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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Comments on Assassination in Afghanistan

Aired July 6, 2002 - 09:10   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.
ROBIN MEADE, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everybody, this is a message now from President Bush regarding the vice president of Afghanistan who was assassinated.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... mourns the loss of a man who desired freedom and stability for the country he loved. We have been in touch with Chairman Karzai, expressed our deepest condolences to the chairman and government, people of Afghanistan. He lost a good and valued friend.

The Afghan government is in the process of investigating who might have done this. And we are more resolved than ever to bring stability to the country, so that the Afghan people can have peace and hope.

I'll answer a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you personally call Chairman Karzai, and what did he say about the ability of the new government formed to actually (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BUSH: No, I haven't spoken to Chairman Karzai yet. I spoke to him yesterday, interestingly enough, to express our condolences about the loss of life during the military action. He was talked to by a member of my national security team.

I am confident, and I believe Chairman Karzai is confident, that with patience and with aid and with a proper strategy, that Afghanistan can develop into a peaceful and hopeful nation.

QUESTION: Sir, what do you say to the Afghan people who are upset about the bombing of civilians?

BUSH: Well, I say we're -- there's a -- we're investigating. I say "we," both the Afghanistan government and the United States government are investigating to find out the facts.

But I can say to the Afghan people exactly what I told to Chairman Karzai. Any time innocent life is lost, we're sad. Our country values life, all life. And we'll find out what the facts are and then address is accordingly.

QUESTION: Will the United States, the FBI or someone help with the investigation into the assassination?

BUSH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) find out right now, the Afghan government believes they can handle the investigation. There's all kinds of scenarios as to how -- who killed him. But we'll work closely with the government if they want us to.

QUESTION: Sir, is there any sign that this assassination may have been connected to the terrorist groups, or...

BUSH: It could be.

QUESTION: ... more involved in...

BUSH: It could be that. It could be drug lords. It could be longtime rivals. Who knows? All we know is a good man is dead, and we mourn his loss.

Thank you all. Thanks.

QUESTION: Birthday plans, sir?

BUSH: Let's see. Settling in, family lunch, may go for a run. It will be a mechanical however.

QUESTION: Why? Not hot enough?

BUSH: No, I wish it were. I wish I could get off the Point, but I think the agents will say today it's probably best for me to stay on Walker's Point.

Let's see, what else will be happening. Who knows? Maybe a surprise party?

(LAUGHTER)

Other than that, just hanging out with my family, which is a wonderful gift unto itself.

Thank you all.

QUESTION: What took you so long to play 18 holes? Two hours and 10 minutes.

BUSH: Well, I think it's because I three-putted too many greens.

MEADE: So there's the comments from President Bush about what's happening this weekend, a weekend of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), really, for him. He's celebrating his birthday. You heard him refer to maybe a party, talked about his golfing and everything. But yet he also has expressed his condolences, his concerns about what happened in Afghanistan this morning. One of three vice presidents there was assassinated this morning, and nobody knows at this point who is to blame. Officials there say it's an act of terrorism.

Let's bring in Kelly Wallace, who joins us by phone now, about the president's comment. Kelly, are there concerns about whether this was meant to be a blow for the United States as well as Afghanistan? Did the president talk anything about that?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Robin, you heard him, the president was asked if he believed this could be, you know, an act of terror. He said it could be terrorism, it could be drug lords, you know, he says we don't know. All we know is, quote, "a good man is dead," and he said right now the Afghan government leading the investigation. But he says the U.S. will work closely with the country if it wants its help.

It could be obviously a possible act of terrorism, of course, a blow to Afghanistan, to the United States, it could be, of course, people who want to try and mess up any progress in terms of reconstruction of the country, peace and stability.

This minister, this vice president was very much a leading person to oust the Taliban, so it could be Taliban supporters who are taking out their anger against him.

But clearly it raises a lot of questions about the international community, what it can do to try and keep the country on the road towards peace and stability. And the president said that the United States more resolved than ever, and he said with the right kind of patience, determination, and aid he believes that Afghanistan can create a stable government, Robin.

MEADE: Is he expected to speak with leader Hamid Karzai soon? He's mentioned there, I believe, that he, if I heard him correctly, he said he had not yet spoken to him today about what happened.

WALLACE: He -- correct, he said that a member of his National Security Council team had spoken with him and conveyed the condolences of the United States about this. He brought up how, in fact, he spoke with President Karzai yesterday.

The context of that call, of course, the deaths of a number of civilians, Afghan civilians earlier this week after a U.S. military operation, the fact-finding mission, an investigation is under way. The president said that, you know, the United States and Afghanistan are trying to determine what happened, but he said any time innocent lives are lost, quote, "we are sad."

Certainly Afghan President Karzai has called for greater coordination between the United States and Afghanistan after this, so that a big issue for the U.S. government, and that was sort of the circumstance of the conversation he had with President Karzai yesterday. Right now, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) spoke with him to convey the United States' (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and to...

MEADE: All right, Kelly, I think you're breaking up just a little bit there on your phone. Thank you for the information.

And again, we need to stress that obviously a lot of questions in that investigation, no clear idea as to who would be to blame for that assassination of one of three vice presidents, one of three vice presidents in Afghanistan.

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