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05 March 2003

White House Report, March 5: North Korea, Israel, Papal Envoy

(Press Secretary Ari Fleischer briefed) (560)
In response to criticism of the Bush administration's policy toward
North Korea by a Democratic congressional advisory group that says it
is time for direct talks with North Korea, White House Press Secretary
Ari Fleischer restated the administration's point of view.
"The administration approach is the importance of working together in
a multilateral fashion with China and Russia and Japan and South
Korea," Fleischer said March 5. "After all, they have a stake in this,
The advisory group, which includes several high-ranking Clinton
administration officials, said "China, Russia, and others can play an
important role in pressing North Korea to comply with the NPT (Nuclear
Non-proliferation Treaty) and accept the IAEA (International Atomic
Energy Agency) inspectors, but issues at the very heart of American
security cannot simply be outsourced." North Korea wants direct talks
with the United States, the group noted, and "our allies and friends
in the region also urge direct talks."
Fleischer said the position of the United States, along with its
allies in the region, is "that it's important to make certain that
there is a denuclearized Peninsula. And that's why we're working so
hard on this, and why we have called directly and publicly for North
Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs."
It is important that North Korea "recognize the damage it is doing to
itself, the economic harm that it brings on its own people, who are
among the poorest and the most isolated and the most hungry in the
world, as a result of a country that diverts its few resources away
from the people and toward the military," Fleischer said.
"And what's important is that they dismantle the program, that they
not engage in further provocative or reckless actions."
President Bush "condemns in the strongest of terms today's attack on
innocents in Israel," Fleischer told reporters.
According to news reports at least 15 people were killed and 40
wounded in a suicide bombing on board a bus in Haifa in northern
"The President stands strongly with the people of Israel in fighting
terrorism. His message to the terrorists is, your efforts will not be
successful. We will continue to pursue the path to peace in the Middle
East, and he urges all to condemn today's attack," Fleischer said.
President Bush met for 30 minutes the afternoon of March 5 in the Oval
Office with Cardinal Pio Laghi, a representative of Pope John Paul II.
News reports said he was bringing a message from the Pope against war
with Iraq.
Prior to Cardinal Laghi's arrival at the White House, Fleischer said
that Bush looked forward to his private meeting with him.
"The President thinks it is very important to listen to the various
viewpoints, even those who may not see it exactly the same way the
President sees it. The President listens carefully, looks forward to
describing his reasons from a moral point of view, a legal point of
view about why it's important to disarm Saddam Hussein, to preserve
the peace. And he will listen. That's how the President views the
meeting," Fleischer said.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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