with United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair
The Cross Hall
The White House
January 31, 2003
4:12 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: It's my honor to welcome Tony Blair back to the White House.
We just had a wide-ranging discussion on a lot of issues. I appreciate my friend's
commitment to peace and security. I appreciate his vision. I appreciate his
willingness to lead. Most importantly, I appreciate his understanding that after
September the 11th, 2001, the world changed; that we face a common enemy --
terrorists willing to kill innocent lives; that we now recognize that threats
which gather in remote regions of the world must be dealt with before others
lose their lives.
Tony Blair is a friend. He's a friend of the American people, he's a friend
of mine. I trust his judgment and I appreciate his wisdom.
THE PRIME MINISTER: First of all, can I say how delighted I am to be back in
the White House and to see President Bush. And as he's just described to you,
we had an excellent discussion, covering all the key issues of the day. And
I would like to praise his leadership in the world since September the 11th,
particularly, on what I think are the two key issues that face our world today
-- which are issues of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
And I think both of those issues come together because they threaten the peace
and the order and the stability of the world.
And what is essential is that in every respect, in every way that we can we
mobilize international support and the international community, in order to
make sure that these twin threats that the world faces are dealt with. And I
have no doubt at all that we can deal with them. But we should realize those
two threats -- terrorism, weapons of mass destruction -- are not different,
they're linked. And dealing with both of them is essential for the future peace
and security and prosperity of the world.
THE PRESIDENT: Fournier. Here's what we're going to do. I will call upon a reporter.
The Prime Minister will call upon a reporter. And we'll do this three different
times. Start with you.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. First, quickly to the Prime Minister, did you ask President
Bush to secure a second U.N. resolution and to give the inspectors more time?
And, President Bush, the U.N. says -- the U.N. inspectors say Saddam is not
complying, you say Saddam is not complying, why wait a matter of weeks? What's
-- why hold up on the decision?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, you violated the two-question rule -- as usual.
He's had a bad habit of this. I'll start.
Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world. He must disarm.
And that's why I have constantly said and the Prime Minister has constantly
said this issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months.
THE PRIME MINISTER: The whole point about the present situation is that when
President Bush made his speech to the United Nations, when we went down the
United Nations route, we passed Resolution 1441. And I think it really repays
reading that, because we said very clearly that Saddam had what we said was
a final opportunity to disarm, and that he had to cooperate fully in every respect
with the U.N. weapons inspectors.
As Dr. Blix said in his report to the Security Council earlier this week, he's
not doing that. And therefore, what is important is that the international community
comes together again and makes it absolutely clear that this is unacceptable.
And the reason why I believe that it will do that is precisely because in the
original Resolution 1441, we made it clear that failure to disarm would lead
to serious consequences.
So this is a test for the international community. It's not just a test for
the United States or for Britain. It's a test for the international community,
too. And the judgment has to be, at the present time, that Saddam Hussein is
not cooperating with the inspectors, and therefore is in breach of the U.N.
resolution. And that's why time is running out.
QUESTION: A question for the President, if I may. What is the status, in your view,
of any second resolution? Is it something that you think it's worth spending
time and energy trying to assemble and, if so, why?
THE PRESIDENT: First, let me reiterate what I just said. This is a matter of
weeks, not months. Any attempt to drag the process on for months will be resisted
by the United States. And as I understand the Prime Minister -- I'm loath to
put words in his mouth -- but he's also said weeks, not months.
Secondly, I want to remind you, I was the guy that went to the United Nations
in the first place. I said, why don't we come together as a world to resolve
this issue, once and for all. Why doesn't the United Nations stand up as a body
and show the world that it has got the capacity to keep the peace.
So, first of all, in answer to one part of your question, this just needs to
be resolved quickly. Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution,
it would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming
Saddam Hussein. But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution.
And Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake
of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President, is Secretary Powell going to provide the undeniable
proof of Iraq's guilt that so many critics are calling for?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, all due in modesty, I thought I did a pretty good job myself
of making it clear that he's not disarming and why he should disarm. Secretary
Powell will make a strong case about the danger of an armed Saddam Hussein.
