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29 March 2005

White House Report, March 29: WMD Report, Oil-for-Food Scandal

President to act on commission suggestions; India-Pakistan communications

ADMINISTRATION TO CAREFULLY CONSIDER WMD REPORT

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the Bush administration had received advance copies of the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (Robb/Silberman Commission) and would “carefully consider” its recommendations.

Speaking with the press March 29, McClellan said the president’s most important obligation is to protect the safety and security of the American people.  “Making sure we have the best possible intelligence is critical,” he added.

The commission, created by President Bush in February 2004, has examined weaknesses in U.S. intelligence gathering leading up to the war in Iraq, as well as intelligence regarding Iran and North Korea, among other countries.

McClellan said the president “appreciates” the work of the commission and looked forward to meeting with the commission on March 31, when the report is to be formally released.  “We will carefully consider the recommendations and act quickly on the recommendations,” McClellan said.  The press secretary said the president would also meet with members of the government departments affected by the report on March 31. 

He praised the “very thorough” job of the commission, saying their work was “very important.”  McClellan said it was a part of the administration’s continuing efforts to support the intelligence community.  He cited recent reforms to the FBI and the creation of the position of director of national intelligence, the National Counter-Terrorism Threat Center and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center.

McClellan said any steps that would be taken would be similar to actions following the report of the 9/11 Commission in 2004.  He also said the administration would continue to work closely with the international community on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including through the president’s Proliferation Security Initiative.

FULL ACCOUNTING NEEDED IN OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM

McClellan said the administration had received a copy of the report of the Volcker Commission on the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal.  He called the affair “a very serious matter” for which there needs to be a full accounting.

The press secretary noted the administration’s appreciation of the commission’s full investigation of the matter and looked forward to seeing the final results.  Regarding the release of the report today, McClellan said, “We’re going to carefully study that report, and look at what it says.”

McClellan said the Bush administration continued to support the United Nations and the work of Kofi Annan as secretary-general.  Media reports have said the commission's report found Annan, although not directly implicated in the scandal, to be negligent in oversight of the affair, which saw a company associated with his son, Kojo, benefit from a large oversight contract.

He said President Bush is continuing to push for reforms at the United Nations in order to prevent similar scandals from occurring in the future and to make sure the organization is able to address challenges in the most effective way possible.

The Bush administration also looks forward to seeing what Congress uncovers regarding the matter, McClellan said.

SALE OF JETS TO PAKISTAN DESIGNED TO AID IN WAR ON TERROR

McClellan said the sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan is a matter that has been discussed “for some time” and is designed to support Pakistan in its counter-terrorism efforts.

McClellan said President Bush had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India March 25 in a phone call from his ranch in Texas.  “The President reached out to Prime Minister Singh, to inform him of the decision,” he said.

He said the move was part of supporting Pakistan in its role in the War on Terror and equipping that country to confront the threats posed by remaining members of al-Qaida and the Taliban within Pakistan’s borders.

McClellan said the United States has “great relations” with both India and Pakistan and looks forward to continuing to work with both countries to further recent positive steps toward reducing tensions in the region.  He said the Bush administration supports the current dialogue between the two nations regarding the Kashmir situation and will continue to do so.

The press secretary said the United States will look at ways to support India as well.

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



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