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1:27 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: All right. Let me give you an update on the President's day, and if you would, at the end we'll get into the week ahead for next week.
The President this morning spoke with Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos to congratulate him on his electoral victory on Sunday, and the President underscored the importance of strong ties between the United States and Nicaragua. Following the President's phone call, he had his morning briefings with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to go over the latest events abroad and on the homeland.
And then the President began the first of four meetings he is having with foreign leaders today. He met in the Oval Office with the Foreign Minister of Morocco to discuss ongoing cooperation in the war against terrorism. He met in the Oval Office with the Prime Minister of India, and has just concluded a lunch with the Prime Minister of India, to discuss the war on terrorism and U.S.-Indian relations. The President will, later this afternoon, meet with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, as well as with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia.
The President also, this afternoon, will sign a proclamation in honor of the National Guard, and he will also announce a series of additional steps to help protect the traveling public through a beefed-up presence of the National Guard at the nation's airports through the holiday season.
One final announcement: As a result of the actions the President announced on Wednesday, and the seizing of assets and the shutting down of several terrorist financial fronts in the United States, since Wednesday over $1 million has been frozen in the United States as a result of those actions.
And with that, I'm more than happy to take your questions.
Q Can you give us a readout on the meeting with General Franks? And specifically, did he, as expected, ask the President for an expansion of the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, as you know, any meeting that takes place involving the President and his generals, particularly those that are part of the National Security Council meetings that the President holds each morning, are topics I won't get into.
Q Ari, in an interview with The New York Times, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who will be here later on today, seemed to really chide the administration, saying that Saudi Arabia was angrily disappointed that the administration hadn't come out with a peace plan for the Middle East that it had promised, and also saying that the President could not be an honest broker in the Middle East peace process until he meets with Yasser Arafat. Does the President think such language is helpful as he's trying to build this coalition?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President noted that newspaper report and, of course, he has a meeting directly with the Foreign Minister shortly. And from the President's point of view, he looks forward to hearing directly from the Foreign Minister any thoughts that are on the Foreign Minister's mind. And they will have a conversation about events in the Middle East.
Q Does he believe that such language is divisive?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President is going to listen to the Foreign Minister, himself, and hear what language the Foreign Minister -- what the message of the Foreign Minister is. But the President is pleased with the cooperation of Saudi Arabia, and he looks forward to this afternoon's meeting.
Q Well, Ari, what about India? I mean, we have another newspaper article in which the Indian Prime Minister described the military effort as "slackening." Did he knock that out in the meeting with the President, and how did the President respond? Because that seemed to be -- they seemed to be unresponsive when questions were posed today.
MR. FLEISCHER: David, I know that question was posed to the President just an hour, an hour and a half ago, and I would refer you to the President's answer to that question.
Q But actually, he didn't answer. The question was, is it helpful when you have coalition members --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the meeting -- I can tell you that the meeting in the Oval Office was a very positive meeting, where the Prime Minister talked about India's support for the United States' effort, standing shoulder to shoulder.
Q We understand that, but you're being nonresponsive, just like the President was nonresponsive. So is there a response or isn't there?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm sharing with you what took place in the meetings. So, obviously, whatever you may have read in the papers did not influence the meeting.
Q But how is that possible? I mean, if you've got a leader who is giving --
MR. FLEISCHER: Maybe they didn't read everything that you read. They had their meeting, and the Prime Minister told the President that India stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States. And it was a very positive, productive meeting.
Q Did the President -- I'm sorry, did the Prime Minister mention anything about the pace of the war slackening, that the U.S. wasn't prepared for this kind of war? Did anything of those statements that came up in the Post interview, did he mention them to the President?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not in the portion of the meeting that I attended, which was in the Oval Office.
Q Ari, can the White House say anything or confirm claims by the Northern Alliance rebels that they have captured or taken control of Mazar-e-Sharif?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would ask you to talk to the Department of Defense about anything involving operations in Afghanistan.
Q Well, can I ask, when the President was meeting with General Franks earlier, were there reports coming in? Was he briefed about these reports that were coming in?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I understand the level of interest in anything involving the war councils that the President has with his top generals in the National Security Council, but this is going to be a matter of routine policy -- you've heard this from the beginning -- it's just not a topic that I'm going to describe what takes place in the private councils the President has with his war planners.
