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DR. RICE: Good morning, everyone. I would like to take a few minutes just to talk a little bit about the President's activities over the next week, including a series of speeches that he will make updating the American people and our coalition allies on the progress on the war on terrorism. And then, of course, I'll be happy to take your questions.
The President thinks it's vitally important to make certain that the American people are kept informed about the nature of the threat that we face, and the progress of our response. I'm going to leave the timing and logistics of the exact timing of the President's speeches and briefings to Ari, but let me just give you a sense of what he plans to do.
Next week, the President will address the American people about homeland defense and security, and our status and progress on this front, the home front, on the war on terrorism. He will speak to the American people about the ways in which our everyday lives have changed necessarily since the horrific events of September 11th, and his optimism and resolve that, despite these changes, American values are constant and impermeable. The President will also take an opportunity next week to announce new progress on the financial front against terrorism.
Concerning the war abroad, the President will consult with the members of the coalition. He does this regularly in phone calls each morning, but he'll have a couple of special opportunities next week. He will speak to a gathering in Warsaw, Poland of Central European states that have gathered to talk about how they can best support the war on terrorism. And he wants very much to thank the Polish government for arranging this gathering. He will talk about the importance of world leaders and coalition allies, he will define the nature of the global response to terrorism, and update the progress on the war on terrorism, talking about the responsibilities of those who have joined the coalition.
The President will also have several heads of state here next week. He will visit with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain who will come here; with President Chirac of France; with Prime Minister Vajpayee of India. He will also meet with President Cardoso of Brazil and Ahern of Ireland. And also, of Algeria -- Bouteflika from Algeria.
Finally, the President will deliver his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. So it's going to be a very busy week, both in talking about the home front and in talking with members of the coalition about the progress in the war on terrorism. And now I'd be glad to take your questions. Ron.
Q Just a follow up to the homeland defense speech. Are you saying -- is that a prime-time or an Oval Office or a Congressional address?
DR. RICE: I'm going to let Ari address the logistics with you. But the President is going to take an opportunity next week to update the American people on homeland defense.
Q I'm assuming Poland is a satellite speech, by satellite?
DR. RICE: That's right. He's not going to Poland. That's right, he's going to be on satellite.
Q Is there a tentative agreement on missile defense?
DR. RICE: The President has been very consistent, going all the way back to the time that he was elected, that he had certain principles that he believes should guide us as we've thought about the new environment in which we find ourselves with Russia, at the end of the Cold War.
Those principles have not changed. First of all, he's said that he believes very strongly that the United States ought to do a strategic nuclear review, a review of its offensive forces, and bring those forces to a level consistent with our own deterrence needs, not as a matter of negotiation, but as a matter of restructuring our nuclear forces.
Secondly, the President has made clear that he believes that we're going to have to move beyond the ABM Treaty for two reasons: first of all because it constrains our ability to fully explore the possibilities for missile defense, and secondly because he believes that it is not representative of the kind of relationship that we have with the Russians.
Now, obviously, we've been talking with the Russians at the head of state level, at the ministerial level, and at the expert level for a number of months now. We believe that we are understanding each other better, that we're making progress. But I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time.
We have a series of meetings that we have been having with the Russian President -- Ljubljana, Genoa, the recent meeting in Shanghai. And as you know, President Putin will be here shortly. So I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time. But we do believe that we and the Russians are making progress on redefining our new relationship.
Q Are you denying -- are you denying that there has been a tentative agreement on the range of nuclear reductions?
DR. RICE: I am just saying, Ron, that I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time. As I said to you many, many times, let's not try to keep score, that it's 1-0 or 2-0, or that it's the ninth inning. We are building this relationship over a long period of time with the Russians, and we are making steady progress.
Q Can I follow on that, Dr. Rice? There was a sense out of one of the meetings that Secretary Powell had while he was in Shanghai, that the Russians had indicated to us that there's a lot more that we can do in terms of testing within the framework of the ABM Treaty than we think we can do. Did this sort of notion of -- not an agreement, but some sort of understanding, fall out of those conversations?
