy before we left; I think it's pretty clear that the answer is yes.

We got an increasing interest and awareness of the positive trends in Iraq and willingness of the Iranians -- of the Europeans to do a little bit more to support Iraq. We certainly, particularly, heard that in Paris.

I think you heard some coming together on the Doha Round, and a willingness to emphasize the fact that Brazil, China, India, countries need to open their markets to developing countries if the round is going to succeed.

And we also think that we have an opportunity to advance the agenda on climate change with the upcoming MEM -- major economies meeting -- here in June 21 and 22 for South Korea.

So as we said, we think -- we were going to try to do -- I think the President has succeeded in advancing the policy agenda on a number of issues.

Let me talk a little bit about what the President and Prime Minister Blair talked about this morning.

Q Brown?

MR. HADLEY: No, former Prime Minister Blair and the President met this morning. They talked about the activities that former Prime Minister Blair is pursuing in the Middle East. You know, we are all thinking about and strategizing about how we can take advantage of the current opportunity to try and advance a settlement between Israeli-Palestinians, and not withstanding some of the political turmoil in both -- within the Palestinian-Israeli communities.

Second, the President of course had a very -- meeting with Prime Minister Brown. Again, as you saw from, I think, very visibly in the interesting press conference, there is a lot of informality and mutual confidence between the two of these leaders. They like each other, they trust each other, and they're very much -- have a common approach on the key issues. I think you saw that in the comments that were made. And I think you also saw Brown making some -- Prime Minister Brown making some strong statements to advance the policy agenda.

And the statements he made publicly track very much the conversation they had privately. Prime Minister Brown told the President that the defense minister today would announce an increase in both troops and equipment in Afghanistan; that's been very welcome. A number in the press have asked whether the allies were prepared to do more -- Britain answered that question today yes.

You're going to hear, as the Prime Minister indicated, an expectation that out of the European -- the EU foreign ministers meeting this afternoon at around 3:00 p.m., there will be an announcement of new sanctions on Iran. And the point will be that if Iran -- the Iranian regime does not change policy and accept the offer that has been tendered to them, it will be very clear from the EU's statement this afternoon that they will face new sanctions on Iran. They will be financial sanctions, as the Prime Minister said, including on Bank Melli, and also looking at oil and gas sanctions, which would be very much significant to the Iranian regime.

Q Steve, can I interrupt? When you say looking at oil and gas sanctions, does that mean they're going to be imposed or does that mean they're just going to consider it?

MR. HADLEY: I think what you'll find is some imposed sanctions in terms of Bank Melli and some others. I say "look at" because the Prime Minister said "look at" on oil gas sanctions. They are complicated -- oil and gas sanctions -- and Prime Minister Brown has thought we need to put them on the agenda. We'll have to see what the EU foreign ministers announce. My guess is that they will announce that we need to look at those sanctions, because they are a -- complicated and would be a major step forward.

He talked about the continuing commitment to Iraq, to succeed in Iraq. He outlined the agenda that he has given to the British presence in the south that they want to achieve in the months ahead. They also -- I thought it was interesting -- the Prime Minister began to define a little more clearly what he has in mind with respect to the upcoming meeting here on Saturday in Saudi Arabia. He indicated that he was going because it's been some time since he's been in Saudi Arabia. He wanted to address these issues with King Abdallah personally, the way the President has been able to do in his two visits to Saudi Arabia this year.

And he also, I think, showed that what is going to be important is not looking for dramatic announcements out of that meeting on Saturday, but the beginning of a process of dialogue between producers and consumers so there is more transparency and better understanding, particularly about where supply and demand are headed over the medium and long term, to make it clear that there is going to be an effort on the part of consuming nations to diversify our sources of energy, to move towards alternative sources of energy, to obviously use oil more efficiently. In case of the United States, we will also -- and look at country's ability to develop and produce and refine petroleum from domestic sources in the short term, as we make this transition to less dependence on foreign oil and alternatives to oil for our energy needs.

And the purpose of this will be to provide greater transparency among producers and consumers, and to let the world know that there is an alternative to an ever-increasing dependence on foreign oil, and an ever-increasing demand on -- for oil products. And that should send a signal that this phenomenon -- the prospect of some relief in the medium to long term --

Q Who is going for us?

MR. HADLEY: -- and that will also be taken into account as people price in the short run.

Q Do you have an idea of who is going for the United States?

