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17 April 2003

White House Press Briefing Transcript

(President's schedule, Iraq/sanctions, humanitarian efforts/Iraq,
Cuba, WMD, Syria, Saddam's whereabouts, Iraq/antiquities) (2070)

White House Deputy Assistant Press Secretary Claire Buchan briefed
reporters April 17 at the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Following is the White House transcript:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Crawford, Texas)

April 17, 2003

PRESS GAGGLE BY CLAIRE BUCHAN

Crawford Elementary School
Crawford, Texas

12:47 P.M. CDT


MS. BUCHAN: Okay, let's get started. The President began his day this
morning with a call to Spanish President Aznar, called him at 7:30
a.m., Crawford time. It was a warm call between close allies and
friends, part of the regular close consultations. They discussed Iraq,
including European support for a new Iraq and coalition efforts;
potential progress on Israel-Palestinian issues; and they agreed to
remain in close touch. The call lasted about 20 minutes, but I think
there was some interpretation on the call.

He then has his intelligence briefing, his national security briefing.
And he has been working on the ranch since then and spending time with
Mrs. Bush.


I'd be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: In discussing European support for Iraq and new coalition
efforts, did they discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions at the
U.N. on Iraq?

MS. BUCHAN:  I don't have the specifics of their call.

Q: Does the administration want to introduce a resolution lifting
sanctions before the U.N. sends teams of inspectors back in and before
the U.N. declares Iraq's weapons program is dead?

MS. BUCHAN: We have not set a specific time line. As the President
said yesterday, now that the regime of Saddam Hussein has been ended,
the current sanction situation doesn't reflect the situation on the
ground in Iraq. The sanctions are outdated, and we look forward to
working in the U.N. to lift the sanctions against Iraq so that they
can become traders in the global economy.

Q: The reason I ask is, as I understand it, the April '91 resolution
that imposed sanctions said they could be lifted only when the
Security Council agreed that Iraq had completed disarmament. Do you
know whether that's the administration's read also?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, as I said, the sanctions clearly don't reflect the
current situation in Iraq. The weapons of mass destruction are not in
the control of Saddam Hussein's regime. And we look forward to, at
some point in the future, working with the United Nations to lift
those sanctions so that Iraq can participate in a global economy.

Q: Claire, I couldn't understand all of his question, maybe it was
included in that -- but Blix wants to go back to Iraq because he says
that will aid the United States credibility if we come across weapons
of mass destruction -- his presence would be helpful. Does the
President agree with that, that Blix's presence would be helpful in
establishing credibility?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, the military operations are still underway in Iraq,
and finding weapons of mass destruction continues to be one of their
goals. At some point the U.N. inspections will be an issue that will
need to be addressed. But at this point the U.S. and coalition forces
are still engaged in actions.

Q: But as long as there's hostile action going on, the U.S view would
be that it would be unsafe for Blix to go there -- is that the
reasoning?

MS. BUCHAN: I didn't say that. What I said is that the United States
and coalition forces continue to have military operations underway.
Finding the weapons of mass destruction is one of their goals and
they're continuing to work toward that end.

Q: On humanitarian relief to Iraq, there's been some reports that
Christian groups might be providing --

MS. BUCHAN:  I'm sorry, what?

Q: On humanitarian efforts to Iraq, the relief efforts, there are some
reports that Christian groups who are providing supplies, or want to,
might be providing Scriptures with that. Is there any concern by the
White House that Muslims might be offended by proselytizing?

MS. BUCHAN:  I haven't' seen the reports, we'll look into them.

Q: You said at some point the U.N. inspections will be an issue. Is
there a time frame on that?

MS. BUCHAN:  I don't have a time frame, no.

Q: Is it solely on military action and the progress of the campaign?

MS. BUCHAN: If we have an update on specific time line, we'll get you
one. At this point, I don't have one.

Q: Claire, can you talk about -- confirm or just address the New York
Times story that says that the administration is weighing keeping up
policy towards Cuba, adding sanctions, and sort of responding to the
crackdown in Cuba?

MS. BUCHAN: The United States has clearly condemned the Cuban regime's
crackdown on independent civil society. It's important to note that
the international attention and condemnation against Cuba; the U.N.
Human Rights Commission has passed a resolution expressing concern
about the human rights situation in Cuba. Secretary Powell recently
denounced this most significant act of political repression in
decades. And he called on Castro to end the repression and free the
prisoners of conscience.

Cuba's efforts to silence voices of opposition only make our policy
goal of encouraging rapid, peaceful transition to democracy more
relevant and more urgent, and we'll continue to work with independent
Cuban civil society and with the Cuban people; and are willing to
consider steps to advance that policy goal in this climate.

Q: Is that a long, not aware of any new measures being considered to
punish Cuba?

MS. BUCHAN:  It is as I said.

Q: I was wondering if you could confirm the fact that the U.S. is
preparing to send up to one thousand scientists and technicians to
Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction?

MS. BUCHAN:  That's a question you ought to put to DOD.

Q: Claire, do you have anything on Syria's proposal to create this
kind of weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including that of
Israel? Is there any kind of response to that suggestion?

MS. BUCHAN:  I'm sorry, I didn't hear your question, Suzanne.