Q But any reaction, if it is true? The Pentagon is saying it would be an encouraging development.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I'd refer you to the Pentagon.
Q Ari, back to the Prime Minister of India. What kind od discussions were there about Kashmir in that meeting? We've heard from the Prime Minister, we didn't hear from the President on that.
MR. FLEISCHER: On the topic of Kashmir, the President believes that it's very important for both parties to engage in a peaceful dialogue, to have a peaceful resolution of any of the disputes involving Kashmir. That's the President's message.
Q Did he talk about the Pakistanis and the cross-border terrorism? Did he talk about that at all in the meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made it very clear to India. He has said it repeatedly, he said it publicly, he said it privately -- he condemned the October 1st attack in Kashmir. And I think the Prime Minister understands the President's position.
Q Did they discuss that today, further?
MR. FLEISCHER: That did not come up in the Oval Office portion of the meeting. The Oval Office portion of the meeting was a much smaller portion. They had the lunch meeting, and the lunch meeting was just breaking up as we gather here.
Q Was there any hint of concern on the part of India that the United States is growing increasingly allied with Pakistan, which, let's face it, has been hostile to India and has been a breeding ground for terrorism?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. It was a very positive discussion. Again, I was in the Oval Office portion of it, but it was a very positive discussion and I think the President and the Secretary made it very clear to both President Musharraf and to Prime Minister Vajpayee about the importance of promoting stability in the region. And both nations understand the importance of winning this war against terrorism, and both nations have supported the United States and the President is gratified by that.
Q So Vajpayee expressed no qualms about our growing relationship with Pakistan in that meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not in the portion of the meeting I was in. But again, in previous meetings, there is a general understanding about the sensitivities in the region, the need for stability in the region. If you remember, Secretary Powell visited the region, and in all the conversations the President has had and that he will have, including tomorrow at the United Nations with President Musharraf, the President will discuss the need for stability in the region and for a peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan over any other disputes.
Q Does that mean that the President will ask President Musharraf to cut off support, tacit or otherwise, for terrorists in Kashmir?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has made it clear to leaders around the world that terrorism anywhere needs to be prevented and stopped.
Q But specific to that question?
Q Back to the National Guard. I know the President hasn't made the announcement yet, but I guess I would like to understand something about the genesis of it. Have the governors been clamoring for additional resources that they didn't get last time the President made his announcement, and was there some lack of flexibility in what -- I don't recall any restrictions on how they were to be used when the President last announced --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's not a question of restrictions. What the President will announce today are additional resources to help the states with deployment of additional Guard personnel. The deployment decisions about how best to use the Guard is, as always in these cases of a state decision, left up to the governors to decide how much -- where they want to deploy them, exactly where, at what airports.
Throughout our federal-state system, airports have a mix of personnel in the security field, and many of those decisions are local matters, state matters. It depends on the jurisdictions for the airports.
Q Does the President think that not enough was done after his last announcement, that they weren't used well enough?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, not at all. But I think it's a reflection that there are always additional things that can be done, and this is one of those times the President, looking at the upcoming travel season, sees the ability to give the states more resources to help with the Guard deployments at their airports, and he's pleased to make the announcement he will.
Q Ari, what has been the reaction the White House received to his speech last night? And has there ever been a time when there have been so many foreign leaders coming to the White House, especially in one week? Is this historic?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, I've only been here for a very long 11 months. But I can't compare it to previous administrations. Of course, there is the meeting at the United Nations this weekend, which is bringing together many foreign ministers and leaders from around the world, so there is that confluence that I referred to earlier in the week. Obviously, Prime Minister Blair, President Chirac arrived for the purpose of their meetings this week. They've returned to Great Britain and to France.
But I think it's a strong sign of encouragement to the world of how many nations stand with the United States in the fight against terrorism and are ready, willing and able, and looking forward to talking to the President of the United States about what their nations can do. And the President has been very encouraged by that.
The second part of your question?
Q The reaction to the speech.
MR. FLEISCHER: Reaction to the speech last night. The President has been very encouraged by it. He spent a lot of time on the flight back last night talking about it. I think he appreciated the warm reception he got, and I think he also takes tremendous comfort in knowing how the American people have reacted to an attack on the homeland. No matter which way you look in this country, people are reacting to the anthrax attacks with a sense of calm, with a sense of determination. There is some -- a level of anxiety, obviously, but there is a real sense that America, as always in our history, has responded to an attack with the country that stands prepared and a country that will not be intimidated.
