White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
Washington, D.C.
October 5, 2001
12:15 P.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to give you a rundown on the President's events for the day. The President this morning spoke with Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia. The President thanked the Prime Minister for his letter of condolences, and his offer to cooperate in the campaign against terrorism. President Bush discussed his doctrine to take action against terrorists and their sanctuaries. He proposed further talks on concrete actions and cooperation between the United States and Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Meles assured President Bush of Ethiopia's support over the long haul of the campaign. He said he understood the President's strategy, and confirmed Ethiopia was ready to play its role.

The President also, this morning, spoke with President Moi of Kenya. President Moi offered his condolences to President Bush and to the American people, and expressed his understanding of the cost of terrorist acts, having dealt with the 1998 attack on the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

President Bush thanked the President for his understanding and his offer to work closely with the United States to win this battle against terrorism. President Bush emphasized the need for cooperation on many fronts -- financial, intelligence, diplomatic and military. He suggested further talks between the United States and Kenya on how to meet these challenges ahead.

President Bush also recognized that Kenya lives in a tough neighborhood with others that harbor terrorists, and he acknowledged that President Moi's leadership on the Sudan, and told President Moi that he should soon expect a visit from Sudan's Special Envoy, Senator Danforth, a man respected across the United States who is acting on the President's behalf.

Following his phone calls, the President convened a meeting of the National Security Council earlier this morning. And he will meet shortly, this afternoon, with President Shevardnadze of Georgia to discuss bilateral relations and other regional issues. And he will depart for Camp David in the midafternoon, and he will be at Camp David for the weekend. There will be other events, and I'll have a week ahead at the conclusion of this briefing.

QUESTION: Ari, would you tell us what the President's reaction was to Prime Minister Sharon's comments yesterday?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yesterday, Prime Minister Sharon issued a statement in which he said that the United States should not repeat the mistakes of the West in 1938, and appease the Arabs at Israeli expense. He said, "Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," warning that Israel, "will not be Czechoslovakia." And the President believes that these remarks are unacceptable.

Israel can have no better or stronger friend than the United States, and better friend than President Bush. President Bush is an especially close ally of Israel. The United States has been and will continue to work very hard to support peace in the Middle East, to press the parties to end the violence and return to a political dialogue. And that will continue to be the goals and the policies of the United States.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? First of all, how is -- it's pretty -- to call that unacceptable is a pretty strong response from you publicly and from the President. How is that sentiment being communicated to Prime Minister Sharon? Will the President -- or has he called him? And what more, then, do you think needs to be done now by the President, by this administration, to work with Israel or communicate the goals and bring Israel a little bit closer into this effort?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President's message was conveyed in three ways. It was conveyed through the embassy in Israel, it was conveyed through the National Security Council, and it was conveyed through the State Department. Secretary Powell has spoken with the Prime Minister.

But in terms -- you ask basically what comes next. What comes next is, the President hopes, a rededication of all the parties to achieving peace in the Middle East. I repeat, Israel has no better friend than the United States. Israel will continue to have no better friend than the United States.

QUESTION: But my question was, evidently Prime Minister Sharon may not feel that way or the moment, or is feeling something that leads him to make comments that he did. So what does the President have to do or the administration have to do to bring Israel on board in this coalition, perhaps in a way that has been done before?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this is a statement in regard to the Middle East peace process. This is not part of the broader coalition exercise involving terrorism and the events of September 11th. The statement, though, David, speaks for itself. The President has conveyed his message. He's conveyed it privately, he conveyed it publicly. The statement speaks for itself, and what comes next is the importance of reaffirming the peace process in Israel so that violence can be diminished.

QUESTION: Has the President talked to the Prime Minister? If not, why not? And what did the Secretary of State say in his conversation?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has not. As always, anytime calls are made, I will try to give you information. But the Secretary spoke to the Prime Minister about the importance of returning to the peace process, and made clear the reaction of the President to the statements the Prime Minister had made.

QUESTION: Why didn't the President make that call himself?

MR. FLEISCHER: This was the appropriate manner in which to get the message across.

QUESTION: You said that the premise of the statement was unacceptable. What's the President's opinion of the particular historical reference that Sharon picked?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think it speaks for itself, John, in reference to appeasement. Israel has no better friend than the United States, and will continue to have no better friend than the United States.

QUESTION: Does the President believe that terrorists around the world get support, succor, funding, in part because of Israeli policies of occupation, settlement and reprisal and U.S. support for those policies? And as part of the campaign against terrorism, does the President believe those policies and U.S. support for them must change?

MR. FLEISCHER: You know, terrorism exists in the world in all kinds of shapes, forms, and I think it's sad to say, but if a beautiful and perfect lasting peace were brought to the Middle East today, terrorism would still exist in this world. And the President is committed in the wake of the attacks on our country on September 11th to take this campaign against those terrorists and against those who continue to harbor terrorists.

