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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

White House News Conference

Aired October 5, 2001 - 12:15   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Here is Ari Fleischer.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good afternoon.

Want to give you a run down on the president's events for the day. The president, this morning, spoke with Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia. The president thanked the prime minister for his letter of condolences, and has offered to cooperate in the campaign against terrorism. President Bush discussed his doctrine to take action against terrorists and their sanctuaries. He proposed further talks on concrete actions and cooperation between the United States and Ethiopia. And Prime Minister Meles assured President Bush of Ethiopia's support over the long haul of the campaign. And he said he understood the president's strategy and affirmed Ethiopia was ready to play its role.

The president, also this morning, spoke with President Moi of Kenya. President Moi offered his condolences to President Bush and to the American people, and expressed his understanding of the cost of terrorist acts, having dealt with the 1998 attack on the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. President Bush thanked the president for his understanding and his offer to work closely with the United States to win this battle against terrorism. And President Bush emphasized the need for cooperation on many fronts -- financial, intelligence, diplomatic and military.

He suggested further talks between the United States and Kenya on how to meet these challenges ahead. President Bush also recognized that Kenya lives in a tough neighbor with others that harbor terrorists. And he acknowledged that President Moi's leadership on the Sudan and told President Moi that he should soon expect a visit from Sudan special envoy, Senator Danforth, a man respected across the United States, who is acting on the president's behalf.

Following his phone calls, the president convened a meeting of the National Security Council earlier this morning. He will meet, shortly, this afternoon with President Shevardnadze of Georgia to discuss bilateral relations and other regional issues, and he will department for Camp David in mid-afternoon and will be at Camp David for the weekend.

There will be other events, and I'll have a week ahead a the conclusion of this briefing.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what the president's reaction was to Prime Minister Sharon's comments yesterday?

FLEISCHER: Yesterday, Prime Minister Sharon issued a statement in which he said that the United States should not repeat the mistakes of the west in 1938 and appease the Arabs at Israeli expense. He said, quote, "Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," warning that Israel, quote, "will not be Czechoslovakia." And the president believes that these remarks are unacceptable. Israel could have no better or stronger friend that the United States and better friend that President Bush.

President Bush is an especially close ally of Israel. The United States has been and will continue to work very hard to secure peace in the Middle East, to press the parties to end the violence and return to a political dialog and that will continue to be the goals and the policies of the United States.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? First of all, how is -- to call that unacceptable is a pretty strong response from you publicly and from the president. How is that sentiment being communicated Prime Minister Sharon with the president or has he called him? And what more, then, do you think needs to be done now by the president, by this administration to work with Israel or communicate the goals and bring Israel a little bit closer into this effort?

FLEISCHER: The president's message was conveyed in three ways.

It was conveyed through the embassy in Israel; it was conveyed through the National Security Council; and it was conveyed through the State Department. Secretary Powell has spoken with the prime minister.

But in terms of, you ask basically what comes next, what comes next is, the president hopes, a rededication of all the parties to achieving peace in the Middle East. I repeat: Israel has no better friend than the United States. Israel will continue to have no better friend than the United States.

QUESTION: Well, my question was, evidently Prime Minister Sharon may not feel that way at the moment or is feeling something that leads him to make comments that he did.

So what is the president have to do or the administration have to do to bring Israel on board in this coalition perhaps in a way that has not been done before?

FLEISCHER: Well, this was a statement in regard to the Middle East peace process. This is not part of the broader coalition exercise involving terrorism and the events of September 11.

So the statement, though, speaks for itself. The president has conveyed his message. He's conveyed it privately; he conveyed it publicly. The statement speaks for itself.

And what comes next is the importance of reaffirming the peace process in Israel so that violence can be diminished.

QUESTION: Has the president talked to the prime minister? If not, why not? And what did the secretary of state say in this conversation?

FLEISCHER: The president has not. As always, anytime calls are made I will try to give you information.

But the secretary spoke to the prime minister about the importance of returning to the peace process and made clear the reaction of the president to the statements that the prime minister had made.

QUESTION: Why didn't the president make that call himself?

FLEISCHER: This was the appropriate manner in which to get the message across.

QUESTION: Ari, you said that the premise of the statement was unacceptable. What's the president's opinion of the particular historical reference that Sharon made?

FLEISCHER: I think it speaks for itself, the reference to appeasement. Israel has no better friend than the United States and will continue to have no better friend than the United States.