Governor Ridge I think explained at the beginning of this briefing the level of volunteer interest. And I can tell you from a report I got earlier this morning, the White House phones were ringing with people who phoned and wanted to volunteer. And I would not be surprised if volunteer agencies around the country had a similar response in the wake of the President's speech.
Q Ari, the President said this morning that he was going to, tomorrow at the United Nations, say that the time for condolences is over, it's a time for action. What action is he not seeing that he would like to see?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in the speech tomorrow at the United Nations, the President is going to thank the United Nations for its strong support, and he will praise the role played by the Secretary General of the United Nations and he will talk to rally the world on behalf of the cause of freedom. And I think what you can expect tomorrow is a fuller explanation of the Bush doctrine in which those who harbor terrorists will also be held accountable for their actions, just as guilty as the terrorists.
The President made that clear on the night of September 11th in an address in the Oval Office when he returned from Florida, where he was when the attacks took place, and in his first remarks from the Oval Office that same night, he announced a new doctrine for the United States, which is those nations that harbor the terrorists are just as guilty as the terrorists. And I think tomorrow in the United Nations, you will hear the President put the world on notice that he is appreciative of the fact that some nations have expressed sympathy, but sympathy only is not good enough, that nations need to take actions.
Q Ari, but what specific actions?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President will describe that tomorrow in his speech to varying degrees and you'll be able to hear that yourself tomorrow.
Q Ari, back to airport security for a minute. A number of airline executives and security experts have proposed this idea of a national airline passenger ID card. People would undergo a security check and they'd get this special ID card. Supposedly, it would expedite them through lines and cause shorter lines at airports. What's the administration's view of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: No plans for anything of that type.
Q The administration rejects that out of hand?
MR. FLEISCHER: There are no plans for anything of that type. Obviously, the administration is going to keep an open mind about any productive or positive ideas, but based on what we know now, that does not fit that category.
Q What specific nations was the President talking to or referring to when he says these expressions of sympathy is nice, but it's time for action? And also --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure the President is going to want to go down a list of nation by nation tomorrow. I do not expect that. But I would just urge you to listen to tomorrow's speech.
Q And also as a follow-up, Governor Whitman talked about talks with the chemical industry. What specific steps can the industry take to protect chemicals?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I wish you could have asked that of Governor Whitman when she was here. I know that EPA has been working since the very beginning on a plan with the chemical industry, on protection of vital infrastructure. It's a reminder that when it comes to homeland defense, there are several areas out there -- you have heard talk before about nuclear power plants; there are other facilities that also could be targets. And as a result of that, security is being stepped up at many such facilities. And that is being done by these private organizations, in concert and at the urging of the EPA and other relevant government agencies.
Q Has the President spoken to Musharraf about cross-border terrorism in Kashmir? And the other question is on the naval agreement that the Indians and the United States was working on, it wasn't announced today. Where are the discussions right now? And if you can elaborate on what the United States was seeking? There's a report in an Indian magazine, USA Today, that really outlines a lot of details, including basing in Rajasthan.
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. I think I've already addressed the question of Kashmir. And if there are any additional --
Q -- whether or not he spoke about cross-border terrorism with Musharraf.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think I've addressed the issue of Kashmir involving both the President's conversations with President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee.
Why don't we do this: On any other questions that came out of the lunch -- which I mentioned just ended as I was coming in here -- we'll see if we can get an additional readout later.
Q I think you tried to answer this earlier. Did you say earlier that the President will not be singling out any nations for criticism tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's what you can expect. The President will make his message very plain and clear.
Q And just to follow up, we already know -- he's already made very clear what actions he wants countries to take -- do what you can on intelligence, finances, the war in Afghanistan. Will there be any other actions that we don't know about that he will outline --
MR. FLEISCHER: If you could wait until the President's speech tomorrow.
Q I still have one question on the National Guard. Is the purpose here to have a more visible presence for reassurance? Or are they to be involved in crowd control? What is it -- or some job in screening? What is it that they're actually doing, that you envision them doing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, right after the President made his initial announcement about making the Guard available to the states for employment, training began for the Guard in screening and supervising the screening. And that has already been done and in effect, and the Guard has been posted at airports.