QUESTION: But in understanding the phenomenon of terrorism in order to combat it, are Israel's policies part of the problem?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, peace in the Middle East is intrinsically good, in its own merits, on its own, regardless of anything else that is happening in the world. And that's why the President feels so strongly that in the wake of this attack, it's important for people in the region to seize this opportunity and recommit themselves to the peace process.

QUESTION: One more on this. Have the events of September 11th brought more urgency or changed the U.S. -- the administration's approach to the peace process in the Middle East?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. The American policy toward peace in the Middle East is just as strongly committed to the peace process and is identical to the policies established prior to September 11th as it is today. Those events have not changed American policy.

QUESTION: Are you seeking an apology from Prime Minister Sharon or some sort of a public statement from him explaining what he meant?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Steve, I think the statement speaks for itself. The message has been conveyed, both privately and publicly.

QUESTION: Ari, can you tell us what message the Prime Minister communicated to Secretary of State --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I don't speak for foreign leaders.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up, too? An aide to the Prime Minister is saying today that the Prime Minister did not imply in any way that America and its leaders were dealing in a dishonorable way; what the Prime Minister intended was to make a warning to everyone, including ourselves, but especially to the leaders of the free world that appeasement never works. Your response to that clarification?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President's statement speaks for itself.

QUESTION: Ari, President Bush will be meeting shortly with the President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze, who was the foreign minister of the Soviet Union and I believe a strong supporter of pulling Russian troops out of Afghanistan. Is this something that will be discussed, Afghanistan, in great detail?

MR. FLEISCHER: The meeting will begin in just about an hour, and I'll be there and I'll try to let you know after the meeting is over.

QUESTION: Ari, is it the administration's understanding that these remarks by Sharon were prompted by the talk of an eventual Palestinian state? Or is it something aimed at our efforts to build a coalition among Arab states, even some who were previously supporters of terrorism?

MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, I can't divine the reasons that foreign leaders say what they say; it's not my place to do so. But I do note that what the President said about the end of a negotiated settlement, the vision has always included, of course, the Palestinian state, so long as the right of Israel to exist in peace and security is also recognized. That's very similar to what Prime Minister Sharon himself said on September 24th.

So the Prime Minister himself said, Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else has given them, the possibility of establishing a state. So their remarks on that question are similar, actually.

QUESTION: That's what makes me wonder if it is related to something other than those remarks. Did the Israeli government, in any way, convey the meaning of what he said in public to the United States?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no other information I have on it. The remarks were as you've heard them from the Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Ari, to also follow up, is the administration saying at this point it would be better for Israel to reduce the size or close down some of the settlements, which many Israelis approve of, and also to retreat to some sort of fortress Israel?

MR. FLEISCHER: That is all part of the Mitchell Accords. And the Mitchell Accords discuss the eventual other items that come with political talks, but it begins with security. And it's hard to get to that point until the cease-fire can be enforced in the Middle East, and that the parties agree to pursue peace.

But the American position is unchanged that the settlement policy is unhelpful.

QUESTION: But some Israelis even believe that the settlements detract from the security of Israel, of Israel proper.

MR. FLEISCHER: I just enunciated what American policy is on it.

QUESTION: Ari, congressional intelligence committees have been told by intelligence sources that there is a 100 percent likelihood of a retaliatory strike against the United States by terrorists should we go into Afghanistan. This administration has sent out some mixed messages of the possibility of an attack in the past week saying that it was likely, dialing back from that. Do you agree that there is a 100 percent likelihood of attack if we go into Afghanistan?

MR. FLEISCHER: What John is referring to is a statement that was made at a classified briefing, as was explained in one of the newspapers this morning. And, obviously, any time something is a part of a classified briefing, I think people don't know everything else that was discussed in the briefing; they don't have the full context of what was discussed. Obviously, one item of a classified briefing was provided.

Suffice it to say, the threat remains, and that's what the President has always said. There is a threat in the United States. I can't quantify that threat, but the President has made clear and has spoken forthrightly with the American people. In the wake of an attack that none of us saw specific information related to, it is important to note that threats remain.

That's also why the President is so determined to pursue the course that the United States and so many other nations are on, which is to take action against the terrorists and against those who continue to harbor the terrorists, because that is the best way to protect and prevent further attacks to the American people. That's also a reminder of the importance in the Congress of passing legislation that gives the law enforcement community more tools that it needs, so they can prevent any such attacks.

QUESTION: Since this particular piece of intelligence is out there in the open now, can you say that the President was given those same indications?

MR. FLEISCHER: John, I don't discuss any intelligence information provided to the President.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments -- a letter from the Prime Minister of India to President Bush over the suicide car bombing in India? Over 35 people died. What the Prime Minister said to President Bush in letter that this is the same group which is based in Pakistan, and they have claimed responsibility and they are -- to Osama bin Laden and they have said that they are the --

MR. FLEISCHER: The bombing you're referencing? Say it again? The Kashmir bombing, right.