MR. HADLEY: No. As the President said, he'll go back and his policy advisors are looking at what can be accomplished. He'll look at those -- that work and make some judgment about what is the best composition of the delegation to go represent our country.

You also heard them talk about Doha and what's needed to require -- needed to advance progress there. And of course Zimbabwe -- a call for international presence on the ground for these elections coming up in a little less than two weeks; calling on the government to stop their intimidation against the opposition and their intimidation on their own people; and to let there be a free and fair election. That's what's required. That's what the Zimbabwean leadership owe their people.

That's basically a very productive meeting. Questions?

Q We need to call in our -- these sanctions from the EU that you're talking about -- this had not yet come out by the time we spoke.

MR. HADLEY: He said it would be at -- come out of an EU foreign ministers meeting at 3:00 p.m., was what Brown said. That was his expectation, the Prime Minister's expectation.

Q Three o'clock -- whose time?

MR. HADLEY: I assume Brown was talking about his time. But we'll see.

Q Can you just talk a little about the humanitarian initiatives that I think Prime Minister Brown was focused on in particular; you know, that the -- and the President talked about it, as well. I think there was an initiative relating to, you know, preventing women from dying in childbirth, and a reference to 72 million, I think -- it was a very large number of children who don't go to school. There was a whole cluster of that sort of --

MR. HADLEY: There were a couple of things. One of the reasons you want to deal with malaria, for example, but also these neglected tropical diseases, is these diseases make kids sick and keep them home, and so it leads to a high absentee rate from school. So the irony is if you believe in education for young children, one of the first things you want to do is get them healthy so they can go to school. So it's a little bit of a two-fer.

If you, for example, invest in dealing with neglected tropical diseases, invest in getting more healthcare workers, which is something Prime Minister Brown and President Bush have collaborated on, the effect is not only to increase health, particularly among children, but also to get kids more healthy and back to school so it also has an impact on -- it's a contribution you can make to education among youth in these developing countries. That's what he talked about.

MS. PERINO: We have time for one more before --

Q So they're going to announce these in London or they're going to announce them in Brussels?

MR. HADLEY: You know what I know. He said there's an EU foreign ministers meeting. We need to find out exactly where that meeting is. He did not say. And he said that they anticipated that there would be an announcement at 3:00 p.m. today, and I would assume that's the time of the place where the EU foreign ministers meeting is held. So that's what we need to find out.

Q Is London and Brussels the same time?

MR. HADLEY: London and Brussels are the same time.

Q Just about -- briefly about their relationship between the President and the Prime Minister. I mean, a lot of people perceived that they got off to a slow start in their relationship as leaders. And obviously now, today, they were -- they seemed extremely cordial and friendly, and so, you know, just talk about how that evolved.

MR. HADLEY: You know, I need to check, but I think one of the early meetings that the President had with Prime Minister Brown was in my office, where the President dropped by. And I have thought from the very beginning, including that meeting, that they hit it off very well. Brown was very relaxed, very confident. They talked about their families a bit, as -- you know, they talked about what you would expect them to talk about, in terms of policy issues. Talked a little bit about their families, talked a little about their faith. So my sense was, from that meeting, that this is going to be a very good relationship. And I've seen all the things you've written. Every meeting I have seen has built on that first relationship, that first meeting, and that first impression.

Obviously, you know, people have different personalities. But they have now met several times. They do these sort of every second or third weeks, they have a secure video teleconference. These men now have spent a fair amount of time together with one another, discussing the issues.

And I think you saw it on display in front of your very eyes today at the press conference. They are comfortable with each other. They are extremely supportive of each other. They see the issues in the same way. They understand the challenges they face. And, of course, the President has been very tough, and I think you saw Prime Minister Brown today be very tough, very focused, and very committed, and putting his money where his mouth is, as they say, by the steps he's taken.

MS. PERINO: I'm going to just add -- I want to just add one point. I think it's that they share a strategic vision, which is important when you're dealing on a world leader perspective. At least from the President's point of view, that's one of the things he looks for in a leader, and he works well with Gordon Brown and others.

MR. HADLEY: The notion that there is an ideological struggle, they share. The commitment to freedom as the antidote to the terrorists, they share. And I think you heard both of them talk about the freedom agenda, which is at the core of the President's presidency and it's pretty clear it's at the core of what Prime Minister Brown thinks British policy ought to be about, as well.

END 1:52 P.M. (Local)

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