DR. RICE: Well, I think that we are getting to understand each other better over this long period of time. I think that the expert discussions have really told the Russians precisely the kinds of things that we are thinking about doing. We have said that we are going to be transparent in our testing program; we have said that the Russians should know precisely what we are doing to move toward limited defenses. And so I don't think it should be surprising to anyone that there is a better understanding, and perhaps more comfort, with how we are going to move forward.
But I am not going to put words in the Russians' mouths as to precisely what they think of our testing program. We will see how the discussions go over the next several months.
Q Can you at least say, or perhaps explain, that it's acceptable to lower the overall number of warheads?
DR. RICE: Oh, the President has said from the very beginning -- in fact, he said during the campaign -- that he believed that American offensive nuclear force levels were probably too high for the task of post-Cold War deterrence. And he launched, upon becoming President, a strategic nuclear review. That review is moving toward conclusion. And the President's also made very clear that he believes the restructuring of American nuclear forces and numbers that are consistent with the deterrent mission is a matter of military planning; it's not a matter of negotiation. And so, sooner or later, those talks will be done internally.
Q But just to explain to the American people, I mean, you apparently are exploring going below 2000 --
DR. RICE: What we're doing is looking at the level -- and this is an internal review; this is not a review with the Russians that says we have to match warhead for warhead. We really believe the old arms control agreements in which you had to match warhead for warhead, system for system, ignoring geography, ignoring history, ignoring the threats around you, was the old way of thinking about this.
We think that the best way to do this -- and the President said it several times -- is to ask the Pentagon to review America's needs for deterrence and move America's forces to a level that is appropriate to our deterrent needs. And we would expect that the Russians would do the same.
Q Dr. Rice, it seems to me that your phraseology of moving beyond the ABM Treaty has been purposely vague all along. Are you willing to accept amending the ABM Treaty, or are you determined to scrap it entirely?
DR. RICE: Look, we have said all along that we need to find a way to achieve two goals. One is to give ourselves maximum flexibility for exploring the technologies that might give us the chance of an effective limit to defense. The ABM Treaty is constraining.
The President's also made clear that he does not believe that this treaty is appropriate to this period of time, and that we need a new strategic framework with the Russians that is appropriate to this time. This was a treaty with the Soviet Union, signed in 1972.
Now, we are working with the Russians and trying with the Russians to come to a better understanding of what that might mean, how it is we move beyond the ABM Treaty. But that's what's going on here. The President's views have not changed.
Q So you could accept either amending it or scrapping it, and that's still under negotiation?
DR. RICE: I've said that -- it's not a matter of negotiation, it's a matter of principle -- that there are two reasons that the ABM Treaty is problematic. One has to do with testing, the other has to do, however, with the nature of the relationship.
And I think that both Presidents have made clear that they want to come to agreement, that they want to move forward together, but we haven't come to an agreement on what the form of that should be.
Q Condi, pursuing that same point, say, if you take your two different issues, one of them is an immediate one; the testing one, you need to move forward with the testing in a relatively short period of time if you're going to meet your own schedules. The new strategic framework is a longer-term issue. Could you foresee a situation in which you had a two-phase agreement, in which the first phase has to do with testing, but keeps in place the ABM Treaty, the second phase deals with the ultimate disposition of the ABM Treaty, and your framework?
DR. RICE: David, I think we just have to continue to explore with the Russians how we meet these two goals that the President set out sometime ago. I do think that all of the time that we've spent in discussions with the Russians, all of the time that they've spent with us, that we are understanding better each other, and what our own constraints and demands are.
But I would not jump to any conclusions about precisely how this is all going to come out, or when there's going to be an agreement. I think that would be a mistake.
Q Dr. Rice, the administration has said the military campaign on Afghanistan is going according to plan; yet some in Afghanistan, some in Pakistan, some even in Europe are confused as to what the plan is; why hasn't more been achieved through the air campaign, when is the ground campaign going to begin in earnest? And there is some concern that this isn't going as well as the administration had originally advertised, or led the American people to believe. It's even caused anxiety in the stock market, causing, in some cases, share prices to go down.