Q: Syria's proposal that there's a weapons-free zone within the Middle
East, including Israel, as well? Is that something that the
administration is even listening to or considering? And d you know
where that is?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, Syria -- we have made clear what Syria needs to do.
They know our views and I will leave it at that.

Q: You just mentioned before that the weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq are no longer in control -- or no longer being controlled by the
Saddam Hussein regime, since that regime has ended. In whose control
are those weapons currently?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, Saddam Hussein is clearly not in control of Iraq. We
continue, as you know, as part of -- one of the goals of the
operations in Iraq is to seek to find the weapons of mass destruction.

Q:  So it's not under anyone's control at this point?

MS. BUCHAN: We are seeking to find them. But Saddam Hussein is not in
control of Iraq.

Q: And also, on Syria, how would you characterize the state of
U.S.-Syrian relations right now?

MS. BUCHAN: I would characterize it that we have made clear our views,
the President has made clear, the Secretary of State has made clear
what Syria needs to do. Syria knows what they need to do.

Q: On Cuba, do you expect the President to make a public statement or
issue of the situation in Cuba in the coming days or weeks?

MS. BUCHAN:  I don't have anything on that, Mark.

Q: Can you give us any kind of a readout on the President's video
hook-up discussion yesterday with General Franks?

MS. BUCHAN:  No.  I can look into it for you.  Which one is this?

Q: Well, it was in the paper yesterday that the President got -- when
General Franks was in Baghdad yesterday, that he had a video
conference with the President. Is that --

MS. BUCHAN: Okay, I can look into that. I don't have anything on it.

Q: Can you find out whether General Franks told the President that the
war is over and that victory has been declared?

MS. BUCHAN:  Yes.

Q: Does the President agree with Andy Card that Saddam is probably
dead?

MS. BUCHAN: As Secretary Card said, we don't know. And he addressed it
as well, this morning. What we do know is that Saddam Hussein is not a
threat to the people of Iraq or to the people of the United States or
the world.

Q: Can you talk about -- apparently two members of the President's
Advisory Committee on Cultural Property resigned over the issue of
looting and whether it was effectively prevented or not. Can you talk
about that, and whether they might have some, you know, fair
complaint, fair issue with whether there was really a plan to prevent
this kind of looting?

MS. BUCHAN:  You're talking specifically with regard to the museum?

Q:  Yes.

Q:  Can you repeat the question please?

MS. BUCHAN: The question had to do with the looting of the museum in
Iraq and the resignation of an individual on the Cultural Advisory
Committee. As we have said, the United States, in liberating Iraq,
worked very hard to protect the infrastructure of Iraq and to preserve
it and the valuable resources of Iraq for the people of Iraq. It is
unfortunate that there was looting and damage done to the museum. And
we have offered rewards, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, for
individuals who may have taken items from the museum, to bring those
back. And we're hopeful, certainly, that that will happen.

Q: Is there concern in the administration that now this has come to
the level that two members of this commission have resigned over the
issue?

MS. BUCHAN: As I said, the military -- at the time that this occurred,
there were military operations that were continuing to be underway.
And the military did work very hard to preserve the infrastructure for
the people.

Q: Claire, can you tell us who is at the ranch, in terms of staff and
family and friends?

MS. BUCHAN: Mrs. Bush is at the ranch, Dr. Rice, Joe Hagen,
representing the Chief of Staff's office. And other military and other
support that the President normally has with him.

Q:  No friends, social friends?

MS. BUCHAN: If he has friends joining him, I don't have a list of
them.

Q:  What about his parents?

MS. BUCHAN:  At this point, I don't have anything on that.

Q:  Do you know or can you --

MS. BUCHAN: If we get any updates on his visitors and can share them
with you, we will.

Q: First of all, I want to be a hundred percent clear that this these
two people did resign, Sullivan and Vikan. You didn't address directly
whether they did resign.

MS. BUCHAN:  I believe they did, yes.

Q:  What was Scott's question?

MS. BUCHAN: Scott wanted to make clear that these individuals did
resign from the cultural advisory committee. Is that what it's called?

Q:  The Advisory Committee on Cultural Property.

MS. BUCHAN: The President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property.
And my understanding is that certainly at least one of them did.

Q: Can you check on the second one? Sullivan is the first, according
to the Post; the second one is Vikan.

MS. BUCHAN:  Okay.

Q: My other question is, can you read out Sunday, what Easter Sunday
is looking like at this point?

MS. BUCHAN: We are still under the 48 hour rule, so we will give you
specifics on Sunday, tomorrow. But you should anticipate the President
will attend church service. It will be pool coverage. And we'll have
details on that tomorrow.

Q:  How far from the ranch?

MS. BUCHAN:  We will have details on that tomorrow.

Q:  Any remarks, Claire?  Is he likely to say anything?

MS. BUCHAN: No, he's not likely to say anything. He'll attend church.

Q: When you do let us know, can you include things like Easter dinner
menu and guests and possible other family friends who might be there?

MS. BUCHAN: We will try and endeavor to get the menu. Anything else?

Q:  Thank you.

MS. BUCHAN:  Thank you.

END  1:00 P.M. CDT

(end transcript)

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