28 February 2005
White House Daily Briefing, February 28
Visit of Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, Lebanon/Syria, torture, Iran, Social Security, Medicaid, Iraq
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press February 28.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 28, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
-- Visit of Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir
-- Lebanon, Syria
-- Social Security
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 28, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:27 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I want to begin with one announcement to update on the President's schedule, and then make a few comments on today's events in Lebanon.
The President will welcome Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, to the White House on March 16th. The Cardinal was respected throughout Lebanon and around the world for his religious leadership and for promoting intra-communal harmony among the different faiths in his country, and is an important voice of Lebanese independence, freedom and democracy. So the President looks forward to that visit on March 16th.
With regards to Lebanon and the developments there today, we are closely watching developments with great interest. The resignation of the Karami government represents an opportunity for the Lebanese people to have a new government that is truly representative of their country's diversity. The new government will have the responsibility of implementing free and fair elections that the Lebanese people have clearly demonstrated they desire. We believe the process of a new government should proceed in accordance with the Lebanese constitution and should be free of all foreign interference. It is time for Syria to fully comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. That means Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country. That will help ensure the elections are free and fair.
And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: Scott, when you take all of this together -- the resignation of the government today, Syria's apparent capture and handover of Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Syria's declaration last week that it was going to pull troops back closer to its border -- do you see this as being some small steps on the part of Syria to try to show its goodwill toward the United States and Europe, in light of some of the pretty strong comments that you've been making in the past few weeks?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, on the capture of Saddam Hussein's half-brother, I'm going to let the coalition forces and the Iraqi authorities speak to that. They have made some public comments about it; they have not gotten into any of the specifics relating to that at this point. And I don't want to get in front of what they are saying from the ground there in Iraq. There are reasons for that oftentimes, so I want to state that first.
In terms of our concerns with Syria, I just expressed some of our continuing concerns regarding Syria, particularly when it comes to Lebanon, and they need to comply with their international obligations, the obligation of the United Nations Security Council that calls on all those in Lebanon, all those foreign entities in Lebanon, to leave Lebanon.
Q: Again, regardless of who's speaking to what, a couple of these moves that Syria has made in the past few days, do you see this as being -- as sort of reaching out to the United States, or do you think they're just trying to get some of the heat off?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has spoken about the concerns he has when it comes to Syria. He laid those out very clearly. There are several concerns we have with regards to Syria. We have concerns about their continuing support for terrorism, namely Hezbollah. We have concern about Syria allowing terrorist organizations to operate within their territory. We have concerns about regime elements operating from Syrian territory. And we've expressed those concerns. We have concerns about Syria's interference in Lebanon's internal affairs, and we will see by their actions if they're committed to changing their behavior.
Go ahead, Terry.
Q: Scott, these are remarkable scenes we're witnessing in Beirut. Is this a domino falling? Does this show the President's strategy is vindicated and confirmed and right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has often spoken about how all people desire to live in freedom. I think you're seeing today in Lebanon that the Lebanese people are clearly demonstrating their desire to have a free and independent future, free from outside interference. And we continue to see the Lebanese people standing up and speaking out for their desire to live in freedom, and that's why we made the comments -- that's why I made the comments I did at the beginning of the briefing.
Q: Can I follow up?
Q: Is this a vindication of the Iraq strategy that the President set out? Is this a domino falling in the Middle East?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that you're seeing across the world -- most notably in the Middle East -- that democracy and freedom are on the march. The Iraqi people demonstrated their desire to live in freedom and peace when they went to the polls in overwhelming numbers and showed their courage and determination to defy those who want to return to the past, the terrorists.
And I think you're seeing in other parts of the Middle East that there is a commitment to moving forward on democratic reforms. You're seeing that with regards to the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian people want a future that is built on a free and democratic and viable state. And you have a leadership now that is committed to helping them realize that vision that the President outlined.
Q: Are you seeing that in Egypt, with President Mubarak's statement?
