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THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome the Prime Minister of our longtime friend, Thailand, to the Oval Office.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for being here.
PRIME MINISTER SHINAWATRA: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: This is not the first time I've had a chance to have a meaningful discussion with the Prime Minister. We sat next to each other in Shanghai, and we had a couple of hours worth of very substantive discussions about our relationships, about our mutual concerns, about our desire to work closely together on a variety of fronts.
The Prime Minister has assured me, and this visit is further confirmation, that our longtime friend will be a steady ally in the fight against terror.
Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for that.
And secondly today, our Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of his government are going to work on a framework for economic cooperation which will be completed. And it's further evidence that this relationship is a strong, strong relationship.
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, I'm so thrilled you are here, and welcome to the Oval Office.
PRIME MINISTER SHINAWATRA: Thank you, Mr. President.
Thailand and the U.S. has been treaty allies since 1833. This is very right for me to visit and giving full support to U.S., which is our very long ally. And it's very right for me to discuss war against terrorism and also -- economic issues that we should further enhance the cooperation among our two countries.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Steve. What we're going to do is two questions from the American press, two questions from our visitors, if there are any.
Q Sir, what do you expect Americans to get out of the bin Laden tape? And what do you say to some of the Islamic world who contend it's a farce or a fake?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, for those who contend it's a farce or a fake are hoping for the best about an evil man. I mean, this is bin Laden unedited. This is bin Laden -- the bin Laden who has murdered people. This is the man who sent innocent people to their death by -- this is a man who is so devious and so cold-hearted that he laughs about the suicide, so-called suicide bombers that lost their lives.
It is preposterous for anybody to think that this tape is doctored. That's just a feeble excuse to provide weak support for an incredibly evil man.
And, you know, I had mixed emotions about this tape because there's a lot of people who suffered as a result of his evil. And I was hesitant to allow there to be a vivid reminder of their loss and tragedy displayed on our TVs. On the other hand, I knew that it would be -- that the tape would be a devastating declaration of guilt for this evil person.
Q Sir, two things. Is Osama bin Laden cornered? And when you weigh the pros and cons of either option, would you rather take him alive so you can question him, or dead so you don't have to deal with him?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't care. Dead or alive, either way. I mean, I -- it doesn't matter to me.
Secondly, I don't know whether we're going to get him tomorrow, or a month from now, or a year from now. I really don't know. But we're going to get him. And I -- the American people must understand that I have no timetable in mind. There's no -- I don't have a calendar that I say, well, gosh, if he's not gotten by this certain moment, then I'll be disappointed. Because I am pleased with the progress that we're making in Afghanistan. I mean, there is no such thing as a Taliban. We have liberated, literally liberated village after village from incredible barbaric behavior toward women and children.
I think one of the joyous parts of this war, if there is such a thing as a joyous part of a war, is to see the -- is to see what it means for our country and our alliance to free people. We're achieving a lot of our objectives. But we're chasing a person obviously who is willing to send suicide bombers, on the one hand, and hide in a cave. Somebody who is -- encourages young people to go kill themselves, and he, himself, refuses to stand and fight. And so he may hide for a while, but we'll get him.
Anybody care to talk to the Prime Minister?
Q I'll ask one. Mr. President, do you see any signs of hope or progress in stopping the killing in the Middle East? And do you believe that Israel has been justified in its retaliatory actions against the Palestinian leadership, and in the Prime Minister's decision to cut off contacts with Chairman Arafat?
THE PRESIDENT: First, let me talk about Chairman Arafat. Chairman Arafat has said that he intends to fight terror and to bring those to justice who are killing, murderers, in the Middle East, and now is his time to perform. The world expects Chairman Arafat to lead, and so do I. And I will continue to work with our friends and allies to make it -- to talk to Mr. Arafat in very blunt terms.
And that is, if you want to achieve the Mitchell -- if you want to get in the Mitchell process, if you want there to be a peace, you must do everything in your power, you must use your security forces to bring to justice those who murder to keep peace from happening.
The world has now seen that there are killers and murderers around the world and in the Middle East that are not interested in peace. Our government strongly desires peace. We have sent emissaries throughout my administration to work to get a secure enough environment to get into the Mitchell process. We still have a man in place, General Zinni, working to get there to be some kind of security arrangements so we could possibly get into Mitchell. But so long as there's killers and people who would derail the peace process by murdering others, it's going to be very difficult to do.
I will continue to make peace in the Middle East a priority, and it starts with routing out terror wherever it exists.
Listen, thank you all very much. Have a great weekend.
END 11:03 A.M. EST
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