But, as Governor Ridge is going to talk to the nation's governors a little later today, he indicated they have flexibility on this. And I think you can anticipate the Guard being involved in such things as monitoring passenger and baggage screening, monitoring gate activity, perimeter control, security for vehicles, garages, air traffic control facilities -- all of that can come under the purview of what the Guard can do to help the local law enforcement community, which already has that under their watch, under their jurisdiction. They are additional helping hands for local law enforcement.
Proceeding in the order which I announced ten minutes ago -- Jacobo, then Keith, Kelly, then Elizabeth.
Q Ari, I would like the reaction of the White House, White House reaction to the following statement: The Cuban government has welcomed the U.S. government offer of hurricane relief after Michele has struck the island, but the Foreign Minister of Cuba said he would rather have approval to buy, in cash, American food and medicine, but to be able to pick it up in Cuban vessels. Havana said it would be more useful if Cuba was allowed to acquire on an expedited basis a quantity of food, medicine, and raw materials --
MR. FLEISCHER: Jacobo, I have nothing to add further beyond what the President has always maintained about the policies vis-a-vis Cuba. And in the case of any aid, in the event of anything beyond that, I refer you to the appropriate agency.
Q But there is a law right now that allows Cuba to buy food and medicine.
MR. FLEISCHER: I have nothing further to add beyond that.
Q Ari, does the President think that Republican National Chairman Jim Gilmore did a good job in the election --
MR. FLEISCHER: He does.
Q -- in the period leading up to the election?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he does.
Q He does?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has faith and confidence in Governor Gilmore and the job he did. As I think most analysts have pointed out, the elections were decided mostly on local issues, and it was, all in all, when you look across the country, I think both parties have things that they can brag about. It was, I think, a non-conclusive event for either party. Both parties had wins, both parties had losses.
Q And so he wants him to stay as chair?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he does. The President has support in Governor Gilmore.
Q Ari, two on airline security. One, why -- the President had this big audience last night, prime-time address -- why wouldn't he announce the initiative about the National Guard troops last night? If he wants to increase confidence in the airlines, I wonder why he chose not to in his speech.
And the second question is, he expressed -- he seemed optimistic about the House and Senate working out their differences. Is he sort of getting to the point of kind of giving them a little time line? If they don't resolve differences by a certain date, he's going to use his executive powers to do the actions that he can?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will actually be signing a proclamation today. And it will be in honor of National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week. And so I think that's a unique event, it's befitting to the Guard and to the employers. And I think it would have been a little -- it's a little different to have a signing at a large speech like that last night. And so the President's looking forward to doing that today.
Your second question was on the aviation security bill. On the aviation security bill, as you know, the President last night did call on Congress to resolve this issue. And the President believes it is the ultimate test of if-there's-a-will-there's-a-way. And he has a will to get this done.
And the administration has been meeting with conferees, discussing how to bridge the gap between the House and the Senate. And the President has called on the House to move toward to the Senate position, and the Senate to move toward the House. And the President is very hopeful that Congress will listen to the call, and will get it done.
Q On the same subject, I mean the story in the Times this morning about Argenbright security was fairly horrifying, about these people hired with past criminal records, people who have been convicted of kidnapping. Is he still going to not budge on the federalization of the work force, given what --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's precisely because of those type of stories that the President thinks it's important for a federal standard to be set. That way there are rules that the private sector employees have to follow in terms of their hiring.
But I would remind you, I think if you did a search of the database of everybody who is on the federal payroll, I dare say you're going to find people who have records in the federal payroll, as well. So replacing one employer with another employer is not a substitute for having standards in place that make sure that nobody violates those standards.
And that's why the President thinks the key to airport security is to have tough federal standards in place for hiring and for background checks, and then to allow a flexible match of federal and state involvement, just as Europe and Israel have done.
Q What particular concerns prompted the Attorney General to issue his order last week allowing attorney-client privileges, I guess, to be breached?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this is part of the ongoing operation of the United States government, to prevent any future terrorist attacks, and to make certain that anybody who is in this country for the purpose of conducting one will be fully prosecuted. What the Attorney General announced in terms of attorney-client privilege, as Justice Department has informed me, applies to a very narrow number of people, people who the intelligence community will formally certify that conversations are a potential threat to the national security of the nation. And from a legal point of view, according to the Department of Justice, as well, those conversations cannot be used in a court of law against those people unless a court reviews them and specifically allows them.