QUESTION: Does the president believe that terrorists around the world get support, suckle funding in part because of Israeli policies of occupation, settlement and reprisal, and U.S. support for those policies? And as part of the campaign against terrorism, does the president believe those policies and U.S. support for them must change?

FLEISCHER: You know, terrorism exists in the world in all kinds of shapes and forms. And I think it's sad to say, but if a beautiful and perfect lasting peace were brought to the Middle East today, terrorism would still exist in this world. And the president is committed, in the wake of the attacks on our country on September 11, to take this campaign against those terrorists and against those continuing to harbor terrorists.

QUESTION: But to gain an understanding of the phenomenon of terrorism in order to combat it, are Israel's policies part of the problem?

FLEISCHER: Peace in the Middle East is intrinsically good in its own merits, on its own, regardless of anything that is happening in the world.

FLEISCHER: And that's why the president feels so strong that in the wake of this attack it's important for people in the region to seize this opportunity and recommit themselves to the peace process.

QUESTION: Have the events of September 11 brought more urgency or changed the administration's approach to the peace process in the Middle East? FLEISCHER: No. The American policy toward peace in the Middle East is just as strongly committed to the peace process and is identical to the policies established prior to September 11 as it is today. Those events have not changed American policy.

QUESTION: Are you seeking an apology from Prime Minister Sharon or some sort of public statement from him explaining what he meant?

FLEISCHER: I think the statement speaks for itself. The message has been conveyed both privately and publicly.

QUESTION: Ari, can you tell us what message the prime minister communicated to the secretary of state...

FLEISCHER: No, I don't speak for foreign leaders.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up, too? And aide to the prime minister saying today that the prime minister did not imply in any way that America and its leaders were dealing in a dishonorable way. What the prime minister intended was to make a warning to everyone, including ourselves, but especially to the leaders of the free world, that appeasement never works. Your response to that clarification apparently...

FLEISCHER: Again, the president's statement speaks for itself.

QUESTION: Ari, President Bush will be meeting shortly with the president of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, who was the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, and I believe a strong supporter of pulling Russian troops out of Afghanistan. Is this something that will be discussed, Afghanistan...

FLEISCHER: Well, the meeting will begin in just about an hour, and I'll be there and I'll try to let you know after the meeting is over.

QUESTION: Ari, is it the administration's understanding that these remarks by Sharon were prompted by the talk of an eventual Palestinian state? Or is it something aimed at our efforts to build a coalition among Arab states, even some who were previously supporters of terrorism?

FLEISCHER: I can't divine the reasons that foreign leaders say what they say. It's not my place to do so.

But I do note that what the president said about the end of a negotiated settlement, the vision has always included, of course, a Palestinian state, so long as the right of Israel to exist in peace and security is also recognized.

That's very similar to what Prime Minister Sharon himself said on September 24. The prime minister himself said Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else has given them, the possibility of establishing a state. So their remarks on that question are similar actually. QUESTION: And that's what makes me wonder if it is related to something other than those remarks. Did the Israeli government in any way convey the meaning of what he said in public to the United States?

FLEISCHER: No. There's no other information I have on it. The remarks, as you've heard them, are from the prime minister.

QUESTION: To also follow-up, is the administration saying at this point it would be better for Israel to reduce the size or close down some of the settlements, which many Israelis approve of, and also to retreat into some sort of fortress, Israel?

FLEISCHER: That is all part of the Mitchell accords. The Mitchell accords discuss the eventual other items that come with political talks, but it begins with security. And it's hard to get to that point, until the cease-fire can be enforced in the Middle East and that the parties agree to pursue peace. But the American position is unchanged, that the settlement policy is unhelpful.

QUESTION: But some Israelis even believe that the settlements detract from security of Israel.

FLEISCHER: I just said what American policy is on it.

QUESTION: Congressional Intelligence Committee, (OFF-MIKE) this administration has sent out some mixed messages and the possibility that the attack in the past week, saying it was (inaudible) do you agree that there is a 100 percent likelihood of attacks if we go into Afghanistan?

FLEISCHER: What John is referring to is a statement that was made at a classified briefing, as was explained in one of the newspaper's this morning. And obviously, anytime something is a part of a classified briefing, I think, people don't know everything else that was discussed in the briefing, they don't have the full context of what was discussed. Obviously, one item of a classified briefing was provided.

