24 May 2004
White House Daily Briefing, May 24
Iraq/tonight's speech/new initiative/coalition/multinational forces/time frame for troop withdrawal/U.N.resolutions/interim government, Middle East, gas prices, India, President's daughters campaigning, Judicial nominees, Campaign Finance Reform Act, South Korea, North Korea
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed reporters May 24.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
May 24, 2004
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
- tonight's speech
- new initiative
- multinational forces
- time frame for troop withdrawal
- U.N. resolutions
- - interim government
-- Middle East
-- Gas prices
-- President's daughters campaigning
-- Judicial nominees
-- Campaign Finance Reform Act
-- South Korea
-- North Korea
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
May 24, 2004
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:14 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President looks forward to going to the Army War College this evening. Tonight's speech is focused on our strategy for success in Iraq. The President will update the American people about the clear strategy for the way forward to a free, democratic and peaceful Iraq for the Iraqi people. And he will talk about the specific steps we are taking to achieve our goals.
And with that, I will be glad to go straight to your questions.
Q: Is there anything in tonight's speech, in terms of this clear strategy, that we haven't heard before? Will he be unveiling any kind of new initiative?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I expect there will be some new aspects in it that you will hear. This is really an opportunity for the President to talk in more detail to the American people about the specific steps we are taking to achieve our goals, as I said a minute ago. The President will outline the five specific steps we are taking to build a free and democratic Iraq for the Iraqi people. He will talk about the political front; he will talk about the election front; the President will talk about how we are working to eliminate the security threats in Iraq; and he will talk about our efforts to reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure -- we are making great progress on that front, but there is still more to do.
And I expect he will talk about our diplomatic efforts. As you are aware, earlier today the United States and the United Kingdom tabled a resolution before the Security Council to recognize the interim sovereign government that will be in place by June 30th in Iraq, and to endorse the timetable for elections in Iraq, and provide for a leading role by the United Nations in Iraq, going forward on the political process; and to reaffirm support for the multinational force to help provide for the security.
Q: I asked you about the possibility of new initiatives, just thinking about what retired General Anthony Zinni in recent days, where he said, to think that we're going to "stay the course ?- the course is headed over Niagra Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course, because it's been a failure."
This is a general who, as part of his duties as the leader of the Central Command, had drawn up contingency war plans for Iraq. It seems that he's suggesting the President needs to go further than what you're indicating he will.
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we have great respect for General Zinni, but the President looks to the active commanders who are under his command in implementing the strategy we have put forward for success in Iraq. And, certainly, when you are pursuing a strategy that is helping people transition from years of oppression to democracy, it's important to have flexibility within that strategy. You've got to be able to adjust and adapt to the circumstances on the ground, and that's what we have done throughout the process.
You might recall -- and I think the President may touch on this a little bit -- that we removed Saddam Hussein's regime from power in a very swift manner, swifter than ever expected. And you had a lot of Saddam loyalists who simply fled the battlefield, and now those are some of the enemies of freedom that we are facing in Iraq. Those Saddam loyalists and the foreign fighters and the other thugs in Iraq do not want to see a free and peaceful Iraq emerge. But they will be defeated. And the President, I expect, will talk about that some in his remarks tonight.
Q: But if I could just ask you one more question, just based on what you said. General Zinni points out that part of the reason why these people were allowed to have escaped back into the population and form these militias and this resistance was the fact that the U.S. war plan did not have enough personnel involved and that he and General Shinseki and others have been saying that you can't do Iraq war light, that you've got to have more people. And so was this not --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I recognize he's a retired general who certainly stated his position on our efforts to go into Iraq beforehand, and his views were well known. But the President looks to those active commanders who are working to implement our policies and build a safer world to make America more secure. So those are the individuals he looks to. And he looks to the commanders on the ground to make the determinations about the size of our troops and the resources that they need. And the President has made it very clear from the very beginning that they will have all the resources and all the troops that they need. And he will look to those commanders on the ground to make those decisions.
Q: Even though it appears that people like Zinni and Shinseki were correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I disagree with that view.