He will make it clear that Saddam Hussein is fooling the world, or trying to
fool the world. He will make it clear that Saddam is a menace to peace in his
own neighborhood. He will also talk about al Qaeda links, links that really
do portend a danger for America and for Great Britain, anybody else who loves
As the Prime Minister says, the war on terror is not confined to just a shadowy
terrorist network. The war on terror includes people who are willing to train
and to equip organizations such as al Qaeda.
See, the strategic view of America changed after September the 11th. We must
deal with threats before they hurt the American people again. And as I have
said repeatedly, Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist
network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind. Colin Powell
will continue making that case to the American people and the world at the United
THE PRIME MINISTER: Adam.
QUESTION: One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam
Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?
THE PRESIDENT: I can't make that claim.
THE PRIME MINISTER: That answers your question. The one thing I would say, however,
is I've absolutely no doubt at all that unless we deal with both of these threats,
they will come together in a deadly form. Because, you know, what do we know
after September the 11th? We know that these terrorists networks would use any
means they can to cause maximum death and destruction. And we know also that
they will do whatever they can to acquire the most deadly weaponry they can.
And that's why it's important to deal with these issues together.
QUESTION: Mr. President and Prime Minister, if I could, sir, the arms inspectors made
their report on Monday this week. You've both made clear that it's a question
of weeks, not months. And here we are at the end of the week and the Iraqis
are suddenly inviting the arms inspectors back to Baghdad for further consultations.
Could I ask both of you what you make of that?
THE PRESIDENT: Let's see if I can be polite. Saddam Hussein has had 12 years
to learn how to deceive, and I would view this as more deception on his part.
He expects to be able to convince 108 inspectors that he is open-minded. The
only way that he can show that he is truly a peaceful man is to not negotiate
with inspectors, is not to string the inspectors along, but to disarm in front
of inspectors. We know what a disarmed regime looks like. We know what it means
to disarm. There's no negotiations. The idea of calling inspectors in to negotiate
is a charade. If he is going to disarm, he must start disarming. That's the
only thing he needs to talk to the inspectors about, is, here, I'm disarming.
THE PRIME MINISTER: That's absolutely right. If you look back at the history
of this, for 12 years, he's played these games. And that's why it's so important
to realize what the U.N. inspectors were put back in to do. The U.N. inspectors
-- and this is the crucial point, because it's on this basis that the whole
issue of the U.N. authority rests -- the U.N. inspectors did not go back into
Iraq to play a game of hide-and-seek with Saddam. They didn't go back in as
a detective agency. They went back in under an authority that said that they
had to cooperate fully, in every respect: the interview of witnesses, not just
access to sites; honest, transparent declarations in the material they had.
They're not doing that.
Now, why are they calling back the inspectors? I think it's fairly obvious.
It's because as the pressure grows, they want to play the same games as they've
been playing all the way through. That's why it's important we hold to the path
that we've set out. They have to disarm. They have to cooperate with the inspectors.
They're not doing it. If they don't do it through the U.N. route, then they
will have to be disarmed by force.
QUESTION: Mr. President, an account of the White House after 9/11 says that you ordered
invasion plans for Iraq six days after September the 11th -- Bob Woodward's
account. Isn't it the case that you have always intended war on Iraq, and that
international diplomacy is a charade in this case?
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, prior to September the 11th, we were discussing smart
sanctions. We were trying to fashion a sanction regime that would make it more
likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein. After September the
11th, the doctrine of containment just doesn't hold any water, as far as I'm
I've told you the strategic vision of our country shifted dramatically, and
it shifted dramatically because we now recognize that oceans no longer protect
us, that we're vulnerable to attack. And the worst form of attack could come
from somebody acquiring weapons of mass destruction and using them on the American
people, or the worst attack could come when somebody uses weapons of mass destruction
on our friends in Great Britain.
Recently, Tony Blair's government routed out a poison plot. It should say to
the people of Great Britain, there is a present danger, that weapons of mass
destruction are a danger to people who love freedom. I want to congratulate
you on your fabulous job of using your intelligence and your law enforcement
to protect the people of Great Britain.
Today, Italy rounded up yet another cell of people who are willing to use weapons
of mass destruction on those of us who love freedom.
And so, no, quite the contrary. My vision shifted dramatically after September
the 11th, because I now realize the stakes. I realize the world has changed.
My most important obligation is to protect the American people from further
harm. And I will do that.