MR. McCLELLAN: We welcome the commitment by President Mubarak that he made to move forward on elections that would allow for more than one candidate to participate in those elections. We will see, through the implementation of the reforms that were announced, the commitment to moving forward on that.
Q: Has the President ever issued an order against torture of prisoners? And do we still send prisoners to Syria to be tortured?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has stated publicly that we do not condone torture and that he would never authorize the use of torture. He has made that --
Q: But has he issued an order?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- statement very publicly, and he's made it clear to everybody in the government that we do not torture.
Q: Well, why do we still hear these stories then?
MR. McCLELLAN: If there are allegations of wrongdoing, then the President expects those allegations to be fully investigated and if there is actual wrongdoing that occurs, then people need to be held to account. The President has made that very clear.
Q: Well, do you deny that we still send prisoners to other countries to be tortured? Is that a denial?
MR. McCLELLAN: Judge Gonzales testified previously that we have an obligation not to render people to countries that we know would torture them.
Q: He did not rule out torture.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, David.
Q: Scott, you said this morning that for Iran, ascension to the WTO is now on the table in exchange for something, presumably ultimately abandoning their nuclear weapons designs. What's changed the President's mind? Why is he now prepared to maybe take such a step, when Europeans have been at this for some time, and wanting the U.S. to get more engaged?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're asking me to speculate about decisions that haven't been made. And I want to correct you, I don't think that's exactly what I said this morning. What I said this morning was what we had indicated last week, as well, that the President is considering ideas that were discussed last week in Europe for moving forward on our efforts to get Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Q: That's one of the options. I think we all know that's one of the options.
MR. McCLELLAN: There are ideas that have been discussed publicly by the Europeans. The President had very good discussions with our European friends about how we can move forward toward our shared goal of getting Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. And so the --
Q: Well, but the question is what's changed, because, I mean, all of this was -- has been in place for some time. It didn't just take going to meet the Europeans face-to-face for him to really be convinced of this. So I'm trying to get a sense of what has changed in the President's mind, that he is willing to potentially go down a different road.
MR. McCLELLAN: We have always supported the efforts by our European friends to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. We want to see them succeed in those efforts. And we have seen that over the last several months that Iran is now providing more information to the International Atomic Energy Agency. They're providing greater access to the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is an organization which we are a member of, and we work very closely with all the other 30-some members of that organization, in addition to working with our European friends.
The President had very good discussions last week. The European-3, as they are referred to, have continued to have discussions with Iranian authorities over the course of the last year. Those discussions have been moving forward. And so we have been discussing our concerns with Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, in addition to our concerns about Iran's behavior in general, its behavior when it comes to supporting terrorism, and its behavior when it comes to refusing to allow its own people to have the freedoms that they seek.
And I think there's a broader recognition on the part of the international community that the concerns are not only about their pursuit of nuclear weapons, but their treatment of their own people and their support for terrorism.
Q: I'm sorry, I'm just trying to pin you down. It's not clear to me in that answer what has happened that's convinced the President to stand closer to the EU-3 strategy than he had previously.
MR. McCLELLAN: We've always stayed in close contact with our European friends on these issues. Like I said, we want to see their efforts succeed. We all have a shared goal that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. That's something we all share. And we want to make sure that Iran abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
And we've been supportive of those efforts. We've continued to stay in close contact with them. The President had a number of meetings last week where we discussed these issues. We talked about the progress that has been made in some of those discussions. And we talked about how we can move forward to accomplish that shared goal.
And so the President was very much in a listening mode during some of those meetings. He listened to some of the ideas for how we can move forward together, and the President is now considering some of those ideas that were discussed. I'm not going to speculate about any decisions that have yet to be made at this point. I think it's something we can talk further about once decisions are made. But that's where it stands at this point.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Tom, did you have something?