Q: Does the President have a new commitment for shoring up the coalition in Iraq? And, secondly, can you say how the multinational force that's authorized by the U.N. resolution would interact with U.S. forces headed by U.S. commanders?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the first part of your question, the coalition in Iraq is strong. Our resolve is firm. The enemies of freedom will not prevail. I think it's also important to note that the Iraqi people do not want to see a return to tyranny. People everywhere, when given the choice between freedom and oppression, will choose freedom. And the Iraqi people are no different.
And so we will continue to work closely with the coalition, the more than -- there's some 30 nations that are in Iraq providing support for the security of the country. There are obviously ongoing security concerns and threats that we need to continue to work to address and eliminate. The President will talk about that in his remarks tonight.
He will talk about the important work underway to train and equip Iraqi security forces. Iraqis have been, more and more, assuming responsibility for their future, and that includes in the security fronts. While on the reconstruction and political front we have already turned some 12 ministries over to the Iraqi people, we are also making progress in training and equipping Iraqi security forces. But there is more work to do. We are learning from some of the past battles that have occurred that there is still more work to do. And you have General Patraeus now overseeing some of those efforts to equip and train Iraqi security forces.
The second part of your question was --
Q: Well, back on the first part, if I could. Were there any new commitments, in terms of support for the coalition?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, new commitments --
Q: New commitments -- is anybody stepping forward with troops, money, help --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one of the things the President will talk about -- one of the five steps that we are pursuing in our strategy for a free and democratic and peaceful Iraq is to broaden international support. We want to see even greater international support. That's why we moved forward on a United Nations Security Council resolution earlier today. This resolution marks a new phase in the transition to democracy for Iraq.
It recognizes the end of the occupation and the beginning of sovereignty for the Iraqi people. And it makes a commitment on behalf of the international community to support that interim government and support the timetable for holding elections that has been agreed to by the Iraqi people and put forward by the Iraqi people. And it provides for a leading role by the United Nations in the political process going forward. And it also addresses the multinational force, and it reaffirms support for a multinational force to partner with the Iraqi people in providing for their security going forward.
Q: That multinational force, how does that work? How does that interact with U.S. troops led by U.S. commanders, a multinational force? Is the multinational force led by a U.S. commander or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's what I expect. Obviously, we'll be working closely with Iraqis and others on these efforts. The President and others, I think, have made clear that the Iraqi forces will be under an Iraqi chain of command. But it would call for a unified multinational force. There has been previous resolutions that have addressed this matter, as well.
Q: And that would be under an American?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's correct.
Go ahead, Helen.
Q: Does the President feel any responsibility in supporting Israel all-out in Gaza for the slaughter that's been going on, the demolition of hundreds of homes, children killed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, I think we made --
Q: Does he think that the U.S. support of all of these policies has put some of the blame on us?
MR. McCLELLAN: Our policy is to support a two-state vision that the President outlined. He was the first President to articulate a two-state vision --
Q: -- supporting the policies in Gaza?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- based on two states, Palestine and Israel living side-by-side in peace and security. That's where our focus remains. Obviously, there have been some concerns we've had about some of the events on the ground. We expressed our concerns about those events on the ground. And we --
Q: By abstaining at the U.N.?
MR. McCLELLAN: And we talked -- and we spoke about our position in terms of the destruction of homes of innocent Palestinians, and our position remains the same.
Q: Why did we abstain on a U.N. Council condemnation of such acts?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we always look to make sure that resolutions are balanced. There are steps that all parties have responsibilities to meet called for under the road map. One of the first steps in that road map is to address --
Q: Nothing -- to his road map --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- the terrorism and violence on the ground. And all parties have responsibilities when it comes to that.
Q: How much sovereignty will the interim government really have? Will there be limits --
MR. McCLELLAN: Full sovereignty, Steve.
Q: -- any limits to what they have control over?