Suffice it to say, the threat remains, and that's what the president has always said. There is a threat in the United States. I can't quantify that threat, but the president has made clear and has spoken forthrightly with the American people.

Now, in the wake of an attack that none of us saw specific information related to, it is important to note that threats remain. That's also why the president is so determined to pursue the course that the United States and so many other nations around the world are on, which is to take action against the terrorists and against those who continue to harbor the terrorists, because that is the best way to protect and prevent further attacks to the American people. That's also a reminder of the importance in the Congress of passing legislation that gives the law enforcement community more tools that it needs, so they can prevent any such attacks.

QUESTION: Is this particular piece of intelligence is out there in the open now, can you say that the president was given those same indications?

FLEISCHER: I'm not discussing any intelligence information provided to the president.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on a letter from the prime minister of India to President Bush over the suicide (inaudible) bombing in India, over 35 people died. And what the prime minister said to President Bush in the letter that this is the same group, which is based in Pakistan and they have claimed responsibility and they are close to Osama bin Laden and they have said that they...

FLEISCHER: The bombing you're referencing? Say it again?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: The Kashmir bombing.

QUESTION: Right. And also, when prime minister was here this week and he also said at the State Department that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the principal exporters of terrorism and they have the groups based in Pakistan and they claimed all the responsibility toward Osama bin Laden and Taliban. One thing on Capitol Hill last week, when I went for news conference that was sponsored by the senators and congressmen, a group of Pakistanis here also said that they are the freedom fighters. How can the (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Well, when the president met with Foreign Minister Singh of India earlier this week, the president directly condemned the terrorist act, attacking Kashmir. And the president has said terrorism must end everywhere and that includes in Kashmir, so the president made that very clear, directly himself, to the Indian foreign minister.

QUESTION: As we know, there are many countries in the Middle East that are reluctant (OFF-MIKE) on his recent trip just concluding now, obviously, the president has spoken with Secretary Rumsfeld.

Is the president satisfied that one Saudi Arabia is now fully backing the United States in its ability to launch strikes on one of its air bases or more and also, it could use its big command and control facility? And two, in Uzbekistan, as the president satisfied that the president of Uzbekistan is giving support for the United States (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: The answer is yes on both fronts. The answer is yes on both fronts. The president and, from the first day, has been very satisfied with the actions of the Saudi government and the Saudi people and on the question of Uzbekistan.

Again, throughout the world, the cooperation and the help that the United States has been getting on a whole series of actions, some that involve political action, some that involve diplomatic action, some that involve information or intelligence sharings, others that can involve things military. The president has been very encouraged by the reactions around the world, including those two nations. QUESTION: Were you confirming that his question, including is the Saudi Arabia on this (OFF-MIKE) Command & Control Center and their base...

FLEISCHER: No. I said the president is satisfied with all actions. I'm not going to go down list by list, operation by operation. As you know, I don't discuss any of those matters. QUESTION: Ari, there are people on the Hill who want to give Governor Ridge -- he's still governor -- more authority by making the position a confirmable position. Why would the White House propose something like that?

FLEISCHER: The president just doesn't see the need for it.

FLEISCHER: It's just not necessary. The office can get up and running -- it will be on Monday -- without needing to take that step. Governor Ridge will be a member of the Cabinet and will play a very valuable role in coordinating the various agencies that have been involved in the fight against terrorism. And it's just not necessary.

It's similar to the National Security Council. Dr. Rice has done a very good job, of course, for this country. She's not Senate confirmed. It's not a necessary prerequisite for a government official to do a good job on behalf of the president, on behalf of the war against terrorism. There's no need for it.

QUESTION: Well, if I could just follow on that, should, specifically, should Governor Ridge have the power to have control over the spending on terrorism in other agencies' budgets? There's also -- that's part of the proposal on the Hill.

FLEISCHER: At the time that the office is formally put in place next week -- and I'll get to this in the week-ahead -- you'll receive information about the office, and you'll hear more at that time next week. So that will be addressed in time.

QUESTION: May I follow on that, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The president has to issue some sort of executive order, though, right, setting up the office and outlining Ridge's responsibilities?

FLEISCHER: As I indicated, there will be additional information forthcoming at the time that the office begins next week.

QUESTION: So when will that executive order -- if it starts Monday, it has to come before Monday.

FLEISCHER: We're on Monday.