Q: Yes. You seem to indicate a flexibility, in terms of incentives, but is anything off the table? For instance, one of the suggestions was that the United States participate directly in these negotiations, joining the three European countries. Is that something that is being considered, or is that off the table?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President addressed that last week. We need to keep the focus on Iran. It's their behavior that needs to change. Iran's behavior needs to change when it comes to their interest in nuclear weapons. Iran's behavior needs to change when it comes to the treatment of their own people and their aspirations to have more of a say over their own government; their aspirations for greater --
Q: That doesn't involve --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- for greater freedoms. But the President addressed this issue on a couple of occasions just last week. Nothing has changed, in terms of his view on that issue. And we can sit here and try to go through hypothetical decisions that have yet to be made, but I think it's best, let's let those decisions be made and then we can discuss it at that point.
Q: But in terms of the U.S. participating directly in the talks, is that something that's under review, as well, as any other things?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President addressed that last week, and there's no change in terms of what he said last week on that.
Go ahead, Wendell.
Q: How much was the President -- how much did it play a part in the President's thinking about this President's apparent openness to incentives that European countries convinced him that they, too, believe that it's intolerable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon? That's one. And the second question is, the IAEA is about to give what one official of the agency calls a modestly positive report -- a report card on Iran tomorrow, in Vienna. Does the U.S., as a member of the board, agree with that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Agree with what?
Q: That Iran should get a modestly positive report card?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, let's let the report come out and then we can talk about that report at that time. Those discussions -- they're meeting right now and having discussions. We have representatives that are there on behalf of the United States government. I'm not going to jump ahead of what has yet to be reported at this point.
Q: All right. The President's decision-making then, was it -- was it swayed by Europe convincing him that they basically share a common agreement --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me make clear that the policy is the same. We all have a shared goal of making sure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. That's something we all share. We're all speaking with the same voice. Iran needs to abide by its international obligations. They need to come clean and they need to end their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We've made that very clear. What we are doing is continuing to talk with our European friends about the best way forward for addressing this issue and accomplishing our shared goal. And those are discussions that were had at length last week with representatives -- with the leaders of those countries who are involved in those discussions with Iran. We very much support their efforts. But the focus needs to be on Iran and its behavior, and that's where the focus needs to remain.
Q: One more. Before the trip, Ambassador Bruton said that the idea of taking Iran to the U.N. Security Council over this is really not an option. Did the President hear that from European leaders last week?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are still in the early diplomatic stages of this effort. We've expressed our views when it comes to Iran's continued defiance of its international obligations in the past, and our support for it being referred to the Security Council.
But the President went last week to Europe, had very good discussions about a number of areas where we can work together on a common agenda, first and foremost spreading the advance of -- spreading democracy and freedom. And when it comes to Iran, there are a number of discussions about where we stand with regards to Iran and its interest in nuclear weapons. And there was a lot of discussion about how we move forward together on our shared goal. And the President is thinking through some of the ideas that were mentioned last week, and thinking about what the next steps are for how we move forward to accomplish that shared goal. That's where we stand on this point.
Go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q: I'm not hearing an answer to my question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q: Did the President hear from Europeans that he really doesn't have the option of taking Iran before the U.N. Security Council? The support is not there to impose tougher sanctions.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that that's been addressed in previous International Atomic Energy Agency meetings, and they would be the ones that would make that referral. What we're doing right now is talking about how we move forward to accomplish this shared goal, and what Iran needs to do. The focus needs to remain on Iran and its behavior, and that's where our focus will remain. We're going to continue working very closely with our European friends to accomplish this shared goal.
Q: On Lebanon, is the President prepared to back up his words with any actions to ensure a free and a fair election there?
MR. McCLELLAN: We will do everything we can to support the Lebanese people. I think you have seen that through our discussions with the French. We've worked very closely with the French on this issue, where we both share a common concern. We both are committed to seeing Security Council resolutions complied with. We are both committed to seeing Lebanon be sovereign, independent and free from outside interference. We are fully committed to supporting free and fair elections that would be free from outside interference. So, absolutely, we will -- and it's an issue that I expect we will continue to stay in close contact with our French counterparts on.
