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Bush and Powell Meet at White House

Aired April 18, 2002 - 10:20   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we are waiting on some tape that's being fed right now into CNN from our folks who are covering the White House. As we said coming up in the show this hour, Secretary of State Colin Powell, he is back now from the Mideast peace mission, and he is about to have a meeting with President Bush this morning to officially give him his report of that trip. And we are just now getting live -- it's actually a videotape, rather, of the meeting -- of the scene actually at the White House as the two met this morning.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to welcome the secretary of state back to the Oval Office.

Presidents and secretaries of state have sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to reduce violence and bring peace to the Middle East.

The secretary went over with a vision on how to do that. We talked about two states living at peace with each other. He carried that message of hope and peace, that our nation will work hard to achieve a peace.

BUSH: He also carried a message that people must be focused and must work hard to achieve a peace. People in the region have got certain responsibilities.

The short-term responsibilities are these: The Palestinian Authority must act on its condemnation of terror. The Israelis are withdrawing (INAUDIBLE) and they must continue their withdrawals.

And neighbors in the region must condemn terror, cut off funding for terror, must make it clear that people who suicide bomb are not martyrs, if they kill (ph) are murderers of innocent people.

As well, the secretary's trip made it clear that our nation thinks beyond the short term, that we're serious when we talk about two states living side by side and that we're laying the foundations for peace, the structures necessary to get to peace.

Progress is being made toward our vision. In order for that vision to be achieved, leaders must take responsibility, leaders in the region must be responsible citizens for a peaceful world.

The secretary delivered that message loud and clear, and I want to thank him for his work.

Mr. Secretary?

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECY. OF STATE: Thank you, Mr. President.

I did try to deliver that message loud and clear, that the United States does have a vision, a vision that leads to two states living in peace, side by side, the only solution to this conflict.

And I talked about what the sides have to do with respect to restoring a sense of security to the two peoples and have confidence in one another and begin negotiations once again, so we put down a security element to our strategy.

And we made it clear to the leaders in the region that we wanted to move forward with negotiations as early as possible, and looking at different ways to do that once security has been established, linked negotiations closely to security.

And the third part of our framework was the humanitarian part. There will be a great need for humanitarian relief, for reconstruction efforts, and all of that has to be part of an integrated strategy. And we could begin working quickly on that integrated strategy if the Palestinian Authority and chairman Arafat and other Palestinian leaders not only denounce violence but take action to act against those who continue to encourage violence and perform acts of terrorism and violence.

The terrorism and violence has to stop, and I made that message very clear.

I'm pleased that the Israeli government is now continuing to withdraw. I hope it will be accelerated, and we will bring that in as quickly as possible because that is one of the difficulties that we have now in moving forward in the integrated strategy.

And Mr. President, we will be staying in close touch with the situation by phone and in various members of the administration who are already in the region, such as Ambassador Bill Burns and (INAUDIBLE) of the Department of State and other departments of government, to make sure that this strategy is understood, shared with our friends around the world when we're ready to execute it.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you said progress has been made. Where?

And secondly, do you believe that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace, and are you satisfied with his and his government's assurances that there was no massacre in Jenin?

BUSH: I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace. I think he wants -- I'm confident he wants Israel to be able to exist at peace with its neighbor -- with its neighbors. He's told us that here in the Oval Office. He has embraced the notion of two states living side by side.

And progress is made, Terry, as a result of the United States and the secretary of state going into the region and convincing the parties that we'll never get to peace if there is violence.

And the situation prior to the secretary's arrival was at a boiling point, and thanks to his hard work, he has laid out, not only a vision of hope, which is important, but has convinced others that these terrorist acts will forever and constantly undermine the capacity for peace.

As he mentioned and I mentioned, there were some withdrawals from the West Bank. Mr. Arafat did condemn terror and we will hold him to account.

This is a part of the world where killing has been going on for a long, long time, and one trip by the secretary of state is not going to prevent that from happening. But one trip by the secretary of state laid out the framework and the path to achieve peace. The United States has an obligation to do just that and he did, and I have done that and we will continue to do that.


BUSH: I was told by the prime minister a couple of days ago that they were withdrawing from Jenin and I believe they will. We'll see what the evidence says.

QUESTION: You said yesterday that you (INAUDIBLE) to engaged in the Middle East. What is the next step to...

BUSH: Yes. Well...

QUESTION: Is it the great (INAUDIBLE) international...

BUSH: Let's make sure that everybody understands that we have been engaged from the beginning of this administration. The Mitchell Plan came into being as a result of the commission that President Clinton called together. The secretary of state and myself and the administration embraced the Mitchell Plan. It is a way to achieve peace. All parties signed onto it. We worked to get them to sign on to it.

The Tenet Plan was the result of this administration sending George Tenet in the region to lay out a security cooperation agreement, and so -- not leading into your question, I just want to make it clear that the history of this administration shows that the Middle East is an incredibly important part of our foreign policy.

I went to the United Nations and spoke clearly about two nations living side-by-side.

And so, not only have we been, as they say "engaged." Of course, we will be engaged. It is essential that we continue to work to fight terror. There will never be peace in parts of the world unless we're willing to route out terror. And as I said in my speech yesterday, that this war against terror is a part of making sure the world is not only safer, but eventually, and as importantly, better.

And as the secretary said, that there must be a humanitarian aspect to peace in the Middle East, that people must have hope, that the hope doesn't come from killing. That the hope comes from the ability to realize what all of us want, which is to raise our children in a peaceful and security environment. I hope they get educated and people can realize their entrepreneurial dreams. And that is exactly where our vision is.

And that's why we will be engaged not only there, but around the world as we fight terror. This is the calling of our time to fight terror. And this government will be strong in our battle against terror.