MR. McCLELLAN: The interim government will have full sovereignty, and I expect the President will talk a little bit more about this, this evening. Obviously, it's an interim government, so you would expect that they're going to have limited authority in the sense that they are there to be a caretaker government as we transition to a more elected -- to an elected representative government. There will be a transitional government that will be elected by January 2005. That transitional government will work to draft a constitution to be adopted by the Iraqi people and that transitional government will serve until such time the Iraqi people can elect a permanent government. And these are important details that I think the President will address tonight and spell out for the American people.
Q: Scott, it seems like what the President is trying to do with his speech tonight, at least in part, is to take a more optimistic view of the way things are going, and to remind the American people that the glass is maybe half-full, that there is a transition underway, that there is a plan. Is that -- is he trying to paint a more optimistic, forward-looking picture and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is confident about the direction we're headed. But let me state very clearly that we are at a critical stage in Iraq. The stakes are very high. The terrorists recognize that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. We recognize that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism.
We have been through a difficult period and there are going to be difficulties ahead. Certainly, we've seen some of the recent images from the suicide car bombing that led to the death of the Iraqi Governing Council president. We've seen what the terrorists will go to, to try and shake the will of the international community and the evil acts they carry out against innocent American citizens and against innocent Iraqi citizens. We've seen those images.
The mission at hand is not an easy one, but it is vital to our nation's interests. And the President will talk about that in his remarks. We face a clear choice going forward. We can work to build a free, democratic, and peaceful Iraq or we can let the terrorists prevail. But the terrorists will not prevail. When we succeed in Iraq, it will be a decisive blow to the terrorists in the war on terrorism.
Q: But if he's trying to also say, optimistically, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, will he tonight define any further what we can expect? Will he say -- will he suggest that there is a time limit to U.S. forces being in Iraq? Will he suggest any kind of time frame?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he will certainly talk about our troops and the outstanding work that they are doing and he will express his appreciation on behalf of the nation for the great work that our men and women in the military are doing. There are some in our military who have seen their tours of duty extended for a longer period of time than they had originally expected. The security situation called for increased demands upon our own troops; and we are still working to train the Iraqi security forces. But I think what he will --
Q: But surely he knows that the American people want to know when they're coming home?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- but I think what he will talk about is that the future of Iraq is going to be in the hands of the Iraqi people, but that the coalition continues to have a significant role that it will play going forward. And the President will talk about that in his remarks.
Q: By any objective measure, the administration has a mixed record, in terms of success with the U.N. Security Council resolutions it has tabled. For some, we have been able to secure unanimous support, and some we've -- one, at least, we've had to withdraw because we could not muster support of the Security Council for it -- all within the context of Iraq.
What confidence do you have about the votes that you've got at the Security Council for this resolution? And, if so, would you share with us what basis for confidence you have?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. I think that this draft should be viewed as a product of some of the recent discussions we have had in a number of different places. Certainly, we've had some discussions on this draft resolution with the G8 ministers. We've had discussions in New York with -- informal discussions with members of the Security Council and others. And we've had ongoing discussions with other nations, as well. We believe that there is strong support based on these consultations for moving forward on this resolution.
I think everybody shares a goal to realize a free and peaceful Iraq. I think everybody wants to see an end to the occupation and support the Iraqi interim sovereign government that will be put in place, and provide for a leading role by the United Nations going forward. And this resolution -- this resolution recognizes the end of the occupation, and the beginning of a sovereign interim government.
Q: And has Mr. Brahimi been of any help in smoothing a way inside the U.N. for this resolution?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Mr. Brahimi's work has been focused on putting in place the interim sovereign government. He has continued to move forward on the formation of that interim government. He has spelled out the form of that government, and I think the President will talk about that in detail this evening in his remarks. And he will talk about how there will be a president, two deputy presidents, and a prime minister -- a council of ministers and so forth, in terms of the shape of that interim government. And Mr. Brahimi, we expect, in the next week or so will be coming back with some names to fill those positions in the interim government. And we certainly strongly support his efforts.
But it's important, first, for Mr. Brahimi to complete those efforts on naming the interim government, and then we can adopt a new United Nations Security Council resolution. But we believe there's strong support for this resolution, and we look forward to further consultations with our colleagues on the Security Council.
