16 December 2003
Iraqi People the Ones to Hold Saddam Hussein Accountable, White House Says
White House Report, Dec. 16: Iraq, Baker European trip, Bush signs into law numerous bills, including one establishing Museum of Black History
President Bush in a taped television interview at the White House December 16 commented on his personal view as to what the punishment should be for Saddam Hussein, but "made it very clear that it is not up to him, it will be up to those who try Saddam Hussein," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters.
The interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC news was scheduled for broadcast the evening of December 16.
In the interview, Bush "made it very clear that it's not his view that matters. It's the view of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people will be the ones that will hold him accountable," McClellan said.
Bush has "made it very clear that that trial should be fair, it should be something that withstands international scrutiny. He's made it very clear that the Iraqi people should know that Saddam Hussein will be held to account for the atrocities he committed and for the brutality he carried out on the Iraqi people. He's going to face the justice that he denied to millions of Iraqis while he was in power for decades," McClellan said.
U.S. WELCOMES FRENCH, GERMAN COMMITMENT TO BAKER ON IRAQ DEBT
Former Secretary of State and of Treasury James Baker, President Bush's personal representative for talks on restructuring Iraq's debt, had "some very good meetings" in Paris and Berlin December 16 with French President Jacques Chirac and with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, McClellan told reporters.
The White House also released a statement December 16 on the Baker trip, saying that Bush had spoken with Baker about his discussions with Chirac and Schroeder.
"Debt restructuring and reduction is critical to helping the Iraqi people build a free and prosperous nation," the statement said. "Therefore, France, Germany, and the United States agree that there should be substantial debt reduction for Iraq in the Paris Club in 2004, and will work closely with each other and with other countries to achieve this objective. What specifically constitutes 'substantial' debt reduction will be determined by future agreement between the parties."
McClellan said "We appreciate the commitment by France and Germany to work to restructure and reduce the debt burden on the Iraqi people."
"We appreciated the commitments they made on the need to restructure and reduce the debt burden and certainly the need for the Paris Club to address this next year," McClellan said.
"We all share the same goal of helping the Iraqi people build a better future, build a future that is free and prosperous. And Secretary Baker will continue his work to seek to restructure and reduce the debt burden on the Iraqi people, because the Iraqi people should not be saddled with the debt of the former regime that was more interested in using money to build palaces and torture chambers and rape rooms than it was in helping the Iraqi people."
McClellan said the estimate of Iraq's debt burden is somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 billion.
Baker also met December 16 in Paris with the Iraqi finance minister and the Iraqi central bank governor, McClellan reported.
On December 17 Baker will meet with Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and then will meet with Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, and later in the week will go to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, before returning to the United States.
BUSH SIGNS INTO LAW BILL ESTABLISHING NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BLACK HISTORY AND CULTURE
President Bush December 16 signed into law legislation establishing a national museum of black history and culture as part of the Smithsonian Institution.
Representative John Lewis, (Democrat-Georgia) and a former civil rights leader, had introduced legislation in each Congress since 1988 to create the museum.
The estimated $400 million initial price tag would be split evenly between federal government and private sources.
The bill authorizes $17 million in the first year to start the project. Bush's signature clears the way for fund raising and for the Smithsonian Board of Regents to choose a site.
BUSH SIGNS SIX OTHER BILLS INTO LAW
President Bush went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) December 16 to sign legislation aimed at helping families that can afford monthly mortgage payments but not the initial costs associated with buying a house.
"One of the biggest hurdles to homeownership is getting money for a down payment," Bush said in his remarks. "This administration has recognized that, and so today I'm honored to be here to sign a law that will help many low-income buyers to overcome that hurdle, and to achieve an important part of the American Dream."
Through grants to state and local governments, low-income families would receive an average of about $5,000 to be help cover down payment and closing costs on a first home.
Bush also signed a number of other measures, including:
-- legislation aimed at stemming the flood of unwanted e-mails. The measure outlaws the techniques used by e-mailers who send tens of millions of "spam" messages each day to promote products and services.
The bill would supplant tougher anti-spam laws already passed in some states, including California. It also encourages the Federal Trade Commission to create a do-not-spam list of e-mail addresses and includes penalties for spammers of up to five years in prison in rare circumstances.
-- legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration for four years. The measure is aimed at ensuring that air travelers will continue to have access to a safe and secure aviation system. The bill shields all air traffic control jobs from privatization for a year and calls for self-defense training for flight attendants and gives cargo pilots permission to carry guns.
-- legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration additional authority to require pediatric studies to ensure safe use of medicines in children. It allows the FDA to require testing of drugs for use in children when drug firms do not test them voluntarily.
-- legislation to expand the benefits program for veterans and their surviving spouses. Among the benefits, it allows many surviving spouses of veterans who die of a service-related cause to qualify for restoration of benefits that were taken away when they remarried; makes it easier for disabled veterans who own businesses to sell their goods and services to the Federal government; gives a 13-percent-higher college-assistance payment to surviving children of those killed in the line of duty; and allows for a lower fee to be charged to reservists who use the Veterans ' Affairs home loan program.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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