QUESTION: And, also, when Foreign Minster was here this week, he also said at the State Department that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the principal exporters of terrorism, and they have the groups based in Pakistan, and they claimed all the responsibility. They are opposed to Osama bin Laden and Taliban.
And same thing on Capitol Hill last week when I went for a prayer service sponsored by the Senators and Congressmen, a group of Pakistanis here also said that they are the freedom fighters. How can the terrorists can be freedom fighters?

MR. FLEISCHER: When the President met with Foreign Minister Singh of India earlier this week, the President directly condemned the terrorist attack in Kashmir. And the President has said, terrorism must end everywhere, and that includes in Kashmir. So the President made that very clear, directly himself, to the Indian Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: Ari, as we know, there are many countries of the Middle East that are reluctant partners to any possible military action by the United States against terrorism. On his recent trip -- just concluding now, obviously -- the President has spoken with Secretary Rumsfeld. Is the President satisfied that, one, Saudi Arabia is now fully backing the United States and its ability to launch strikes on one of its air bases or more and, also, if it can use its big command and control facility?

And, two, in Uzbekistan, is the President satisfied that the President of Uzbekistan is giving the support that the United States would like?

MR. FLEISCHER: The answer is yes on both fronts. The President, from the first day, has been very satisfied with the actions of the Saudi government and the Saudi people. And on the question of Uzbekistan, again, throughout the world, the cooperation and the help that the United States has been getting on a whole series of actions -- some that involve political action, some that involve diplomatic action, some that involve information or intelligence-sharing, others that involve things military -- the President has been very encouraged by the reactions around the world, including those two nations.

QUESTION: Were you confirming, then, his question, including is Saudi Arabia letting us use the command and control center and their bases?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I said the President is satisfied with all actions. I'm not going to go down list by list, operation by operation. As you know, I don't discuss any of those matters.

QUESTION: Ari, there are people on the Hill who want to give Governor Ridge -- if he's still governor -- more authority by making the position a confirmable position. Why would the White House oppose something like that?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President just doesn't see the need for it. It's just not necessary. The office can get up and running, and will be, on Monday, without needing to take that step. Now, Governor Ridge will be a member of the Cabinet and will play a very valuable role in coordinating the various agencies that have been involved in the fight against terrorism. And it's just not necessary. Similar to the National Security Council. Dr. Rice has done a very good job, of course, for this country. She's not Senate-confirmed. It is not a necessary prerequisite for a government official to do a good job on behalf of the President and on behalf of the war against terrorism. There is no need for it.

QUESTION: If I can just follow on that, specifically, should Governor Ridge have the power to have control over the spending on terrorism in other agencies' budgets, there's also -- that's part of the proposal on the Hill.

MR. FLEISCHER: At the time that the office is formally put in place next week -- and I'll get to this in the week ahead -- you will receive information about the office and you'll hear more at that time next week. So that will be addressed in time.

QUESTION: Can I follow on that, Ari? The President has to issue some type of executive order though, right, setting up the office and outlining Ridge's responsibilities?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, there will be additional information forthcoming at the time that the office begins next week.

QUESTION: So when will that executive order -- if it starts Monday, it has to come before Monday.

MR. FLEISCHER: Or on Monday.

QUESTION: Ari, could I return to something you discussed yesterday at some length, which was the release by Prime Minister Blair of the document? You said to us a few times during the past few weeks that you were concerned that there was no way to release a sanitized version of a white paper or whatever you'd like to call it, without revealing sources and methods. Prime Minister Blair released a paper, we all learned some new facts from it. From your review of that, have you concluded that the British government revealed American sources and methods or anybody's sources and methods?

MR. FLEISCHER: You know, the government, as any government of the United Kingdom or any another nation, is free to do as it sees fit. And that's -- we talked to the government of Britain about that prior to the release of their document. And their document speaks for itself.

QUESTION: That wasn't the question. I didn't ask for -- the question was, having reviewed the document that came out, have you now concluded that they jeopardized sources and methods in what they delineated in the document?

MR. FLEISCHER: The manner in which that document was released provides no difficulties for the United States.

QUESTION: So if it was possible then to turn out a document that did not reveal sources and methods, why couldn't the United States have done that?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, different governments do different things for different reasons. And we're pleased to see what they've done.

QUESTION: Just to make sure I understand what you're saying here, in the end, then, it was a question of desire, not a question of whether or not you could have done it without revealing sources and methods?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think as you take a careful look at the document that was released, much of it pertains to events in the past, not directly related to the events of September 11th. And it's a very constructive document in all regards.

QUESTION: Ari, yesterday you wouldn't say whether there was any consultation between the White House and the Blair administration about that document --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, what I indicated yesterday was I had to look into it and find out.

QUESTION: And so was that confirmation, what you said just now, that there was, in fact, consultation --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: -- over the language?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's what State Department indicated yesterday, and that's exactly what I just said.