September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Background Briefing By Senior Administration Officials On Bilateral Meetings With The President; November 10, 2001

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
(New York, New York)
November 10, 2001
Background Briefing By Senior Administration Officials On Bilateral Meetings With The President
The Inter-continental New York, New York

Mr. McCormack: Good afternoon, everybody. We have two senior administration officials here this afternoon. We're going to do readouts of President Bush's meetings with the President of Madagascar, the President of Croatia, the President of Uganda, the President of Kenya. And right now I'll turn it over to our senior administration officials.

Senior Administration Official: Just to talk about the meeting this morning with President Mesic that the President had. It was, of course, a very warm meeting. We were there to commend President Mesic for the strong statements he'd made on global terrorism. Croatia again pledged their full support, and asked for whatever else they could do, they'd be happy to do it.

And, in fact, Croatia has taken some very good, concrete steps. They have cracked down on some of the financial networks. They have launched some investigations on possible or suspected terrorist organizations in Croatia. So they have been a good partner in this, and he pledged further support.

He praised the President's speech as the right message at the right time, the right place. The President commended President Mesic on his leadership in Croatia and the region. I think they both agreed that stability in the Balkans is a key element to the global war on terrorism. He commended Mesic's efforts on political and economic reforms. And also he endorsed -- the President endorsed Croatia's goal of accelerating the reforms so that Croatia could take its place in Europe and European institutions.

That's something that President Mesic said he wanted to focus on, and he saw the acceleration of the integration of the region of Croatia and the rest of the region as key to the stability of Southeast Europe, and also as part of the global war on terrorism.

And pretty much, that was the extent of the meeting.

Senior Administration Official: Good afternoon. I have three meetings that I will provide a readout for. First, President Bush met with President Ratsiraka this morning. He thanked Ratsiraka for his early demonstration of friendship with the administration and his continuing support, including support for the anti-terrorism campaign. The President promised to share information and help Madagascar, as it helps the global coalition.

President Ratsiraka stated that Madagascar is with the United States and has been with the United States in its fight against terrorism from the outset. He also noted the positive growth in the economy -- over 6.5 percent -- and thanked President Bush for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which he said is responsible for much of this growth. President Bush, in turn, said that Madagascar's economic record shows good leadership. It was a very warm meeting between the two leaders.

The second meeting was with President Museveni. President Bush again acknowledged and thanked Uganda for its solidarity in the war against terrorism. He told President Museveni that the administration looked at Uganda as a model for addressing HIV/AIDS and, in particular, when he was looking to commit funds, $300 million to this global fund, he asked the question, are there any successful models -- and Uganda was cited as one of the best practices.

And so he thanked Museveni for his leadership on both terrorism and on HIV/AIDS, promised to commit more money to the global fund, and asked that Uganda also commit its expertise and its experience.

President Bush asked Museveni about conflicts in the Great Lakes region and asked him to demonstrate similar leadership to end the wars there. Museveni stated that he was very pleased that the American government has provided free access to African and Ugandan goods under the AGOA legislation, and stated that not providing access to our markets is a sure way to condemn others to poverty.

He linked this AGOA to the terrorism by saying that those who attacked America at a time that it was opening its markets to Africa were, in fact, directly attacking Africans and African interests. And so he stated that it was in Africa's interest to support the United States when the United States was opening up to Africa.

The two leaders also discussed regional issues, Sudan and the Great Lakes region in particular.

The third meeting was with President Moi. President Moi stated that the debate on terrorism is extremely important and that, in fact, unless we face this danger collectively and defeat it, it's useless to talk about development. There's nothing that can develop if the terrorists have their way.

He conveyed his shock and sympathy over the attacks and said that it was, in fact, an attack against humanity. He thanked President Bush personally and the administration for the commitment to developing Africa, and expressed gratitude for the message that President Bush sent during the AGOA forum at the end of October.

He stated that the AGOA was extremely important for the future of Africa and Kenya, that he sent his Foreign and Trade Minister there, and that poverty breeds a lot of things in Africa -- Africa is facing a number of problems, and AGOA would be essential for helping them to get out of it.

President Bush agreed and said that preventative medicine is the best course of action, and committed to continuing the trade relationship with President Moi.

Question: Were all these meetings formal, sit-down bilats, or were they pull-asides at the U.N.?

Senior Administration Official: The meetings that I had were of both type.

Senior Administration Official: They did sit down, but it was actually a pull-aside.

Question: Do either of you know whether or not President Bush saw Yassir Arafat at the luncheon today?

Senior Administration Official: I don't know.

Senior Administration Official: We weren't there.

Question: Is the President still going to meet President Kabila?

Senior Administration Official: Yes, the President is going to meet President Kabila later this evening.

Question: What is on the agenda for that?

Senior Administration Official: I think they will discuss regional issues, conflict, obviously, in the Congo, how to end that war. They will also discuss trade and economic development issues.

Question: Do you have anything new on what's on the agenda for the de la Rua tomorrow?

Senior Administration Official: No.

Question: Can you run through the discussion on Sudan? Was it both with Moi and Museveni? And where are you? I understand Danforth is leaving to the region pretty soon. Where is the Sudan peace effort?

Senior Administration Official: Yes, that was a major part of the discussion, was discussing a mission of Senator Danforth. Senator Danforth is, in fact, here. He met with President Museveni Friday night and will meet with President Moi this evening.

So the two leaders discussed the nature of the crisis, the different peace initiatives that are -- or the four leaders, in this case -- the different peace initiatives that were there, and talked about what Senator Danforth might accomplish on his trip.

Question: Could you give us an idea of why the President is meeting with so many African leaders in this U.N. setting?

Senior Administration Official: I think the President is meeting with African leaders because he stated from the outset of this administration how important Africa was to this administration. So he's trying to find opportunities to engage the leaders in a dialogue early on in the administration, to build on that relationship over the next four to eight years.

Question: And that would be -- in terms of discussion of their role in the anti-terror coalition, does he have a uniform message for all those leaders, or are there different, specific requests made of each one?

Senior Administration Official: He has a uniform message for all leaders globally, and I think it's the same message -- which is, we all are collectively in this, we have to fight it together; and that the attack at the World Trade Center was not simply one against the United States, but 80 other countries lost their citizens in that attack.

In terms of the specifics for each country, I think the message is a consistent, again -- let's share information, we'll share that information both ways. We're looking for ways to help build their capacity to eradicate these terrorists on the financial front, on the diplomatic front.

So I think it's a consistent message that he's making globally. If you want more on that message, he stated it very clearly during his address to the AGOA forum at the end of October.

Question: Is he talking to them at all about border issues, or maybe al Qaeda operatives who might be hiding or traversing African countries to elude capture?

Senior Administration Official: Yes. Again, it's the same message, which is, we need to share information. These networks are global; they do exist in Africa, as well. So I'll share information if I know where they're moving and please share the same information if you know.

In addition to that, part of his reason for meeting with the leaders that he's met with is because the regional stability in Africa is critical to the global counterterrorism campaign because, as you have unstable environments, terrorists have a place to hide out. So he's very committed to trying to end the wars in Africa. That was a commitment at the beginning of the administration; it takes on even greater urgency post-9/11.

Mr. McCormack: Thank you very much.

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