Q: Scott, you said that the speech is the chance to inform the American people about the way forward in Iraq. What is the administration planning to do to -- besides the coalition briefings -- to keep Iraqis informed in the weeks ahead about what's going to be happening in their country?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President, when he speaks, is speaking to the entire world. And I'm sure that they will hear his remarks, as well. So it's important that, as President of the United States, that he keep the American people informed. But he also will be keeping the world informed about the steps that we are taking.
Certainly, there are briefings that go on, on a regular basis in Iraq, as well, by the Coalition Provisional Authority, as they move forward to transition to sovereignty. The Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist by June 30th, when a new sovereign government is put in place. And I think the President will talk in detail about these efforts. And he will talk in detail in his remarks tonight to the Iraqi people, and talk about how the future is in their hands, that this is a time for them to assume even greater responsibility going forward.
Q: Do you feel that message has not gotten across to them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's important to continue talking about that message as we move forward, and as we see some of the distressing images on TV. I mean, I don't think anyone wants to be occupied, and certainly we recognize that. And that's why it's important to continue to talk to the Iraqi people about the steps we are taking to help them realize a brighter future.
Q: The recovery looks like it's really picking up steam. And there are some economists who would argue that high gasoline prices at the current levels have a silver lining, and that they prevent the economy from overheating. Others, of course, see a threat that high gas prices could derail the recovery. I'm wondering what the White House thinking is on the current level of gas prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President continues to believe that gas prices are too high. And I think most Americans believe that, as well. That's why he's continuing to urge Congress to pass his comprehensive national energy strategy that he proposed some three years ago. That will reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. We have to keep in mind that the reason we're in this situation is because we're dependent upon foreign sources of energy.
The President put forward a comprehensive plan that would expand conservation, increase energy efficiency and diversify our supply at home, so that we would not be as reliant upon foreign sources of energy. And you've seen demand increase greatly in the world because of the growing global economy and because of the growing American economy. And the supply has not been there to meet that demand at the level that is necessary. We continue to be in touch with producers around the world. But the economy continues to move in the right direction. We are in the middle of a strong recovery, because of the policies that this President advocated and passed in Congress.
Q: Two questions. One, India has a multi-cultural government under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This is the first time in the world history that the top President is a Muslim and Prime Minister is a Sikh minority, and the opposition is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Hindu, and party President is a Christian, Sonia Gandhi. So if President has spoken with the Prime Minister or anybody, or what he thinks about this new government, how relations will --
MR. McCLELLAN: There is no update on the President -- no update on the President's phone call. But, obviously, we congratulate the new Prime Minister on being sworn in over the weekend. And we look forward to working with him and continue to build upon our strong relations.
Q: Yes, two questions, please. How long is the speech going to be tonight?
MR. McCLELLAN: I still expect it's going to be in the 30 to 35 minute range. The President did a walk-through of the speech earlier today, and he'll do another one this afternoon.
Q: Second question. Has the President seen or heard the statement Mr. Ahmed Chalabi said yesterday, on various television programs, about his offer to come to Congress to clear his name of the accusation? He's charged George Tenet directly with the charges.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, that's up to members of Congress to decide.
Q: Yes, but has the President been made aware --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President is focused on moving forward on the mission at hand and implementing the clear strategy we have for building a free, democratic and peaceful Iraq. He is looking forward and, you know, if others want to look back to the past, that's fine, but he's going to continue looking forward.
Q: Scott, the new U.N. resolution calls for the new Iraqi government to control the $10 billion Iraq development fund. So just to clarify, that means that the Iraqis, alone, will decide going forward who gets future contracts, as of June 30th?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqis are going to have full sovereignty by June 30th. That is what we are moving forward on.
Q: And that's included, right? So the Iraqis, alone, will make decisions about who gets the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are discussions, obviously, we will have with members of the Security Council. There is language that addresses that matter in the resolution and we'll let those consultations continue to occur.
