26 April 2004
White House Daily Press Briefing, April 26, 2004
President's schedule, Bush phone calls/Putin/King Abdullah, Iraq/UN resolution, Iraq/Brahimi's remarks on Fallujah/Najaf, Iraq/security/transferring sovereignty, war on terrorism, China/elections
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed reporters on Air Force One the morning of April 26 as they accompanied President Bush on a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
April 26, 2004
PRESS GAGGLE WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Minneapolis, Minnesota
9:19 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, good morning. Let me run through the President's day and then I'll get to today's event. On board the flight the President spoke to two world leaders, President Putin and King Abdullah. On the call with President Putin, the two leaders talked about how they looked forward to seeing each other at the upcoming D-Day celebration in France. The President also talked -- they also discussed Iraq. The President talked about the importance of a new United Nations Security Council Resolution. The two leaders also discussed the Middle East, and the President talked about the importance of the road map to achieving the two-state vision that he's outlined. And they also briefly discussed the upcoming meeting of the Quartet. And they also discussed the situation in Georgia.
And then on the conversation with King Abdullah, the President said he looked forward to seeing King Abdullah next week in Washington. And that was a brief conversation.
Then the President had his usual briefings. I'll come back to today's event in a minute. Then he's got the Victory 2004 luncheon, following that. And then when we get back to the -- oh, the Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival is Melissa DuBose, and she has, as part of a service learning project, Melissa has visited Honduras four times in the past six years, volunteering as a teaching aide in an elementary school at the Tierra Santa Orphanage in Villa San Antonio, Honduras. And she's a teenager.
Then when we get back to the White House this evening -- or this afternoon, the President will meet with and participate in a photo opportunity with the 2003 and 2004 national ambassadors for the March of Dimes.
Now, jumping to today's events. The President will, as you have in your book, the President today will talk about making sure America's economy continues to be the most flexible, innovative and productive in the world. He will talk about how our economy is strong and growing stronger, but in order to have lasting prosperity, America must remain the technological leader of the world. And today he will announce three specific goals in his remarks.
One, developing new ways to produce clean and abundant sources of energy. Two, using information technology to improve medical care for patients. And, three, making sure that Americans have universal, affordable access to high speed Internet technology or broadband.
Specifically -- and I'll just go to the booklet that you all have here -- some of the new things that he will touch on -- when it comes to providing a cleaner and more secure energy future through hydrogen fuel technology, the President today will announce new hydrogen research projects, totaling $350 million. That's new.
When it comes to the health information technology, the President today will be announcing the ambitious goal of assuring that most Americans have personal electronic health records within the next 10 years. And he will also be -- another new initiative he will be announcing is the creation of the new office at the Department of Health and Human Services, where there will be a sub-Cabinet level position of National Health Information Technology Coordinator.
And when it comes to making sure that we have universal affordable access to broadband technology, the President will talk about expanding choices and he will talk about what the administration has been working to do to make additional spectrum available for wireless broadband and to create the technical standards needed to ensure a responsible deployment of broadband over power lines. And this is all aimed at increasing access and expanding choices and making it more affordable.
And also within that, another new aspect of today's remarks, the President will talk about, under here in your booklet, the federal government must do its part to remove hurdles that slow the deployment of broadband. The President will talk about how he has directed agencies to reform their practices to simplify and standardize their rights of way processes.
Those are some of the new aspects of today. You have the booklet which outlines the President's -- what he calls a new generation of American innovation. And you can find additional details to it in that.
QUESTION: Is this the first world leader call that Bush has made about this new U.N. resolution? And do you expect more of that? Is this the beginning of an outreach effort?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, I don't know -- I think this may have been more of a call initiated by President Putin. But they talk on a fairly frequent basis.
Q: Is the President trying to get other world leaders, Security Council members on board the new U.N. --
MR. McCLELLAN; Well, certainly we welcome a new U.N. Security Council resolution to encourage more countries to participate in helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.
Q: How soon do you expect to have a resolution?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Mr. Brahimi recently said that he expected the United Nations to move forward soon on a new resolution. We're in the process of having discussions with others on that new U.N. resolution.
Q: The call to King Abdullah, did the President initiate that call, or did --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was -- well, it was mutual. I think it was more just a brief conversation to say they look forward to seeing each other next week when he comes to Washington for the meeting.
Q: Who initiated the Abdullah call?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I just told -- Dick just asked that. I think it was more mutually agreed to. The two leaders just wanted to talk briefly about how they look forward to seeing each other next week. I mean, the conversation was probably about five minutes, at most.
Q: Did Abdullah express any dissatisfaction over the Sharon plan and Bush's support?
MR. McCLELLAN: That wasn't the purpose of the call. I mean, look, they're going to have their meetings next week to discuss those issues. This was just a call to say, look forward to getting together next week. He's a good friend of the President's.
Q: Brahimi injected himself into the Fallujah and Najaf issue on whether the U.S. troops should go into those cities, and he said, no, they shouldn't. Does the President have any reaction to Brahimi's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, this -- I think the United Nations spokesman -- the spokesman for the Secretary General has since spoken to that, as well. But, you know, I would just say that the coalition is continuing to work closely with Iraqis to find an Iraqi-centered solution, and the coalition is working to partner with Iraqi security forces to improve the security situation in Fallujah.
