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The President: I want to welcome our close friend, His Majesty, from the country of Jordan, back to the Oval Office. We have had a chance to visit several times during the course of my tenure as the President and every visit has been very constructive and very positive.
I appreciate so very much his support on our mutual concerns about making the world more peaceful, our desire to rout out terror. And, Your Majesty, thank you for your strong support.
I also look forward to having a good discussion with His Majesty about how we can work together to improve both our economies. King Abdullah is serious about his desire to improve the lot of his people and wants to make sure that whatever we do, we do together with one thing in mind, and that is to extend our mutual prosperity so people can make a living and have a better life. I appreciate so much his compassion for the people of Jordan. Every time I've talked to him he's expressed his concern to make sure that the moms and dads of Jordan have got a capacity to provide for their children.
I look forward to also discussing his desire to make sure that there we share our strategies about how to make sure both our people are educated in a way that will provide a hopeful future.
So, Your Majesty, welcome back to the Oval Office and I'm glad to have you here, sir.
King Abdullah: Thank you very much, Mr. President. As always, it's a tremendous honor and pleasure to be back to see you.
As you've said, our meetings have been growing in strength and cooperation every time that we have met. It is really such an important relationship between our two countries. Not only have we been able to work with you on improving the economic situation in Jordan, as you just mentioned, but equally as important, you've been so kind to listen to our views on the area and the region and we're very grateful for your effort. And I know, Mr. President, where your heart is on many of the regional issue to try and bring peace and stability to the area. And we're very grateful for your vision in that and for your courage and determination to really bring a better world in our part of the Middle East.
The President: Thank you. We'll answer a couple of questions.
Question: Mr. President, good morning. Prime Minister Sharon spoke yesterday about his sorrow not to eliminate President Arafat in Lebanon, as if it was a mistake he would like to correct now. Do you have any comment on Mr. Sharon's sorrow?
The President: Yes. I think the best way to peace is for us all to keep the focus on what derails peace, and what derails peace is terror. And the more quickly we eliminate terror, the more likely it is we'll have a peaceful resolution in the region. Ad that's all I want to comment on the situation.
Question: Mr. President, first, real quickly, to Your Majesty. Do you think there is an evil axis in the world, and is Iraq part of it? And, Mr. President, what are you doing, or what can you do about the Wall Street Journal reporter who is hostage in Pakistan?
King Abdullah: Well, sir, after the September 11th tragedy, I think it's very obvious that those that are on the side of good, those that are on the side of bad, and there's some countries in the middle that haven't made up their minds. So I think that the policy of the United States and the rest of us have been to be very clear to everybody on which side you want to choose. And I think the President has been very articulate from the beginning of the 11th of September that there is a new world, there's a new expectation of how countries are supposed to react. And those countries better make up their minds pretty quickly. And I endorse tremendously that view and that position.
The President: I talked to the FBI Director this morning, Ron, about the American who is in Pakistan being, evidently, held against his will. We are working with the Pakistani government to chase down any leads possible. For example, we're trying to follow the trail of the e-mails that have been sent, with the sole purpose of saving this man, of finding him and rescuing him.
We've been in touch with the Wall Street Journal and, obviously, we're deeply concerned, as is the Pakistani government. And we will continue to do everything we can to rescue him.
Question: You said you have talked to the Journal or your people have?
The President: The FBI Director did.
Question: Mr. President, have you abandoned efforts of pursuing a peaceful dialogue with Iran and North Korea?
The President: No, of course not. My hope -- as I said in my speech, I hope nations hear our call and make right decisions. A wrong decision will be to continue to export weapons of mass destruction. And I certainly hope that North Korea, for example, listens to what we suggested; and that is, they pull pack some conventional weaponry to make a clear declaration of their peaceful intentions on the peninsula; and that they not export weapons. We would be more than happy to enter a dialogue with them if that would be the case.
All the three countries I mentioned now are on -- now are on notice that we intend to take their development of weapons of mass destruction very seriously. It's not just "we," I'm talking about other nations that respect the rule of law and freedom. And I look forward to having this discussion with our friend, King Abdullah. He has obviously made a very clear statement about his understanding of what it takes to bring peace and order to the world.
But having said that, all options are on the table as to how to make America and our allies more secure.
Question: Mr. President, what are the futures plans that -- steps that the United States is planning to take to restore calm and enhance peace in the Middle East?
The President: Well, the first thing is Mr. Arafat has to make a -- has to show the world that he is willing to join our fight against terror. I felt like we were making pretty good progress, up until the time when we discovered, the world discovered that there had been a significant shipment of arms ordered from Iran for only -- seems like to us only one purpose, and that is to prevent -- is for terrorist purposes. And we can't let that stand. And, frankly, that's in total contrast to what he assured us, not only through his decisions at Oslo, but verbally, that he would help us fight against terror. Mr. Arafat must lead.
Question: Mr. President, what kind of help do you expect from Mr. Arafat, if he's actually under house arrest? And, second, what do you think of Mr. Sharon's policy of destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and possibly the removal of Mr. Arafat from office? Do you really think of the post-Arafat era?
The President: I think what we need to do is to fight terror on all fronts in the Middle East, so that at some point we can get into the Tenet and then Mitchell accords. There is a plan for peace, but it starts with a full-focused effort to fight terror. And Mr. Arafat must do a better job. We believe he can do a better job, and he must do a better job of doing so.
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Just to follow up on the situation with the Wall Street Journal reporter. Do the Pakistanis -- are they familiar with the group holding him?
The President: No, according to the press, they're not; according to my information, they're not necessarily familiar with the group. On the other hand, we have some leads. For example, the e-mail -- e-mails could provide a lead and we're chasing them down. We're very concerned about the Wall Street Journal reporter. We are in touch with the Pakistani government. We're in touch with the Wall Street Journal and we've got both the -- you know, our agencies in the area actively involved in trying to rescue him.
Question: Can I just follow on another point? Given the Fed's [Federal Reserve Board] decision not to act -- I'm sorry, the Fed's decision not to act on interest rates here a couple of days ago --
The President: Oh, the Feds -- a new subject, okay, go. (Laughter.) I'm kind of -- "the Feds" and we're acting -- in terms of Pakistan. I got you. (Laughter.) He's not quite as subtle as Fournier. See, Fournier is good about it because he actually addresses the two questions to two people. You're now going with the -- it's a sole two-question and it's a very -- it's brazen, but go ahead. (Laughter.)
Question: It is a stretch --
The President: It is a stretch -- Little Stretch. (Laughter.)
Question: If I could remember what I was going to ask -- (laughter.) Given what the Feds said and the growth numbers for the fourth quarter, are you as convinced that a stimulus package is still needed?
The President: I believe we're still not out of our economic problems. We've still got problems. The economy is still soft. Too many people aren't working. There's not enough job creation. And I believe, like I said in the State of the Union, we need a stimulus package. Until Americans can find steady work, I am going to be relentless in my desire to enhance economic growth. And that means jobs. And we've got to work with Congress to figure out how to enhance economic vitality.
There are some positive numbers, but not enough positive numbers to satisfy me.
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