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Special Event

President Bush, President Mubarak Hold News Conference After Morning Meetings

Aired April 2, 2001 - 12:14 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

On that same topic we want to take you live now to the White House, where President Bush is meeting with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Let's go ahead and listen in to the two presidents.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had the honor of meeting the president a couple of years ago. I found him to be an engaging, charming, strong leader then. My opinion hasn't changed after our good, frank discussion today.

We're friends. We will remain friends. And we'll work together to bring peace to the Middle East. And we'll work together to try to convince all parties involved to lay down their arms, for there to be less violence.

I'm also committed to working with the president on relations -- economic relations that will be to the advantage of both our countries.

And so it is my high honor to welcome President Mubarak here to the Oval Office and to the United States.

Mr. President?

PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPT: Thank you.

I'm so pleased to come here for the first time to meet with my friend President Bush in the Oval Office.

He's a friend. I knew him some time ago, and I'm very keen to work with him on all issues concerning the Middle East, especially the Middle East problem. We are working very hard and we are going to cooperate very hard in the direction of peace, because our main concern is peace and stability in the area of the Middle East, which is in the interest of the United States, of Egypt, Jordan and all countries in the area.

We are going to do our best to cooperate with the main players of the United States, and I have great hopes that President Bush will do the maximum effort for that so as to reach lessening the tension and resume negotiations, which is vitally important.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: On China, do you consider the American service personnel hostages? And secondly, is it true that the Chinese have already boarded our Navy spy plane, and how do you react to that?

BUSH: My reaction is is that the Chinese must promptly allow us to have contact with the 24 airmen and women that are there and return our plane to us without any further tampering.

I sent a very clear message, and I expect them to heed the message.

QUESTION: Have they boarded the plane, sir?

BUSH: My message stands for itself.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Yes, ma'am?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Actually, sir, I had another question all together, but the point is...

BUSH: Did Gregory steal your question? That's very hospitable of you.

QUESTION: The Middle East situation, sir, is deteriorating day by day. The press is speculating the American administration is disengaging itself from the area. Can the Middle East afford this vacuum by the absence of an active American role, and have you formulated a new approach, if any?

President Mubarak, please comment after.

BUSH: Well, we're very engaged in the Middle East and will remain so.

As a matter of fact, the secretary of state has been involved on the telephone this morning with Prime Minister Sharon.

I have had numerous telephone conversations with leaders in the Middle East. I'll continue to be actively engaged at promoting a peaceful resolution of the issue. After all, most of our conversation today was talking about how to bring peace in the Middle East.

BUSH: I understand that we can facilitate peace. We can't force a peace. And we will use our prestige and influence as best we can to facilitate a peace.

Part of it is to build a strong foundation for peace in Middle East. It's important for us to build strong relationships with countries such as Egypt and Jordan and other countries in the Middle East who have got a stake in peace.

We will remain very actively engaged, and hopefully, there will be positive results. It is very important for people to realize that the United States will not set a timetable that meets our specific needs.

The only lasting peace is one in which the parties involved come to the table, and the role for strong countries like ourselves and Egypt is to encourage, first, the violence to end, and secondly, for discussions to begin again. And I'm very optimistic and hopeful that we will be able to achieve that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Hold on.

AP man, AP man, excuse me?

Oh, sorry, sorry.

MUBARAK: I think the president told you everything about that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Good point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MUBARAK: He is committed to work for peace. We are not going to impose any solution on the parties. We are going to facilitate the situation, so they can sit together, negotiate, and we will help them to reach a final conclusion for peace, because all of us need the stability in the area.

QUESTION: The U.S.-Egyptian relation is bigger than just the peace (OFF-MIKE)...

BUSH: Of course.

QUESTION: ... is that true?

BUSH: Oh, absolutely. The U.S.-Egyptian relationship is about economic commerce, it's about cultural exchanges -- absolutely. But one of the key things is that we can use our historic relationship to work together to bring peace in the Middle East. It's an important part of our relationship, but not the only important part -- Tom.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you see this accident as a provocation on the part of China or a true accident? And what will it do to U.S.-Chinese relationships, especially your decision on selling arms to Taiwan?

BUSH: Well, I made a very clear statement about how I viewed the incident. It is clear that we had a plane flying over international waters that was damaged. It landed. And we expect there to be contact as soon as possible with our crew members, and we expect that plane to be returned to us.

KAGAN: A little slice of life there inside the White House. The White House press corps being a little bit unruly trying to get their last questions in there to President Mubarak of Egypt and President Bush.

President Mubarak makes this visit once a year since he has been in the office for about the last 20 years. This year, though, particularly important is he is trying to encourage the Bush administration not to step back from the Middle East peace initiatives in the wake of things getting so violent and out of control in that region. President Bush, you can hear, sticking to his stance that he doesn't want to force a time line, doesn't want to force a time line on that area that they are not comfortable with.

You also heard the president answering questions about the situation with the U.S. spy plane on the ground now in China, the president once again demanding access to the 24 crewmen attached to that plane. Also, the president did not answer the reporter's question about whether Chinese officials had been on board that plane.

However, if you were with us, you heard our Beijing bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon tell us that CNN has learned that at least once Chinese officials have been on board that plane. More on that story as well as Mr. Mubarak's visit just ahead.

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