QUESTION: Ari, could I return to something you discussed yesterday at some length, which was the release by Prime Minister Blair of the documents? You said to us a few times during the past few weeks that you were concerned that there was no way to release a sanitized version of the white paper, or whatever you'd like to call it, without revealing sources and methods.

Prime Minister Blair released a paper; we all learned some new facts from it. From your review of that, have you concluded that the British government revealed American sources and methods or anybody's sources and methods?

FLEISCHER: No, the government, as any government, of the United Kingdom or any other nation is free to do as it sees fit. And that's not -- we talked to the government of Britain about that prior to the release of their document, and their document speaks for itself.

QUESTION: That wasn't the question. I didn't ask whether you talked -- the question was, having reviewed the document that came out, have you now concluded that they jeopardized sources and methods in what they delineated in the document?

FLEISCHER: The manor in which that document was released provides no difficulties for the United States.

QUESTION: OK, so it was possible, then, to turn out a document that did not reveal sources and methods. Why couldn't the United States have done that?

FLEISCHER: As I indicated, different governments do different things for different reasons, and we're pleased to see what they've done.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: Do you want another one?

QUESTION: Just to make sure I understand what you're saying here. In the end, then, it was a question of desire, not a question of whether or not you could have done it without revealing sources and methods.

FLEISCHER: Well, I think, as you take a careful look at the document that was released, much of it pertains to events in the past not directly related to the events of September 11, and it's a very constructive document in all regards.

QUESTION: Ari, yesterday you wouldn't say whether there was any consultation between the White House and the Blair administration...

FLEISCHER: No, what I indicated yesterday was I had to look into it and find out.

QUESTION: So was that confirmation...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: That's correct. That's correct. QUESTION: ... consultation over the language?

FLEISCHER: That's correct. That's what State Department indicated yesterday, and that's exactly what I just said.

QUESTION: Consultation over the language?

FLEISCHER: Consultation over the preparation of the document. We talk all the time and share information all the time with foreign nations. But the document was prepared by the United Kingdom. We were consulted in the process.

QUESTION: Can I just follow on one point about, you said that different governments do different things for different reasons. What were Britain's reasons, and do they differ at all from United States intentions here...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: It's harder to imagine being any more shoulder to shoulder than the United States and Britain have been and continue to be.

QUESTION: So what different reason would there be?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think that's a way of saying you need to check with foreign governments for them to explain what they do. I appreciate the opportunity to be the spokesman for several different nations this morning -- I'm not.

QUESTION: Tell me why our government let Britain release this information. And more importantly, why did our government release...

FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, you suggest we let Britain do that. That's not the case. Governments are sovereign and governments take actions as they see fit and appropriate. And as I indicated, this reading of the document here is it's a constructive document. But as I indicated, different governments do different things, different nations in the coalition will do different things in the course of the coalition efforts.

QUESTION: But why did we not object to Britain release this information? And why did this government not give Americans the same information?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... have to come from Britain, why not the White House?

FLEISCHER: Because different nations do different things for different reasons, just as I indicated.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... tell me why this country decided... FLEISCHER: This is, I think, a document that the people in this room are looking for, which I must point out, I'm not sure that there's a clamor from the American people. The American people seem very satisfied with the evidence that has been discussed in front of the American people; so, too, our allies.

So to isolate it, I think the issue is for people in this room, that if you were to see such a document produced by the American government you would quickly say, "How do you know this?"

FLEISCHER: And the only answer to those questions are to get into sources and methods, and that's just something that we are not going to do.

QUESTION: Ari, as was stated in the Washington Post and also at the podium by the president, threats still exist (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and one the issues that have been discussed in Congress' airport security, and it seems to be a gap between what Leader Tom Daschle is saying and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott is saying. And I wonder if the president feels different the differences can be bridged...

FLEISCHER: The president does believe that differences can be bridged. And the president also recognizes that in all matters domestic there are going to be, inevitably, disputes. There are going to be differences between Democrats and Republicans; sometimes Democrats and Democrats; other times, Republicans and Republicans.

And so, on the domestic agenda, the president will continue to push for a package of aviation security steps. He already, as you know, has taken a series of actions to increase the number of air marshals, to strengthen cockpit doors, to have the National Guard deployed at various airports. So a series of actions have already been taken on aviation safety. There are additional actions that Congress can take, and the president's going to continue to work with Congress on that.

QUESTION: Senator Lott has said he wants no riders. He wants, like a straight bill at this stage. It seems Senator Daschle has his own point of view on his Democratic colleague. And now the project has been pushed until next week, and it may even be delayed. Is the president willing to try to get sides together on the...