What can you tell the American people about the plan, why it's going so well, and deal with those skeptical voices, not only in the region, but among some of our European allies?
DR. RICE: I would say several things. The first is that the military portion of this -- and I want to be very clear that the President made very clear early on that military power was only one element on the war on terrorism -- and in fact this is a different kind of war, he said, don't expect this to look like the Gulf War. This is going to take time to achieve the objectives that he laid out.
Those objectives are to make certain that the al Qaeda organization and its leadership are not capable of carrying out the kind of training, financing of terrorists that they've been carrying out for the last several years, to root them out, to root them out wherever they might be, to make certain that secondly, Afghanistan, which has been a country that they hijacked for their own purposes, to harbor terrorism, that Afghanistan can no longer be a sanctuary for terrorism, and that the Taliban understands that it made the wrong choice in continuing to harbor terrorists -- and thirdly, that we have to think about there's a broader war on terrorism. You can't be in favor of one set of terrorists and continue to harbor other terrorists.
Now, on all of those fronts the President believes that we are making progress. On the front of making certain that a Qaeda can't train, we have gone after and destroyed many, many al Qaeda training sites. They are not going to have the kind of access to those training sites that they have had in the past. We have made great -- good progress against the Taliban's military assets, and we have made good progress against the goal of making certain that Afghanistan, when this is over, is not going to be a place that you can harbor terrorism.
But let me be very clear: The military campaign is only one part of this. Every time you see people being arrested and rooted out in countries all over the world, you are seeing cells that are potentially being broken up, that are perhaps out there waiting to commit terrorist acts. That's extremely important.
This is the first time in international history that you have had the kind of concentration of intelligence assets, law enforcement assets from around the world, on a network like this. They are not going to be able to hide, because the scrutiny and the pressure from the international community, from law enforcement, and from intelligence around the world is not going to let them hide. They are not going to be able to get significant financing, because we are shutting down their financial networks.
So, as the President said, this can't be thought of as just a war of military power, although our military power is having good effect. You have to look at the total picture here, and we think we are making tremendous progress on all of these goals.
Q Can I follow up just for a second? So are you telling the American public that actually deterrence is the first goal, and it may -- the public and the European allies and the coalition powers may have to wait longer than they ever imagined to actually get the Taliban out of power?
DR. RICE: The President said this is going to be a long war. And he made clear that his standard is that we have made certain that the Taliban can't -- I'm sorry, that the al Qaeda cannot do what it has been doing, that we've made certain that they can't be harbored, and that we've made certain that other countries that might be considering harboring terrorists, or might be harboring them, understand that there is a significant price to pay for harboring them. But he made clear, he said, this may be one year, it may be several years, it may be more than one administration. He's been very clear about that from the beginning, and that is what we are seeing. This is going to take some time.
Q Two quick questions. First of all, in your internal review of the arsenal, nuclear arsenal, has the administration reached a decision in and of itself as to what number it wants to bring that arsenal down to?
DR. RICE: The review is very near completion. But I want to caution that this is not just about a number. This is to structure American forces in a way that they can meet deterrent needs. The President has also been concerned, for instance, about the infrastructure for our nuclear weapons, about making certain that we can keep them safe and reliable.
All of this has been discussed in this review. And to the degree that as you come down in numbers, you also want to make sure that you're more safe and reliable. We spend equal time worrying about that as to any specific number. But I want to caution that a specific number, rather than a draw-down over time, is not exactly the right way to think about it.
Q Can I try you on this?
Q Just one other question on the -- do you -- there is a report that Pakistan is giving ammunition and assistance and working that into Afghanistan to help the Taliban. Can you comment on that?
DR. RICE: We believe that we're getting very good cooperation from the Pakistani government. We are in constant discussion with them. In fact, they've had a number of high-level visitors lately. They will have more high-level visitors very shortly. We believe we are getting good cooperation with the Pakistanis, and that they are doing what they can to avoid the situation that you are talking about.
