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02 August 2003

White House Says Abbas is Taking "Important Steps to Reduce Violence"

Also pleased with Saudi cooperation in war against terrorism, according to press secretary

Violence and terrorism have been reduced in recent weeks in the Middle East, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a briefing August 2, while traveling to President Bush's home in Crawford, Texas.

"The President has made it clear that Prime Minster Abbas is taking some important steps to reduce violence and end terrorism, and progress is being made," McClellan said. "The President's view, though, is very clear, that everybody must work to end terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations."

In response to other questions, McClellan said that the United States remained pleased with the cooperation it is receiving from Saudi Arabia in the war against terrorism, and that the investigations into the origins of the September 11 attacks are ongoing.

On Liberia, McClellan reiterated President Bush's view that Charles Taylor needs to leave the country, thereby opening the way for a cease-fire and the entry of peacekeeping troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

"The United States stands ready to support ECOWAS in going into Liberia and providing needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Liberia," McClellan said.

President Bush traveled to his Crawford, Texas, home following his annual physical examination at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, after which physicians pronounced the President in "excellent health."

Following is an excerpt from the White House press briefing en route to Crawford, Texas, on August 2:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Crawford, Texas)
August 2, 2003

Excerpt From Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Crawford, Texas

(begin excerpt)

Q: The New York Times story about the Saudi Arabia report, is that true, what they're saying?

MR. McClellan: The President has been very firm in his belief that all parties have a responsibility to end terrorism and to dismantle terrorist organizations. Violence and terrorism has been reduced in recent weeks, but the road map spells out very clearly that terrorist organizations need to be dismantled. That's the President's view, he made it very clear in his visits with Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon.

Q: Is he willing to give Prime Minister Abbas more time to dismantle the organization?

MR. McClellan: The President has made it clear that Prime Minster Abbas is taking some important steps to reduce violence and end terrorism, and progress is being made. The President's view, though, is very clear, that everybody must work to end terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations.

Q: So are you saying the story is flat wrong in the New York Times?

MR. McClellan: I'm saying that the President has been very clear in his views. We appreciate the progress that's been made in the security situation and ending terrorism, but our view remains the same, that these terrorist organizations need to be dismantled. (*Our policy on the Middle East has not changed.)

Q: On Liberia, I understand that a date was set that Charles Taylor said he would leave. Have you got any information on that, that he said a date, like, August, I think it was 11th?

MR. McClellan: I saw the reports. I mean, there have been differing reports recently. Charles Taylor needs to leave and we need to see it in his actions, not only words. The President has made it clear that Charles Taylor needs to leave, there needs to be a cease-fire in place and that the United States stands ready to support ECOWAS in going in to Liberia and providing needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Liberia. . . .

Q: The New York Times story about the classified report on Saudi Arabia, is that report true?

MR. McClellan: You're getting into classified information is what you're asking about. The classified information relates to sensitive national security matters involving, among other things, ongoing investigations. We will pursue those investigations wherever they may lead. These are ongoing investigations related to the September 11th attacks and we intend to pursue them fully. And the reason that those sections are classified is because of ongoing investigations and we don't want to jeopardize those ongoing investigations.

Q: Are you going to ask the Saudis for access to some of the nationals and officials mentioned in ?

MR. McClellan: There have been some discussions and Saudi Arabia has been very cooperative in our efforts to win the war on terrorism, and we're pleased with the progress we're making and that cooperation.

Q: Is there a team from the National Security Council going to Saudi Arabia to consult with them? The story says that ?

MR. McClellan: I don't have any update for you on that. We obviously stay in close consultation with Saudi Arabia in our efforts on the war on terrorism and that's where I'll leave it. . .

Q: Are you actively pursuing a new U.N. resolution for Iraq?

MR. McClellan: On Iraq? Again, 1483 we believe provides sufficient authority for countries to participate and help with reconstruction and stabilization in Iraq. In fact, a number of countries already are participating under that resolution. There have been some countries that have expressed some concerns that they feel they may need some additional authority. There have been some preliminary discussions with those countries, but we believe that 1483 provides sufficient authority for countries to participate, as a number are currently doing. (end excerpt)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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