FLEISCHER: Well, the president shares the concern about attaching extraneous items to a bill that should focus on aviation security. So the president shares that concern.

QUESTION: In the wake that Pan Am 103 disaster, I believe it was, the U.S. government put into effect a policy of no double standard as far as terrorist threats go. Whatever some people in the government are told, the entire general public should be warned about it in the same time. Is that policy still in effect? And can you explain why the executive branch would feel it's appropriate to tell members of Congress that there's a 100 percent threat of -- or a 100 percent likelihood of future terrorist action here and not to give the same warning to the American people? FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think addressed that topic earlier when I told you that, obviously one items is reported to have been released from a classified briefing. Other items took place in a classified setting that can put context around information. So my answer to that is exactly as I answered some 15 minutes ago.

QUESTION: Well, but aren't the American people entitled -- you're saying the American are not entitled to the same information about the overall level of threat that is being given to the members of Congress in classified briefings?

FLEISCHER: If you're asking me, do people who don't have classified briefings have an ability to receive classified information, as you know, the government has classified information that is shared with the Intelligence Committee.

FLEISCHER: And I think that's another very, very clever way of saying, "I release classified information". I will not.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Yesterday's briefing in its entirety was a classified briefing.

QUESTION: Wait a second, I mean that doesn't make any sense to me. You're saying the level of threat to tell the American people what threat they're under right now would reveal facts (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I've discussed the level of threat. I have said as forthrightly as is possible, and that you heard it from the president, you've heard it from everybody in the administration. And the threat remains.

If you're asking me to quantify that threat, I'm not able to do that, and that's what you're asking me to do -- you're asking to put a number on a threat, and I'm not in a position to do that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Because there's...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you do it for Congress, why can't you do it for the...

FLEISCHER: Again, you're presuming that from the story this morning. I'm not going to discuss anything that may or may not have taken place in a classified session.

QUESTION: But Ari, isn't it your responsibility of the president to (OFF-MIKE) you need to be square with the American people and say, "When we attack, we expect a reasonable probability that we are going to be attacked ourselves, so we have to prepare for that...

FLEISCHER: I don't think the president can be any more forthright than he's been. He has said to the American people from the beginning that this is going to be a different type of war, and that the American people have to be prepared that the threat remains.

The president has also said that this will not be as antiseptic as previous wars -- that the American people have to prepare for casualties in this war. The president has said that and has addressed to the Congress. So there have been a series of things that the president has said. And the administration standard will continue to be the forthright release of information filling the American people in. And that's exactly what has been done.

But the line that you're trying to draw is trying to get me to discuss anything that may or may not be classified and I'm not going to do that. I don't know any other way to say it, that the threats remain.

QUESTION: No, I'm not trying to get you to discuss if it's classified; I'm just saying does the not have a responsibility to sit down and tell the American people, it's very likely we're going to be attacked when we begin hostilities?

FLEISCHER: The American people have heard that message from the president, that threats remain and...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Well, you're asking if there's any specific or credible and the president will; whenever there is a way to share information with the public that is helpful to the public, he will continue to provide it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) has already been made to the Intelligence Committee is that there is something specific and credible. I'm saying is the president -- does he not need to tell that to the American people?

FLEISCHER: The president will continue to share information with the American people.

QUESTION: Twice now the president has said -- once, I believe, at FEMA and once yesterday, that 150 members of the Al Qaeda organization have been rounded up. Was he talking about domestic arrests or international arrest?

FLEISCHER: Let me find out about that for you. He said at FEMA -- he talked about 150 terrorists, and then he paused and said people associated with the al Qaeda organization. Let me try to find out if he means domestic or -- right, that's correct. He said that same figure at FEMA, as he said at -- I believe it was yesterday at the State Department.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: We'll find out.

QUESTION: Well, he did, though -- I just want to -- that he did it. In FEMA, he talked about 150 terrorists or those supporting terrorists. He never mentioned specifically Al Qaeda, I believe. Yesterday is when he said 150 terrorists associated with the al Qaeda organization, which is a big difference.

FLEISCHER: Yes. He said, just as I put it. He said 150 terrorists, -- comma -- people associated with the al Qaeda organization.

QUESTION: So the position is?

FLEISCHER: I'll take the question and get back to you.