Q While you're exploring with the Russians, are you talking numbers? Are you talking specific numbers? Are you talking about the two sides proceeding -- oh, if the Russians care to, but certainly we care to -- test? After all, you've cancelled the suspended parts of tests that violate the treaty. I'm trying to get to today's event. You say, exploring, exploring, exploring. Are you talking numbers to them? You know where they want to go. You know we have too many. Are you talking to them about a range of numbers, and are you talking about it linked -- linked however you mean -- to going ahead with tests?
DR. RICE: First of all, the "linkage" was made sometime ago by the President, that he believed this had to be both about offensive forces, lower numbers of offensive forces, and about beginning to incorporate defensive forces in, too. We have, in the now considerable consultations that we've been having with the Russians, talked a great deal about all of these things.
Now, I want to repeat, about the offensive forces. This is not an arms control negotiation, in which we and the Russians need to try to match warhead for warhead how many we have or how many we don't have. What we want to talk to the Russians about is how we see our deterrent needs, in terms of levels, in terms of the period of draw-down, in terms of on how they're structured. But we consider this not a matter of negotiation, but a matter of how American forces ought to be structured. And we expect the Russians to have the same concerns.
Q I asked about a range, not matching warhead to warhead, a very wide range of possibly 500 warheads. Are you talking specific numbers? Is Mr. Powell talking specific numbers? Will Rumsfeld talk specific numbers?
DR. RICE: There is going to be a completion of the review that the President -- that review is nearing completion. I think that the Secretaries will be talking to their counterparts about some of the findings of that review. But I just want to reemphasize, this is not an arms control negotiation in which we try to equalize the numbers.
Q What evidence does the United States have right now that -- specific evidence that Osama bin Laden is somehow displaced or disrupted in his activities?
DR. RICE: Well, first of all, David, I don't want to comment on what we are or are not seeing. And I think you'll understand that. But I will say this: when you look at what has happened in Afghanistan, when you look at what has happened to al Qaeda camps and to al Qaeda strongholds, when you look at the scrutiny that al Qaeda cells are under all over the world, it is very hard to make a case that they are operating like they were on September 10th. And that is the purpose of what we're doing. Our purpose here is to disrupt, is to make it harder for them to do what they were doing on September 10th, and to eventually make it not possible for them to do it.
Now, I want to warn -- you know, the President, and I think Attorney General Ashcroft, has made clear that we don't think that we are out of the woods in terms of potential attacks against the United States. But every time we round up in some country -- thanks to intelligence-sharing, thanks to law enforcement efforts -- a group that might have been planning something, or a piece of a cell that might have been planning something, we are accomplishing precisely what we need to accomplish.
Q Can I follow up in a different area? Why is it that the United States is now prepared to engage the Germ Warfare Treaty in a different way, and why does the U.S. not think it's salvageable?
DR. RICE: Well, first of all, the United States has been a strong adherent of the BWC Convention since its inception. And we made clear early on that we thought it was important to try and strengthen the convention. We just thought that the particular protocol that was being discussed was not addressing the problems that biological weapons pose.
For instance, we have not believed that the kind of inspection regime that was there under the Biological Weapons Convention made sense. Now, we thought that -- we have been in these discussions with our allies and friends for sometime. A meeting was coming up; we thought it was important now to put some proposals on the table. But I can tell you that the proposals have been developed, were being developed all the way back into the summer.
We now think that if we can move toward a system of strengthening the Convention that focuses on criminal activity and underground activity that can make more effective the kinds of things that we're doing, that that's really what we want to do. So we are establishing procedures for compliance concerns, talking about criminalizing acts that might -- much, in the way, by the way that we're doing with terrorist conventions -- making states responsible for dealing with scientists and others who might engage in this kind of activity. We want to have strong national oversight mechanisms.