Q: It's not specific --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q: Scott, the Treaty of the Law of the Sea is something that's talked about almost never at any of the briefings here, and recently, Senator Inhofe held hearings over at the Natural Resources Committee in the Senate which indicated that if the treaty were ever ratified, it would lead to U.S. citizens paying international taxes and U.S. troops under some kind of world control. In other words, it very deeply could affect sovereignty. Is the President opposed to ratification of the Treaty of the Law of the Sea?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me get you some more information on that and I'll come back to it. I'll be glad to talk to you about it.
Q: Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Scott, can I ask about the attack on -- near the Syrian border, that the Pentagon has said, you know, was a gathering of insurgents. There's a new videotape that APTN has obtained, which pretty clearly shows several hours' worth of, well, revelry, if not a wedding. Is the administration familiar with this tape, and is it troubled by the pretty sizeable doubt that it casts on the Pentagon --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the military has pointed out that -- pointed to evidence that they have showing that foreign fighters were in that area that they targeted, and that that was the reason for the action that they took. So they disagree with the way you characterized it in your question. They also said that they would be looking into this matter because of the allegations that have been raised. And that's what they will do.
Q: Scott, a two-part. Andrew Card impressively addressed --
MR. McCLELLAN: A fine Chief of Staff.
Q: Thank you. Andrew Card impressively addressed this weekend's annual gathering in New York of 250 talk radio hosts, where there was considerable debate over the possibility that if Howard Stern is driven off the air for his many obscenities by the FCC fines, all of us could be driven off the air by the government for our political opinions. And my question: Can the White House give us assurance that our expressed political opinions, liberal or conservative, will never be treated like Stern's obscenities by any organization in the Bush administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I'm not going to try to speculate on something that's so -- so broad as what you're bringing up. Obviously, the President believes that there are certain standards of decency that should be adhered to.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we all have a responsibility to adhere to those standards.
Q: But he would never let the FCC --
MR. McCLELLAN: And that if people violate those standards, they should be held accountable. And there are measures in place to hold people accountable.
Q: Of course. But he would never allow the FCC to take action against any of us in talk radio for our political opinions, would he?
MR. McCLELLAN: In a general sense, no. But, again, you phrase that in a context of some standards that apparently violated some of the -- our standards of decency.
Q: Sure. Almost all of us have respected the President and Mrs. Bush's request that questioning of or about their twin daughters are out of bounds. But the twins are both now college graduates, and are going to work for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. And my question, so they are no more out of bounds for questions than you or the President's brother, Jeb, are they, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, we hope that the media will continue to show respect for the daughters and allow them to --
Q: Respect. If they're going to be in the campaign --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- go about their lives. But the daughters have also expressed a strong interest in helping the President on his reelection. And I know the President very much appreciates that.
Q: Therefore, they are subject to questions, aren't they? If they're going to be in the political campaign, they're certainly subject to questions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think I addressed your question.
Q: You addressed it -- you evaded it.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the media, hopefully, will continue to show respect that -- and recognize that they are the President's daughters --
Q: -- and ask respectful questions.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that they have their own lives.
Q: Do they have any questions for us? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: They are not -- they are not the person on the ballot.
Q: If they're on the campaign trail, they're fair game to questions.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. Helen, I just made a comment on that. I just said we hope the media will continue to show respect for --
Q: That doesn't connote that we don't --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- for the daughters.
Q: That doesn't mean we don't respect them, but we can question them.
MR. McCLELLAN: Understood. Oh, understood.
Q: They're out there.
Q: We respect you. We respect you.
MR. McCLELLAN: You all have an important role to play.
Q: It's my turn now.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about that, Les. Go ahead.
Q: Last week a deal was struck between the White House and Senate Democrats where the President surrendered his constitutional right to recess appointments, in exchange for the removal of Senator Daschle's blockade of all his nominees. Considering the status of the six filibustered judges isn't part of that deal, how can this be seen as anything but capitulation to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't look at it at all the way you characterized it, first of all. I looked at it as an important step forward to getting these judges in places that were being held up by the Senate. There are some 25 judicial nominees who are highly respected and well qualified who will now be given an up or down vote, and we are very confident that they will be approved by the Senate.
Q: What about the filibusters?