Q The President has said some countries will do more than others, you're either with us or you're against us, there's no such thing as a good terrorist, and if you don't freeze assets you can't do business with the United States. Which column does Lebanon fall into, now that they've said they will not freeze the assets of Hezbollah?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has clearly called on nations to seize the assets of those nations -- entities that support terrorism. And I think you can expect the President to, as he will tomorrow, to make clear that neutrality is not an acceptable position, that you can't, on the one hand, condemn the al Qaeda and hug the Hezbollah, or hug the Hamas, as Condi Rice said the other day.
So I think you can anticipate remarks from the President of that type tomorrow. But the President has also said that he's involved right now in phase one of the war against terrorism. And that war is aimed at the al Qaeda, at the Taliban, at Afghanistan. And he's not prepared at this time to go beyond that. But he is putting the world on notice that he is very appreciative for the sympathy that's been expressed, but it is important for nations to know that the United States, President Bush, expects them to do more.
Q Well, where do you see Lebanon falling into? Are they in the category of some countries will be more comfortable doing certain things than others will, or do they fall into the you're either with us or you're against us?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it will be up to the President to start determining anything on a nation-by-nation basis. And when he decides to do so, he will share that information.
Q Ari, there are several administration officials who are still holding out hope that the President's faith-based package can still get through the Congress in one form or -- the Senate side this year. Does the President share that hope? And how realistic is it at this late date, with everything else on the plate on Capitol Hill, that it will get done?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the prospects for legislative action on the Hill, when you go down the line beyond the immediate needs that the President has called for, which are the stimulus, so people can get back to work, enacted by November 30th, the wrapping up of the appropriation bills, the important work of the education legislation, so that the President can sign it into law, I think a lot depends on when Congress decides they are going to leave town. And that's a difficult call, because Congress can do a lot of good for the country when they go home, by speaking to their constituents about the war against terrorism, and showing how united our country is.
The President would like to see the faith-based legislation get done, and he'll continue to call on Congress to do it. It's unclear what the Congress will do on that one at this time.
Q What does the White House, particularly what does the President make of the public debate over whether or not General Franks is carrying out the war in an appropriate manner and at an appropriate pace?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President expressed to the American people last night his satisfaction with the manner in which the war is being carried out. The President has nothing but high praise for the men and women of the Armed Forces, from the privates to the generals, from all those who are waging this war. And I think the President made that clear last night.
Q It would also be true, would it not, that the Pentagon is actually in charge of the war plan, not a single general, even from the Central Command?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there's no doubt that it's a team of people who are involved. And General Franks is a very good part of that team.
Q How many bilaterals is President Bush going to have in New York?
MR. FLEISCHER: Have we not released that list yet? Okay, that list is coming out, and --
MR. JOHNDROE: Several.
MR. JOHNDROE: Several.
Q Oh, several.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, and there will be several pull-asides, there will be some bilateral meetings, there will be pull-asides. There will be a lot of nations gathering, he'll be meeting with a lot of people.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Week ahead?
Q Oh, week ahead. Please, could I have the week ahead, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: The week ahead. Thank you. Somebody reminded me about the need for the week ahead. I never would have thought of it myself.
Tomorrow the President travels to New York City, to address the United Nations General Assembly, and to have several bilateral meetings. We will release details later today. Did you two coordinate this? On Sunday, the President has additional meetings with world leaders. He will attend a Veterans Day breakfast, and a memorial at the World Trade Center site.
On Tuesday, the President welcomes Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin to the White House for an official working visit. They will have meetings in the Oval Office, lunch in the residence, and a news
conference in the East Room in the afternoon.
President and Mrs. Bush will welcome President and Mrs. Putin to their home at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Wednesday. Mr. and Mrs. Putin will remain overnight at the ranch, and depart on Thursday. We will have additional details on the Crawford portion of the visit a little later on.
We will see you next week in Texas, and we will see you in New York this weekend.
Q -- Crawford is a down weekend -- Friday and the weekend in Crawford?
MR. FLEISCHER: We will have additional --
END 1:53 P.M. EST
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