There is a lot going on here. I can say, too, David, I think that there has been a positive reception to a lot of these ideas, and we just think that it's time to move on with this.
Q Dr. Rice, I want to ask you two questions about the coalition. The first one has to do with Ramadan. If the military action continues after the start of Ramadan, how will this affect how Muslim allies -- members of the coalition and the Middle East situation, the violence hasn't stopped -- how is that affecting our coalition with the Arab and Muslim nations?
DR. RICE: Well, we've been on a track on the Arab-Israeli issues -- or the Palestinian-Israeli issues for quite a long time now. And we continue to believe that there are things that both sides can do to make possible entry into the Mitchell Process. And we work that every day. And I think that nobody has been more dedicated to that than the President and Secretary Powell. But we do not see the Israeli-Palestinian issue as a part of the coalition effort.
I would just point you to what Yasser Arafat said about Osama bin Laden trying to hijack the Palestinian issue. Where was he for 30 years, and all of a sudden the Palestinian issue is al Qaeda's issue? I think that we need to be very careful not to link these in our own minds, and -- but we work the Israeli Palestinian issues in their own right, because we think they are important to security in the region.
In terms of the Afghanistan -- I'm sorry, you asked about --
DR. RICE: Yes, Ramadan. We think that the best thing that we can do for the world, for all of the allies in the coalition, whether they are Muslim or not, is to make certain that this war on terrorism succeeds. And that means we have to finish the mission.
We do not believe that al Qaeda or the Taliban or any of their kind are likely to be ones that are going to be observant of any kind of rules of civilization. They've never demonstrated that they were observant of any kind of rules of civilization before.
This is an enemy that has to be taken on, and taken on aggressively, and pressed to the end. And we're going to continue to do that. We have to continue the military action. I just want to remind everybody, this is an action in self-defense. The United States was attacked on September 11th with incredible brutality. We continue to be concerned about further attacks. We have no choice but to try to go both to the source of this in Afghanistan, and to try to root these organizations out wherever we can. And we have to get about that business; we can't afford to have a pause.
Q The coalition has involved the United States working very closely with some countries that are very different from our own. You've been at the center of what must be some unimaginably excruciating decisions in the last six weeks about how to structure that coalition. Can you tell us: Will the United States work with any country that's willing to offer help, or are there some countries whose past practices or habits are so abhorrent to American values that they're just somehow considered to be on the tail? And can you help us in how you're guided in making those decisions?
DR. RICE: It's a very important question, because what the United States is not prepared to do is to sacrifice either long-term interest or values in short-term goals. We do recognize that we need help. The way that we were attacked on September 11th, if the President of the United States did not do absolutely everything that he can to try and root out these terrorists, to try to make it not possible to use Afghanistan, he would simply be shirking on his first responsibility, which is to protect and defend the United States.
So we have to do whatever we can to deal with that. And we are willing to accept help from all comers concerning al Qaeda. What we have been very clear, though, is that it is not enough to say you want to help us on al Qaeda, and hug other terrorists. That's not appropriate. And so whenever we talk to countries that have a past, so to speak, and maybe even a present in harboring terrorism, we are very clear that it's fine that you want to help with al Qaeda, but to really be a part of this coalition, the responsibility to deal with all terrorism is a part of the responsibility of this coalition.
We also have tried to be very clear that we believe that in the long run, the countries that are both best going to deal with these issues will be countries that respect the rights of their own people, that respect their own people, that respect religious and ethnic minorities, and don't willy-nilly turn them into terrorists in order to hide certain kinds of activities under the terrorist banner.
So I believe that we have been in exactly the right place here, which is to be, as the President said in the speech that first night to the Congress, if you continue to support terrorism, you are making the wrong choice. We've never wavered from the point of view that you cannot be on both sides of this. We've never wavered from the point of view that there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. And that's been our guiding principle.
The President is doing everything that he can to try and achieve these goals, so that the United States, in self defense, can protect itself from the kind of thing that happened to us on September 11th.
Thank you. Got to go.
END 12:14 P.M. EST
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