Q: I'm just curious -- I know it just happened, but did the President watch anything that is going on? Did he see the pictures of what's happening --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think he saw -- when I walked in there, there wasn't TV on, but he certainly was briefed on the demonstrations that were going on in Lebanon.
Q: Is there any reaction from him --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the reaction is what I said. And that's why I also made the point that it's time for Syria to comply with Security Council resolutions.
Q: And just to follow up, to sort of come at what Terry was trying to ask in a different way. Specifically on Lebanon, to what does the White House ascribe what you're seeing there, exactly?
MR. McCLELLAN: The desire for the Lebanese people to live in freedom. You're seeing the Lebanese people stand up and speak out in a very clear way that they want to determine their future free from outside, foreign interference. And that's what you're seeing. The Lebanese people are standing up and speaking out. I think that the attack that took place recently and led to the assassination of the former prime minister was horrific, and I think it demonstrated the importance of allowing Lebanon to be free from outside interference.
Q: Scott, when you were discussing Iran before, the first time I heard you say that you thought that Iran was beginning to comply more fully with the IAEA. On the other hand, over the weekend we've all been hearing that they only turned over documents relating to their 1987 acquisition when confronted once again with evidence. How do you square these two positions? Do you see a change in their --
MR. McCLELLAN: Our view is that we expect full compliance. You have seen --
Q: And you're seeing greater compliance?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- some steps taken, where they are starting to provide more information to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and where they're starting to provide greater access. There is much more that needs to be done. It's very clear what they need to do to live up to their international obligations.
Q: And does that include, in your mind, opening up all military sites to foreign inspection?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that they've indicated that they would provide some access to the International Atomic Energy Agency. We want to see full compliance and full transparency when it comes to their nuclear weapons program.
Q: Scott, the -- Dick Armey, the former congressman, made a speech where he was talking -- commenting on the President's calls with evangelicals. How often does the President have these conference calls with evangelicals, and what's the nature of them?
MR. McCLELLAN: How often? I'll have to check. I'm not sure exactly what he was referring to. I'll be glad to check into it. But we stay in close contact with a number of people that -- across the political spectrum, and certainly, that is one community that we stay in close contact with, and we appreciate all their support for the President's agenda. But I'll be glad to look into it. I mean, a number of those, I think, were probably referring to staff level contacts.
Q: This said the President, so --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President meets with people from all different religious backgrounds on a fairly regular basis. In fact, one of the things he'll be doing tomorrow is attending the leadership conference for his faith-based and community initiative. You're going to have leaders from across the United States representing faith-based and community-based organizations that are helping people in need, and the President is very much committed to building upon the great progress we have made to reach out to faith-based and community organizations to help people in need. And so he looks forward to attending that conference tomorrow.
John, go ahead.
Q: Okay. This morning I mis-spoke when I said that Senate Majority Leader Frist had said that he was against raising caps on the level of payroll taxes to pay for Social Security reform. I mis-read his press release, and he takes the same position as the President, which is everything is on the table, except raising the rates for the payroll taxes. Has the President talked to the Majority Leader since this issue first came up, about what is on and off the table on February 14th, and has he spoken with leaders in the House on it, as well?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Congress has just -- well, Congress is just coming back into session this week. I'm not aware of any additional discussions he has had with the Majority Leader, beyond some of the recent ones -- I think probably prior to our trip to Europe. Obviously, our staff -- our legislative staff, in particular -- stays in close contact with the leadership and those offices on these issues.
I think the President has made it very clear that we need to work together to find a bipartisan solution to save and strengthen Social Security for future generations. The President believes it's important that we all recognize that there are serious problems facing Social Security, that there are serious financial challenges facing Social Security. And he welcomes all ideas that are being expressed for solving the problem. We've expressed our views and our principles for moving forward to strengthen Social Security. We want to hear from others what their ideas are, as well.
I think you see in survey after survey that the American people recognize there are serious problems facing Social Security. Social Security is unsustainable over the long haul. That's why we need to act now to strengthen it. And the President is not going to get into commenting on every idea that is discussed or every idea that is mentioned for solving the problem. He's going to say, I welcome those ideas and let's talk about how we can find a bipartisan way to solve this problem.
