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Ari Fleischer Holds Daily White House Briefing

Aired May 7, 2002 - 12:46   ET

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


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BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to White House and the talk about the Middle East process right now, with Ariel Sharon meeting with President Bush later this afternoon in Washington.

Here is Ari Fleischer.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... leader is coming to the White House, to meet with President Bush this afternoon. What I'm asking is, do you think his visit has not been overshadowed by more famous leaders today meeting with President Bush than this very tiny Hindu state in the world? And has President Bush been really very well briefed on the violence in Nepal, from Maoist terrorism and also the economic -- the economy and all that?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first of all, I think any time a visiting head of state has an opportunity to meet with the president of the United States in the Oval Office, they will be the first to tell you how welcome they feel and what a nice reflection it is of the United States that, no matter what is going on in the world, the United States treats visiting heads of state with dignity and grace and welcomes them into the Oval Office.

And that is exactly what the president will do with the prime minister.

Nepal is fighting a Maoist rebellion, and Nepal is an example, again, of a democracy, and the United States is committed to helping Nepal. There's a request by the administration for $20 million in the supplemental appropriations bill to help Nepal. The United States currently provides a couple million dollars of assistance toward Nepal.

FLEISCHER: And so it's up to the press to determine what meetings are the most newsworthy, but the president welcomes all into the Oval Office.

QUESTION: Ari, first question, following up on Kelly's (ph) question. Prime Minister Sharon has practically accused Saudi Arabia of financing terrorism. The United States claims that Saudi Arabia is helping the peace process, especially after the meeting with Prince Abdullah. How is the president going to convince Ariel Sharon that Saudi Arabia can play a major role in the peace process if that's what the prime minister believes?

FLEISCHER: In the Middle East, there's nothing new about one nation having a statement about another nation that people differ about. That's been the history of the region forever.

The United States' special role, though, is to play the part of bringing the parties together. And that's why the president is welcoming Ariel Sharon to the Oval Office, and that's why he'll welcome King Abdullah here tomorrow. That's why he called President Mubarak of Egypt, et cetera. And that will be the role of the United States to constantly engage in the diplomacy required to take nations that begin, at least, with publicly stated strong stands and try to move them together.

QUESTION: Following up on a different subject, Ari. It has to do with very strong accusations that the U.S. government made yesterday against Cuba. Undersecretary of State John Bolton basically said that the United States believes Cuba is developing biological weapons and transferring expertise to rogue nations. Is there any proof of this or is this an assumption of the United States?

FLEISCHER: It's not an assumption. I assure that Secretary Bolton would not have said it if he did not have good cause, reason and fact to say it. That was based on sound analysis and on information that is studied and available to the Untied States government.

HEMMER: We're going to get away from the White House quickly. And if they go back to the Middle East, we will certainly go back there as well.

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