Q: Are you getting -- there was more fighting today. How much hope do you have of maintaining this truce?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, you know, there are a lot of developments going on in the area. I think that those are questions best directed to the coalition, to give you the latest updates about where things stand.
Q: Didn't the President discuss it over the weekend with his advisors?
MR. McCLELLAN: He participated in a conference call on Saturday with his National Security Council.
Q: What was the conclusion of that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I'm not going to get into discussing any military operations. We leave those matters to the military to discuss.
Q: Is time running out for the rebels that are --
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I'll leave it to the military to discuss those matters, and to the coalition to discuss the latest developments on the ground in Fallujah.
Q: What was the conference call about, I'm sorry?
MR. McCLELLAN: Saturday? Oh, he participated in a conference call with his National Security Council, talk about Iraq.
Q: Scott, last week there were some reports at the end of the week about sovereignty in Iraq not being full sovereignty. Is that true, or -- what gradations are there of sovereignty that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, at the end of June the coalition will be transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Obviously, in terms of security, there is still a need for coalition forces to work with Iraqis to improve the security situation. And they will continue to -- the coalition forces will remain in Iraq for some time after the transfer of sovereignty. But this is -- at the end of June, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and sovereignty will be transferred to an interim, representative body. That is what Mr. Brahimi has been working to address. He will be coming back in May with some more specifics to that interim body, and they will serve in that interim period before elections are held, under the schedule laid out in the transitional administrative law.
Q: So that's full sovereignty transferred, though.
MR. McCLELLAN: I would describe it as, sovereignty will be transferred to the Iraqi people. In terms of security, coalition forces will continue to -- they will remain in Iraq to continue to provide for the security alongside of Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi people want coalition forces to remain until they realize a free and peaceful future. And we will -- we will remain in Iraq to help with the security situation.
Q: What has been the response so far to the effort to get others on board the U.N. resolution for Iraq, the new resolution?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: What has the response been like from world leaders like Putin to the proposal --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's in the early stages of discussion. You might want to check with State Department on some of the conversations that they've had. But there's been certainly a good bit of interest in pursuing a new United Nations Security Council Resolution, so that more countries can participate in helping the Iraqi people once sovereignty is transferred.
Q: The President conducted something of a high-profile lobbying effort the last few times an issues has been before the U.N., whether it was the war resolution or other matters, calling world leaders, that kind of thing. Do you anticipate the same thing this time around?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted. I think Secretary Powell has talked some about the discussions he has had. But we will keep you posted on -- again, this is in the early stages of discussion. Mr. Brahimi has talked about the importance of a new Security Council resolution. We welcome his comments.
Q: Scott, over the weekend and earlier last week there were some coordinated attacks on oil installations in Iraq and offshore. Is the President concerned that the terrorists may be escalating this, to really go after the lifeline of the Iraqi people in their rebuilding efforts?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the terrorists and thugs and Saddam loyalists will not prevail. The resolve of the coalition is firm. And our will cannot be shaken. We will continue to go after those thugs and terrorists and bring them to justice. They are enemies of a free and peaceful future for the Iraqi people. They realize the stakes are high in Iraq. Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. And we will prevail.
Q: Is there particular concern though, by the President, that they're now targeting oil facilities?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- again, I think the Coalition Provisional Authority and military can talk about some of the most recent developments. I think they've talked about how it has all the hallmarks of al Qaeda-type terrorist or the tactics that Zarqawi outlined in his letter that was intercepted by coalition forces. But they will not prevail. They do not want to see a free and peaceful Iraq. They realize the stakes are high, and this is -- a free and peaceful Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism. And that's why the resolve of the coalition is firm. The coalition will finish the job and defeat the thugs and terrorists and others. And the Iraqi security forces will continue to play an increasing role in helping to improve the security situation.
Q: I don't know if you saw, before we got on the plane, John Kerry was on Good Morning America answering to some charges as to some --
MR. McCLELLAN: One of your all's network.
Q: -- there you go -- that he said some inconsistent statements, to say the least, on whether or not he threw his medals in protest. But in his defense, he kept turning it to the President, saying, I'm not going to take this from them, especially when the President hasn't accounted for his National Guard service.
MR. McCLELLAN: Senator Kerry has a record of commendable service in the military. And I'll leave it to him to address those inconsistencies in his comments that you mentioned.
Q: Can you give us some reaction to news out of China today that they are denying direct elections in Hong Kong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Our position is very clear, that it's important to adhere to the basic law that was agreed to. And that is our view. We continue to stand on the side of democratic reforms, as outlined in the basic law.
Q: So you're --
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen the exact comments. I'll be glad to take a look at them. But I think our position is very clear.
Q: That it's -- that Hong Kong should be allowed to have direct --
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, that it's important to adhere to the basic law. That's our view.
All right, thank you.
END 9:34 A.M. EDT
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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