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23 July 2002

White House Criticizes Israeli Attack on Gaza Apartment Building

(White House Report, 23 July) (910)
President Bush sees "as heavy-handed" an Israeli warplane's missile
attack on a Gaza City apartment building that killed a leader of Hamas
who was at the top of Israel's most-wanted list and at least 14 other
Palestinians, including nine children.
"The President views this as a heavy-handed action that is not
consistent with dedication to peace in the Middle East," White House
Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters July 23.
This message, he said, was conveyed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
office this morning through the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
The message, Fleischer said, included the President's regret about the
loss of innocent lives, including those of the children.
Fleischer rejected comparisons between the Israeli missile strike and
American attacks in Afghanistan that have killed civilians.
In times of war, there are going to be losses of innocents, but in
this case, what happened in Gaza "was a deliberate attack on the site,
knowing that innocents would be lost in the consequences of the
attack," said Fleischer.
Bush "has been and will continue to be a leading defender of Israel
around the world and will speak out about Israel's right to self
defense," Fleischer said, but added: "This is an instance in which the
United States and Israel do not see eye to eye."
Discussing the situation between India and Pakistan, Fleischer said
"as a result of a lot of intervention and diplomacy by the President,
by the State Department, by Secretary Powell, the travels to the
region, that situation has been managed to the point now where the
situation is much more defused, the risk of violence is defused. And
that's going to be an ongoing part of America's diplomacy in the
region. It's an area of the world the United States is going to
continue to actively work," Fleischer said.
Asked what message Secretary Powell will be taking about the policies
of Pakistan's government on his upcoming trip to the region, Fleischer
said that Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf "has taken strong
action in the war against terror. And that includes against al Qaeda
or the Taliban, as well as taking steps to diminish the cross-border
incursions into Kashmir. And the President is pleased with the actions
that President Musharraf has taken."
President Bush thanked the government of Indonesia for its efforts to
combat extremism and terrorism at home, and to work with other leaders
in the region who are similarly committed to the fight against terror,
in a July 23 phone conversation with Indonesia's President
Sukarnoputri Megawati, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.
The two leaders also "discussed strengthening cooperation between the
United States and Indonesia," and the upcoming trip to the region of
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Fleischer said.
President Bush has called on the U.S. Congress to approve three main
areas of legislation before it adjourns for the summer recess,
Fleischer said.
"One is on trade promotion authority, which can, the President
believes, be resolved this week in a conference committee, so final
action can be taken and then a bill can be signed this August.
"The second issue is corporate corruption... And the President again
sees the House bill and the Senate bill, both of which are tough,
which can easily be brought together and presented to the President
for signature.
"The third issue in which the Congress has been moving forward at a
strong pace is legislation to create a Cabinet-level department of
homeland security. All three of those, the President is looking for
action this week. On trade promotion authority and on corporate
corruption, final action, sending a bill to the President. On homeland
security, House passage and then, next week, Senate passage," said
The House of Representatives "is leaving at the end of this week and
won't be back until the end of September," and the Senate is scheduled
to leave a week from Friday, Fleischer pointed out.
When Congress returns, he said, it has "a very abbreviated session
this fall" before its members leave to campaign for reelection.
"So time is running out on this Congress, and there are three major
issues that are pending in the Congress where the President wants to
work with the Congress to help them complete action this week.
"The other items that are pending in Congress that they hope to come
back to when they return in September are a patients bill of rights,
which is still stuck in the House-Senate conference committee;
legislation to make America more energy-independent, which is still
stuck in the House-Senate conference committee; faith-based
legislation; welfare reform; a ban on cloning. The Senate has yet to
even pass a budget. And of course, they also have all 13 appropriation
bills to get through.
"So from a very practical point of view, if the Congress is not able
to get it done this week, it does endanger the possibility of getting
it done at all because the roads will be too crowded and clogged to
get anything to its final destination," Fleischer said.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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