Q: Scott, can we go back to Iran for a second. Apparently, the deal that Russia made with Iran to sell Iran nuclear fuel is on, at least, a temporary hold. The press report said that a meeting with the President and Russia's Putin didn't go very well, that the President was not able to talk him out of the deal. And, yet, since it is on hold, have there been further talks --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know that that's an accurate description of their meeting, first of all. I'm not sure how much that issue actually came up in the discussions.
Q: Has there been any attempt, then, on the part of the President since Europe, or anybody else in the administration to convince Russia not to go through with that deal to sell uranium to Iran?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update beyond what we've said previously. Russia has previously assured us that no nuclear fuel should be delivered to Iran until Iran comes into compliance with its international obligations and that any spent nuclear fuel must be returned to Russia. They've previously provided those assurances to us. And we've also made it clear it's important that Iran ratify and adhere to the additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency. We believe the fuel take-back is important to reducing any proliferation concerns, and Russia has worked to build such protections into its agreement with Iran. So that's something that they have previously assured us about.
We have continuing concerns, as we have publicly stated, about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. We've expressed those concerns publicly. Russia is someone that shares the concern of the international community that Iran should not be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon. We are all working together toward that shared goal.
And that's what you're seeing in these discussions that took place last week. That's what you're seeing in our consideration of some of the ideas that were brought forward by our European friends for how we move forward toward that shared goal. Ultimately it's going to be on Iran to change its behavior and end its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Q: And do you actually trust the Russians on this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Goyal.
Q: Scott, if President has seen the report issued by the State Department this morning, global violation of human rights. It blames or accuses China and Saudi Arabia, including many other countries, violators of human rights this year.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in fact we've been talking about some of these very issues at the beginning of the briefing. But promoting human rights and human dignity are at the foundation of our foreign policy. Democracy and freedom and human rights are on the advance, and democracy is the best way to guarantee human rights and human dignity for all. And that's why the President has been such a strong proponent of advancing freedom and democracy.
Q: Second, the former President George Bush and Bill Clinton, they were on tsunami -- they were promoting how to help the tsunami victims, and they raised millions of dollars. And now President Clinton is in Taiwan. Were they or President Clinton carrying any message or carrying any message from the President Bush?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me check and see if there's anything to add to that. We've obviously expressed our views in terms -- when it comes to China and Taiwan, and our position remains the same. We also continue to encourage cross-strait dialogue between the countries as the best way to resolving some of the issues that remain.
Q: The governors, since they've come to town, have talked a lot about Medicaid. In the question and answer with the President today, did they talk about Medicaid, and did the President give them any assurances or any --
MR. McCLELLAN: Medicaid did come up. First of all, Medicaid is an important program for providing health care for millions of low-income Americans, particularly our children. And this administration is strongly committed to making sure Medicaid is working the way it is intended to work, and getting care to those who need it. The governors, I think, expressed a view that they want to work with us to move forward on some smart ways to reform Medicaid and make sure that it's working the way that it was intended.
The President -- the governors, I think, very much appreciate our efforts to provide them more flexibility when it comes to Medicaid. And I would point out that when it comes to the Medicaid program that spending on Medicaid is going to continue to grow over the next 10 years; it's going to grow at about 7.2 percent a year for the next 10 years. And when you put that in terms of dollars, we're talking about spending nearly $5 trillion on Medicaid over the next decade. But because of some accounting gimmicks that have been used and some loopholes that have been exploited, Medicaid is putting some tight constraints on our budgeting process.
And the President believes we need to move forward to reform Medicare and strengthen it, so that those who it is intended to help are getting the care that they need, and also that we're giving governors the flexibility that they need to provide health care to more people with the dollars that are available. We want them to be able to expand that coverage and cover more people.
That's why under this administration you've seen us provide waivers to states that have extended Medicaid coverage to 2.6 million people since 2001. And I think that's an important step toward our ultimate objective.