QUESTION: Mr. President, does it trouble you that Israel hasn't withdrawn without delay, as you requested (OFF-MIKE) still stand for a full and immediate withdrawal?

BUSH: Well, Israel started withdrawing quickly after our call, from smaller cities on the West Bank. History will show that they've responded. And as the prime minister said, told me, he gave me a timetable and he's met the timetable.

In Ramallah, there is an issue with the Zeevi (ph) Five killers. They are housed in the basement where Colin visited with Mr. Arafat. And we will work with the Israelis to figure out a solution to the Zeevi Five. These people are accused of killing a Cabinet official of the Israeli government, and I can understand why the prime minister wants them brought to justice. They should be brought to justice if they killed this man in cold blood.

And so I can -- the situation in Ramallah is based on that particular part of the problem. In terms of the Church of the Nativity, hopefully progress is being made. Once the people are out of the Church of the Nativity, Israel will pull back out of Bethlehem. This is good progress. I'm convinced the secretary of state's trip helped achieve this progress. Listen, thank you all.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.


BUSH: You fired your shot in South America.


QUESTION: Are you tired, Mr. Secretary?




QUESTION: Happy birthday.

POWELL: Thanks very much.

HARRIS: Now, what we have been watching here is videotape that was collected at the White House by the press corps that has been covering Secretary Powell's trip to the Mideast and President Bush's events there at the White House as well. And we heard President Bush in questions from the press talk about something that has been questioned quite a bit in the press, whether or not Secretary Powell's trip overseas actually produced any progress. President Bush is quite convinced that it did. He says before Secretary Powell's arrival, the situation was threatening to boil over. That is not the case right now.

He also said that Yasser Arafat did condemn terror, and that it is now up to him to actually act on that condemnation of terror -- acts of terror. And he also said that Secretary Powell did successfully lay out a framework and a path to achieve peace in the Middle East. He says that's all part of the wider mission the U.S. has to fight terror around the world. This, he said, is the calling of our time.

We'll talk about this some more. Coming up after the break, we'll go to our Wolf Blitzer, who is standing by in Jerusalem. He has been listening to the speech, as well as our John King, who is at the White House. We'll get some analysis of what we heard this morning. So stay with us. We'll take a break right now.


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Before the break, we were listening to President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell giving us something of a report card of Secretary Powell's trip to Mideast in his mission for peace. And also listening in was our John King, our White House correspondent from the White House, as well as Wolf Blitzer, who is over in Jerusalem and has been for some time.

Let's start with you, John. I'd like to your thoughts on what it was that you heard, and particularly I would like to ask you about a point I heard President Bush make when he said, this is something that has disputed in the press quite a bit of late, that we have been engaged from the beginning of this administration.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question would be the level of engagement, Leon, in the region. Many Arab states, the Palestinians certainly believe that President Bush himself could have been more engaged much more early on. That Secretary Powell could have been much more engaged on day-to-day basis. President Bush has left this, first, in the hands of diplomats in the region, and assistant secretary of state, Ambassador Bill Burns, then General Zinni, his special envoy. No question now that the level has risen to the fact that this is an urgent, daily concern for the president. Looking forward, that will be the test.

I want to make one other key point. Looking forward, perhaps most significant in what we just heard from the president, was he all but endorsed the continued Israeli military presence around Yasser Arafat's Palestinian compound in Ramallah. President Bush saying he agrees with Prime Minister Sharon that five suspected killers of an Israeli cabinet member, who are holed up in that compound, should be brought to justice. So the president giving the green light, even as he calls on Israel to accelerate the pullout from other Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank. The president saying he fully understands the Israeli military's presence around the Palestinian compound. That is a key issue with Yasser Arafat, that is a demand the Palestinians have made on the United States to pressure Israel to get out of Arafat's compound. The president just saying moments ago, he understands why the Israelis are there. That will be significant as this goes forward in the days and weeks ahead.

HARRIS: A very good point, John. On that point, let's go over to Wolf Blitzer now in Jerusalem. Wolf, how is that likely to be interpreted there?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Israeli government officials are going to be very happy with what the president just said on that specific point. The five suspected gunmen, the five suspected terrorists who are accused by the Israelis of having assassinated the Israeli tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi.

The Israelis says that if Arafat hands over those five individuals to the Israelis, then they will withdrawal from that area surrounding Yasser Arafat's headquarters compound, and Arafat will be able to go back to doing what he used to do before the Israeli assault began at the end of the month. That's what the Israeli defense minister, Benyamin Ben-Eliezer, told me here on CNN yesterday.

So that's a very specific point the Israelis will be very happy to hear what the president had to say on those five suspected terrorists.

They will also be happy to hear what the president said about the standoff that continues in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square, not far from where I am right now. The Israelis saying they will pullout of Bethlehem once those 200 armed Palestinians withdraw from the church. Some of them will be tried -- will have an option to be tried in Israel, and others will be allowed to be exiled from this part of the world forever.

The Palestinians have rejected those two proposals put forward by the Israelis. There are now all sorts of other intermediaries coming in. The mayor of Bethlehem, Hanna Nasser, told me yesterday he would like the pope to come here and get personally involved. That obviously is unlikely to happen.

One other additional point that will be music to ears of the Israelis as opposed to the Palestinians, the president saying that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace; also saying that Ariel Sharon is living up to the timetable he gave the president on a withdrawal from Jenin, Nablus, other major towns on the West Bank.

So all in all, if the president was hoping to patch up his relationship with the government of Prime Minister Sharon, he certainly did that today.

HARRIS: Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem, John King at the White House, thank you very much, gentlemen -- sure do appreciate it.




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