QUESTION: Ari, the Ways & Means chairman rescheduled a vote on trade promotion authority today. I'm wondering does the White House think that the House should move more slowly on that legislation, maybe in the interest of not creating divisiveness over there?

FLEISCHER: The White house believes that trade promotion authority should be moved through the House and through the Senate and it has to be done in a bipartisan fashion, and it should be done in a time and in a way so that it can be agreed to and signed into law.

FLEISCHER: And, as you know, Ambassador Zoellick and Secretary Evans issued a statement praising Chairman Thomas's leadership on moving a TPA through the Congress. And, by definition, the only way to get trade promotion authority through the Congress is for it to be bipartisan.

QUESTION: So the White House isn't disappointed that it was delayed?

FLEISCHER: The timing is a matter for Congress to decide. The important thing is that the legislation proceed and get passed by the Congress so the president can sign it into law.

QUESTION: Ari, on the Russian airliner that went down in the Black Sea, does our government have any new information about the cause of the crash?

FLEISCHER: Well, all I can say is at this time we continue to see nothing that would support any theory that this was terrorist, but beyond that there is nothing more I can offer you on it.

QUESTION: Sir, I want to follow up on the visit of President Vicente Fox yesterday. I want to know the White House impression on it, if the timing was good, if it was on time, if the support offered by the Mexican government was sufficient and useful.

FLEISCHER: Yes. In the meeting in the Oval Office the president thanked President Fox for all that Mexico has done, for all their help to the United States at this time of need.

As you know, President Bush and President Fox have a very strong relationship, and I think the president was encouraged to receive President Fox yesterday.

QUESTION: There's a British report that the president might change his position on Kyoto. Anything on that?

FLEISCHER: Yes, I noted that report. There's nothing to it.

QUESTION: Ari, can you tell us whether...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I anticipate a statement from the president will be coming out a little later this afternoon.

QUESTION: There are some reports that the government of Finland released some information by accident -- the names of (inaudible) 17 member of the Al Qaeda organization. Do you have any information about those reports?

FLEISCHER: That's the first I've heard of the reports, so I've got nothing to offer on something I've just heard.

QUESTION: Week ahead?

FLEISCHER: OK, let me give the week-ahead.

QUESTION: Can I get on more on Mideast, though? Do you mind?

FLEISCHER: You may have your ninth question.

QUESTION: OK. What can account for some feeling on the (inaudible) of Israeli government that the U.S. might be changing its emphasis, that it might not be putting as much pressure on the Palestinians right now in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

FLEISCHER: Yes, again, I cannot presume to speak for motives of other people in other nations who speak as they do. I'd just reiterate the United States will continue to be Israel's best friend. Israel has no better friend than the United States, and that will continue.

QUESTION: Is there any sense...

FLEISCHER: The president will depart for Camp David this afternoon. Tomorrow he will have a meeting of his National Security Council via video teleconference.

On Sunday, the president and Mrs. Bush will attend the National Firefighters' Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland, before they return to the White House that afternoon.

On Monday, the president will attend the swearing in of Governor Tom Ridge in the East Room as director of the Office of Homeland Security. Later that day, the president will be joined by Liza Minnelli for the signing of the Columbus Day proclamation.

On Wednesday, the president will meet with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson in the Oval Office. And on Friday, the president and Mrs. Bush will host a reception in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Robertson is on Wednesday.

Thank you.

(END AUDIO FEED)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: White House correspondent Ari Fleischer there, at the end giving the president's schedule over the next few days, of course raising questions in the minds of many of us listening and watching what that says about any potential plan for military action. Of course, he didn't show his hand there; he said the president is going to be meeting with the head of NATO on Wednesday. Perhaps that's significant with regard to timing, perhaps not.

Quickly, Ari Fleischer was reiterating the White House was not happy with statements from the Israeli prime minter accusing the United States of, in effect, appeasing some of the Arab states. Ari Fleischer was saying that the administration has let the prime minister know through the embassy in Israel, through the National Security Council, and through a talk today with Secretary of State Powell with Prime Minister Sharon this kind of talk is unacceptable.

Quickly, Ari Fleischer was also saying, when asked about the statements yesterday in a classified briefing at the capital that there is a 100 percent chance of a terrorist attack if the United States moves on Afghanistan militarily, I can't comment on that; it was one item in a classified briefing, he said, without knowing the full context. But he repeated, suffice it to say, the threat of terrorism remains.

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