MR. McCLELLAN: And about those additional people who are continuing to be held up, we are going to continue to fight for those nominees, because like the others, they are people of high integrity who are well qualified, and the President supports very strongly. We will continue to fight for those nominees, as well. The President will continue to urge the Senate to give those nominees and up or down vote, as well.
Q: You didn't say "bipartisan," but I'm going to follow up with, how's that bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act working out, now that the FEC has decided to be totally impotent?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that we have expressed our concerns about people using loopholes in the law to get around some of the intent of the campaign finance reforms. The President strongly supported the campaign finance law because he felt overall it would improve the system. Unfortunately, there are some that are using loopholes to get around the intent of that law.
Q: Scott, how much time does the President spend on other topics besides Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has to focus on a number of priorities. That occurs anytime you're President of the United States. And, obviously, his highest and most important priorities are winning the war on terrorism, of which Iraq is a central front, protecting the homeland and strengthening our economy. So you've heard the President talk about his priorities in recent speeches. He will continue to talk about the key priorities that we are pursuing. So, I mean, he has to spend his time focusing on a number of important priorities, but certainly Iraq is one of the highest priorities of this President.
Q: Thank you, Scott. The United States has decided to ship about 3,600 of the U.S. troops from South Korea to Iraq. It is also reported to be only beginning to -- the total withdrawal of the U.S. troops from South Korea. Would you comment on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we've been having consultations with South Korea and other nations on our global posture review that has been underway and it's something the military has been looking at and moving forward on. And, certainly, when we announced that some of the troops would be going to Iraq, there was a need to send some troops over there to relieve some of the other American troops there, but that this should be viewed as part of our global posture review, something that we've discussed very closely with the government of South Korea, and we will continue to discuss with them going forward.
But our commitment to the region remains very strong. And just because there is a reduction, maybe, in some of those forces, does not reduce our commitment to ensure stability in the region. And there are many new threats that we face in this day and age, and there's also a lot of new ways that we're working to address those threats, with a -- swifter deployments and a more technologically advanced military that can deploy quickly and meet some of those threats. And we'll be working closely with the South Korean government, as we have been, to move forward to address those threats.
Q: Egypt Foreign Affairs Minister said today that President Mubarak would not come to the G8 and that Tunisia has turned down the invitation, as well. How bad is it?
MR. McCLELLAN: And that who has turned down?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q: How bad is it for the President's greater Middle East initiative?
MR. McCLELLAN: We believe very strongly that it's important to support the calls for reform in the region. And that's why the President put forward his initiative for the broader Middle East. And the President met with President Mubarak in Crawford, as you are aware, a few weeks ago. They had a good discussion about the this initiative for the broader Middle East. And there will be additional discussions going forward with others in the region.
This initiative, like I said, is about supporting efforts underway for reform in the region by the people in the region. And we want to support their efforts, not impose anything on them. It's a generational commitment that we're talking about here. And we will have a lot of countries, I expect, attending the G8, and we believe they will have a good representation from the Middle East, as well.
Q: But has he been made aware by President Mubarak that he will not come to the G8?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what level of official contacts there have been in the last day. But, again, we expect that there will be a list of a number of countries from the region attending the G8 out soon.
Q: Thank you. I have a couple of questions on the Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's trip to Pyongyang last weekend.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q: On his trip, he took about five cabinet members of (inaudible), except Sergeant Jenkins who is husband of Hotomi Soga, an evictor from the North Korea to -- from the U.S. Army to North Korea. We know that U.S. position has not changed with regard to his position -- status as a deserter by the U.S. Army. But is there any room for the political decision by White House on him?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think that that might be a question best directed to either the Pentagon and/or the State Department to address the latest situation regarding that matter. We certainly did note that Prime Minister Koizumi talked about the importance of North Korea agreeing to completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantling its nuclear weapons program. And it's important that North Korea continue to hear that message. We are moving forward on that multilateral process. And we believe it's important for all parties to emphasize that to North Korea as we go forward. I think all parties in the region recognize the importance of a nuclear-free peninsula.
Q: Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 1:46 P.M. EDT
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