And we're working very closely with the governors. Secretary Leavitt is having good discussions with the governors about how we can move forward together on these reforms. And that's where it stands at this point. But, yes, there were a couple of questions that came up on it, and that was kind of the spirit in which it was discussed, that we all understand some of the challenges facing Medicare, and that's why we need to work together as we move forward to implement some smart reforms.
Go ahead, Roger.
Q: In connection with Medicaid, there were some reports this morning that there was an apparent effort to get some sort of compromise between the White House and governors by week's end on that. Do you know anything about that? One, is that accurate? And --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about any timeline. I know that Secretary Leavitt has remained in close contact with the governors. He's been our point person on this issue, as the head of the Health and Human Services Department, and he continues to be in close contact with the governors on those matters.
Q: But there's no deadline or anything like that --
MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with Secretary Leavitt's office to see --
Q: And the other question I had was the President, in his remarks this morning to the governors, said that he wanted to expand the number of children available getting Medicaid benefits. But he didn't say how he might pay for that.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's our Cover the Kids program. It's something that we outlined in the budget, the President strongly supports. And that's making sure that those who qualify are enrolled in the program. The Cover the Kids would be to extend S-CHIP to children. We enrolled an additional one million children in the S-CHIP program since 2001, and now the President, in his budget, wants to commit an additional $1 billion to cover even more children, and that's how he's talking about doing it.
Q: Where does that money come from?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's in our budget. You can go and look at where that money --
Q: Is there any offsetting decrease elsewhere, or is it just increase?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll go look at our budget and try to get you that information.
Bob, go ahead.
Q: Scott, in Iraq today, reportedly scores have been killed by a suicide bomber. I'm wondering, first off, if you have any reaction to that. Secondly, during the trip -- more to the point, during the trip, did the President come away with anything really concrete from the allies, in terms of helping bear the burden of securing Iraq at this point?
MR. McCLELLAN: From the trip?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, you should look at some of the comments that were made. In fact, there was an agreement with the European Union that we would support an international conference on Iraq, if it was requested by the Iraqi leadership, to talk about additional ways that we can support the Iraqi people as they move forward.
In terms of the attack today, we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. It was an attack on innocent Iraqi civilians. The terrorists who carry out these attacks are the enemies of the Iraqi people and the enemies of their aspirations for a free and peaceful future. We are continuing to work closely with Iraqi security forces to bring to justice the terrorists and former regime elements who seek to derail the transition to democracy. They will be brought to justice. They will be defeated. The Iraqi people have shown, through their courage and determination, that they want to live in freedom. And we stand with the Iraqi people as they seek to build a free and peaceful future.
Q: Let me just follow up on my second question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going, and then I'll come back. Go ahead, Rick.
Q: Is the administration concerned or anxious that Russian -- the Russian deal with Iran on the fuel and -- nuclear fuel and Russia's sale of missiles to Syria is hampering western efforts to put pressure on both countries?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the agreement with Iran on the nuclear fuel that would be provided to the Bushehr reactor, we're still waiting to learn about the details of that agreement. That's why I pointed out earlier today that Russia had provided assurances to us about how they would go about that agreement. And I think that's important to note when we're talking about this issue. But you can understand our skepticism when it comes to Iran's nuclear program, because Iran has vast amounts of oil. And we don't see a need for Iran to develop such a broad civilian nuclear program. That's why we are concerned that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of that civilian nuclear program.
Q: So there is a concern, then, that the fuel deal could, in some way, inhibit --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but Russia talked about the protections that would be built into the agreement, that -- and that's why I said that fuel being taken back to Russia is important to providing protections against that fuel being used for purposes other than what it's intended for.
Q: Okay, and what about missile sales to Syria?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've expressed our concerns on that issue. I'm not sure that anything is final at this point. We would hope that Russia would continue to use its influence to urge Syria to abide by the Security Council resolutions and get out of Lebanon.
Q: Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 2:00 P.M. EST
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