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07 February 2002

Transcript: Bush Calls on Arafat for Active Steps Against Terror

(Bush, Israel's Prime Minister Sharon brief after White House Talks)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat "must do everything in
his power to fight terror," President Bush told reporters after
meeting at the White House late in the day February 7 with Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
During a brief joint session with reporters, Bush said he had assured
Sharon that "we will continue to keep pressure on Mr. Arafat to
convince him that he must take serious concrete, real steps to reduce
terrorist activity."
Bush also said he is concerned about conditions for average
Palestinians who are trying to raise families, and he pointed out that
his administration has proposed $300 million in the new budget to be
channeled through non-governmental organizations to help Palestinians
realize a better life.
Both Bush and Sharon said they foresee establishment of a Palestinian
state at the end of the peace process.
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
(begin transcript)
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2002
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to make a statement; the Prime Minister will
make a statement. We both have agreed we'll answer two questions from
both sides. I'll call on somebody; the Prime Minister's press aide
will call on somebody, and that's the way we're going to do it.
So it's my honor to welcome a good friend, the Prime Minister of
Israel, back to the Oval Office. Mr. Prime Minister, I'm so glad
you're here. Welcome back.
We just had an extensive discussion, first about our mutual desire to
rid the world of terror. I assured him that our nation is just
beginning in a great objective, which is to eliminate those terrorist
organizations of global reach. And by doing so, I firmly believe that
the world will be a more peaceful place. My most important objective
is to protect our homeland. The best way to do so is to rout terrorist
organizations where they try to hide and bring them to justice.
Secondly, I assured the Prime Minister that we will continue to keep
pressure on Mr. Arafat to convince him that he must take serious
concrete, real steps to reduce terrorist activity in the Middle East.
We had an interesting discussion about how we can help the
Palestinian, those who aren't involved with terror. I'm deeply
concerned about the plight of the average Palestinian, the moms and
dads who are trying to raise their children, to educate their
children. My government is -- I've got $300 million in the budget to
go through NGOs to help Palestinians be able to realize a better life.
And, finally, we had a good discussion about how best to work together
to get the Mitchell process started, to get into Tenet and then in
Mitchell. In other words, that we had wide-ranging discussions not
only about international terror, but security, about economic
development for the Palestinians, as well as for the desire to achieve
-- to get into Mitchell so that there can be some long-lasting peace
in the region.
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, I appreciate the candid discussion. I
appreciate your friendship, and I want to welcome you back.
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Thank you, Mr. President. I was very glad to be
again at the White House. We had discussions about strategic issues in
the region. We talked about the need to fight terror and not to get
into compromise with terror -- one cannot get into compromise with
terror. At the same time, we discussed steps that should be taken in
order to improve the life conditions of those Palestinians that are
not involved in terror. That's my intention. It was always my
intention. And, of course, we'll try and see what can be done.
And, altogether, I think that we can look forward with optimism,
though it's not going to be a short struggle against terror. It's a
long struggle. But I'm sure that we will win, as I have a real
admiration, Mr. President, for the steps that you have been taking
against terror, in order to defend our values.
Q: Mr. President  -- 
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second. And I'm going to do the calling on
who gets the question. He's not through yet.
Are you through?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Is there any questions?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, there's going to be -- (laughter.)
Barry Schweid.  (Laughter.) I'm the control guy.  (Laughter.)
Q: I'm new at this.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. (Laughter.) You don't look that new to me,
Barry. But, anyway, please.
Q: I did your Dad.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
Q: At this point, sir, is there a point for the U.S. to talk to Mr.
Arafat? Is there a point for Israel to talk to Arafat?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Arafat has heard from us. I can't be any more
clear in my position, and that is that he must do everything in his
power to fight terror.
Obviously, we were, at first, surprised, and then extremely
disappointed when the Karine-A showed up loaded with weapons, weapons
that could have only been intended for one thing, which was to
terrorize. And I made our government's position about as clear as I
could. I couldn't say it any more plainly, and I haven't changed my
And as to what the Prime Minister's position is, he can answer that.
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I personally, myself and my government, regard
Arafat as an obstacle to peace. Arafat has chosen a strategy of terror
and formed a coalition of terror. Therefore, we believe that pressure
should be put on Arafat in order, maybe, I hope, to have an
authoritative leadership in the future.
Q: Mr. President, the Israeli Defense Minister said today that Ms.
