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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush and Australian Prime Minister Howard Field Questions

Aired June 13, 2002 - 14:57   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.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago President Bush was meeting with the prime minister of Austria (sic), John Howard, and we want to bring you a bit of their discussions in a moment. Among the topics of their discussion, a Palestinian state.

Should there be one? If so, perhaps there should be a timetable. Already President Bush has made it very clear that that is something he would like to see, but he was unwilling to give up a timetable.

We'll find out in just a few minutes as we rack up this tape, whether during his discussions with the Austrian (sic) prime minister they came to any agreement on the criteria that should be met, whether there would be a timetable. Let's listen in right now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...the prime minister will call upon an Australian reporter. I will then call upon an American reporter. The prime minister will finish by calling on an Australian reporter.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.

HOWARD: Thank you.

BUSH: The United States has got a great friend in Australia, and I've got a personal friend in the prime minister.

I want to thank you for your steadfast support when it comes to fighting terror. I reminded the people here in the meeting that the last time the prime minister and I visited here in America was on September the 10th, and our world was changed forever the next day. I found it really interesting that one of our best friends was with the president of the United States the day before the attack. And our best friend will be with us at the end of this war, too. That's really comforting to know.

I look forward to working with you on a variety of (AUDIO GAP) coming to your country one day.

The prime minister invited me to go down to Australia. I'd love to go.

But I want to welcome you very much. An honor to call you friend.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Mr. President. There is something rather poignant about us meeting again in this Oval Office, remembering the last time was the 10th of September.

I said to the Congress yesterday that America had no better friend anywhere in the world than Australia. I want to put on record the admiration of the Australian people for the tremendous leadership that you've displayed, Mr. President, over the past nine months. Australia is a firm and faithful friend, and we are in there with you in the fight against terror. It still has a long way to go, and I think it's very important that people don't imagine that the fight is anywhere near completed.

And there will be a lot of commitment on our part, and we do respect and admire the contribution that you are making as the leader of the world's response.

And personally, can I thank you very warmly for your welcome and that of your administration? It was a real honor to address the other part of the United States government yesterday and to talk to some of the congressmen and to understand the processes of your form of democracy.

We each have our own challenges. You have yours; I have mine.

But it's great to be here and I said yesterday that Americans and Australians like each other and they find it easy to relate to each other and I've certainly found that at a personal level with you, Mr. President, and thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Secretary of State Powell (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Listen, I'm listening to a lot of opinion. I met today with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia. The prime minister and I talked about the subject. And I think it's probably wise for people not to spend a lot of time speculating.

I'm going to lay out my vision at some point in time. It's going to be a vision that will help lead toward two states living side by side. In order to achieve that vision, people are going to have to take responsibility. Israelis are going to have to be responsible, Palestinians are going to have to be responsible, the Arab world is going to have to assume responsibility to achieve this vision.

And there's one thing for certain that I strongly believe, and that is that we must build the institutions necessary for the evolution of a Palestinian state which can live peacefully in the region and provide hope for the suffering Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, Vice President Dick Cheney said (OFF- MIKE) that the problem of Iraq was a direct (OFF-MIKE) United States and its allies. I was just wondering if you discussed that issue (OFF-MIKE) HOWARD: Well, we discussed it. I think what's been said by the administration earlier on this was repeated. Clearly, Iraq's behavior has been -- in relation to the weapons of mass destruction, has been offensive to many countries, including the United States and Australia. But the question of any action by the United States is a matter for the United States.

HOWARD: And I've indicated before in Australia and I repeat now that if there are any (inaudible) made to Australia, we consider them in the circumstances at the time if they occur.

BUSH: Yes. I told the prime minister there are no war plans on my desk.

I haven't changed my opinion about Saddam Hussein, however. He is a person who gassed his own people, and possesses weapons of mass destruction. And so, as I've told the American people, I've told John we use all tools at our disposal to deal with him. And, of course, I -- before there's any action, any military action I would closely consult with our close friend. But there are no plans on my desk right now.

QUESTION: Mr. President, about the new source review changes that were announced by the EPA today, environmental groups say that this is a giveaway (OFF-MIKE) will actually increase pollution at the dirtiest of power plants. One former member of the EPA who joined that organization under Bush 41 said today that the new rules were disgraceful.

BUSH: They're absolutely wrong. The new source review reforms, coupled with the Clear Skies legislation, will reduce pollution by approximately 70 percent. This administration is committed to clean air, and we're going to work vigorously to achieve clean air.

QUESTION: Mr. President, if Congress gives you trade authority, will a trade deal be a priority with Australia, and will Australia (OFF-MIKE) access to American markets?

BUSH: I talked to John about the importance of trade. The qualifier was if Congress were to give me trade promotion authority; I appreciate you qualifying it that way. I urged Congress to give me trade promotion authority, so you can have fruitful discussions with our friend. But first things first.

And as you know, a bill passed the House and one past the Senate. And now it's time for them to get together and get the bill to me. And I would -- more than willing to ask my man Zoellick to talk to the Australians, but only until and after we get TPA.

Listen, thank you all for coming.

WHITFIELD: You've been listening it comments from President Bush, Australian prime minister John Howard, talk about a few things on tap for them in their discussions -- everything from a Palestinian state, agreeing that there needs to be a Palestinian state, a state living side-by-side with Israel, giving hope to the people, as well as, trade. They've been talking about clean air.

Our John King is at the White House, and he's been following the developments coming out of the White House between the discussions between the Prime Minister Howard and President Bush.

Hi there -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Fredricka.

Mr. Bush choosing his words very carefully, but implicit in what he said here about the Middle East is in fact what aides are telling us today and yesterday, that he is indeed considering the idea of a temporary -- a provisional -- Palestinian state, as the president decides how to put forth and what should be in a new proposal designed to bridge the great divide right now between the Israeli position and Arab position.

Just how that would take place, just what a provisional state would mean, is one of the items of discussions. Mr. Bush discussed it earlier in the day with the Saudi foreign minister. We expect within a week or two, Mr. Bush will lay out in more detail his ideas, but that is one new proposal that we are told the president is seriously considering.

This environmental issue is the subject of dispute, both from the environmental community and Democrats, criticizing the administration today, accusing this administration of trying to curry favor with the energy industry, especially the coal industry.

What the Environmental Protection Agency did was change a standard adopted by the Clinton administration that the industry says is too aggressive.

What happens now is they have lowered the threshold, allowing coal-producing utility plants to make some changes, some refitting, some repairs at the plants without having to adopt new pollution controls.

The administration says that is a wise approach and that some of those technological improvements will actually cut harmful emissions, but environmentalists says this administration is too close, too cozy, with the coal industry and, in fact, it will increase air pollution. That debate will continue, and Democrats promising to try to make it an election issue in this, a congressional election year -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, John King, from the White House, thank you very much, and thank you for joining me this afternoon.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

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