Condoleezza Rice and also your Vice President Cheney said that they
don't trust Arafat, they don't believe any words coming out of his
mouth, and there's no point keeping talking to him. Do you think, as
those officials, that there is a point to keep talking to him, to be
in contact with him? Or do you think it is time to change the phase in
the pressure on Arafat?
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Arafat has heard my message. I can't be any more
clear about it, that he must do everything in his power to reduce
terrorist attacks on Israel. And that -- at one point in time, he was
indicating to us that he was going to do so, and then all of a sudden,
a ship loaded with explosives show up that most of the world believes
he was involved with.
And I think it's very important that people realize that this great
nation wants us to get into Mitchell as quickly as possible, but we
fully understand that it's difficult to have peace during terrorist
times, and that our campaign against global terror should help the
And I am absolutely committed to fighting terror wherever terror
exists. And I would hope other leaders do so. And Mr. Arafat has a
chance to do so, and my hope is, is that he responds in a positive
At the same time, I am deeply concerned about the plight of the
average Palestinian. I worry about stories and pictures I see of
people going hungry and children not being educated, and deep concerns
etched on the faces of moms and dads who happen to be Palestinian. And
my government -- we've discussed this openly with the Prime Minister
-- and as I said, we budgeted money to go through non-governmental
organizations to help. And I think the world understands that there's
a lot of folks over there who suffer because of the terrorist
activities of a few.
Q: Mr. President, did Iran and Iraq figure in your conversations today
with the Prime Minister? And why are you sending Vice President Cheney
to the region next month, and particularly the four countries that
directly border on Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm sending the Vice President because, one, he is a
key player in our administration, and I want to get feedback from the
world, from the world leaders. I want them to see firsthand, as well,
our strong intent to fight terror.
There's nothing like looking somebody in the eye and letting them know
that when we say we're going to fight terror, we mean it. And there's
nothing like people getting a sense of the determination of this
government. There's a lot of folks who might have predicted that over
time we would grow weary and we'd get tired and we'd kind of get faint
of heart. The Vice President can deliver the message to many important
world leaders that our government is absolutely committed to fighting
terror, and we expect people to join us in doing so.
As I said, either you're with or you're against us. And we fully
understand that in order to be effective in our fight against terror,
that we need others to join us. And so the Vice President I think is
going to be very effective at convincing -- at convincing our friends
we mean business. And we would hope that they would do everything in
their power to shut off money, to deny haven, and to join this grand
coalition dedicated to one thing -- freedom and peace.
As to whether or not we discussed other countries in the region -- you
bet. We discussed a lot of countries in the region. And we've had a
very frank and open discussion.
Q: President Bush, the government of Israel decided not to let
Chairman Arafat move -- (inaudible.) Do you think this decision serves
the goal of stability in the Middle East?
And one question for you, Prime Minister Sharon. You said a couple of
months ago that you want to give the Palestinians a Palestinian state,
for the first time -- Do you still support the same --
THE PRESIDENT: Do you want to go first?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Yes. I believe that the end of the process
first should be the perfect right to be a full cessation of terror and
violence and incitement. And then several steps will be taken by the
Palestinians, like arresting -- serious arrest of the terrorists,
dismantling terrorist organizations and their infrastructure,
collecting their weapons that should be handed to American
representatives and destroyed out of the -- area. Once they would take
serious preventive steps and stop completely incitement, then we'll
start negotiations.
I believe that one day we'll be reaching a peace. Israel is committed
to peace. And at the end of the process, I believe that the
Palestinian state, of course, will be -- we'll see a Palestinian
state. But only at the end and the final steps that should be taken in
order to start negotiations. They cannot be done under terror. We are
-- my role and my government's role is to defend our citizens against
acts of terror.
THE PRESIDENT: We, too, of course, support a Palestinian state, one
that's been negotiated by the parties; one that recognizes that Israel
has got a right to exist, and Israel will be supportive of their right
to self-govern. I think that's an ultimate aim that we all have got to
work hard to get to. The problem is there are some that don't want to
get there, and therefore, terrorize.
My position on Mr. Arafat is clear as of today. I can't be any more
clear about what I think he ought to do. And I'm confident if he were
to make these strong steps toward reducing terror, it would help the
world -- it would help tell the world that he is fully dedicated
toward achieving the objectives that we both described.
And it's going to be hard to have a peace process if -- so long as
there's terrorist activity. But we believe strongly that Chairman
Arafat needs to put a 100 percent effort to achieve a peaceful -- some
peace, so that we can then get to a political process. And that's very
important for us.
Listen, thank you all for coming.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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