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Bush, Italian P.M. Speak to Press

Aired September 14, 2002 - 11:33   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: But right now, you're looking at tape being fed in as President Bush is meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Let's listen in now at Camp David.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a good visit, and meeting about our common interests. And we'll have a good lunch with my wife, and I've invited my brother and my sister. I want my family members to meet a good friend and a strong leader.

We're making progress in the war against terror. I tell the American people all of the time that we're doing everything we can to protect our homeland by hunting down killers one person at a time.

And yesterday, thanks to the efforts of our folks and people in Pakistan, we captured one of the planners and organizers of the September 11 attack that murdered thousands of people, including Italians. One by one, we're hunting the killers down. We are relentless, we are strong, and we're not going to stop.

Secondly, I had a chance to speak to the United Nations, to talk about another threat that we face, all of us face in the civilized world. And that is the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders who disregard human liberty, that do not believe in freedom, a leader in this case who has poisoned his own people, poisoned his neighbors, attacked in his neighborhood, and refuses, refuses to comply with United Nations regulations -- as a matter of fact, defies the United Nations.

And we're making progress.

And so, Mr. Prime Minister, you're here at an important time. I look forward to talking with you, and thank you for coming.


BERLUSCONI (through translator): First of all, I'm glad to be here with President Bush, with whom I have a very deep friendship. I'm here as the prime minister of a county which is a loyal and faithful ally of the United States of America.

The United States is a country to which my people bears a deep gratitude, because it owes to the generosity to this great democracy its freedom and its prosperity. We'll never forget the fact that about a half a century ago, through the sacrifice of so many young Americans, Italy and Europe were saved from totalitarianism.

I'm here as a sincere ally, and I know that we -- as an ally, we're respected and we're heard. So I'll be able to speak as a friend, speak truthfully in order to find, as usual, common solutions and common positions.

BUSH: Thank you.

BERLUSCONI: I would like to add one more thing.

BUSH: Sure.

BERLUSCONI: I consider the flag of the United States not only a flag of a country, but is a universal message of freedom and democracy.

BUSH: Thank you, sir.

His English is very good.

Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to call upon an American reporter, Silvio will call upon an Italian reporter, I then will call upon an American reporter, Silvio will call upon an Italian reporter, and that's it, because we've got to go have our talks.


QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President...

BUSH: But this -- and I will this time let the interpreter -- pardon me for not allowing her to work, but...

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

President Putin is borrowing your logic to argue he has the right to attack terrorists in Georgia. Would that action be justified, in your view? And are you concerned other countries -- India, Pakistan, China -- may use your arguments to justify actions they see fit?

BUSH: I made it very clear to the Georgian government that we expected them to rout out the al Qaeda-type terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge. We are working with the Georgian government in training Georgian troops.

I have told Vladimir Putin that they must give the Georgians a chance to achieve a common objective, an objective that's important for Georgia, an objective that's important for Russia, an objective that's important for the United States, and that is to get the al Qaeda killers and bring them to justice.

And so, I urge him to continue to work with us to allow the Georgian troops to do their job.

And finally, one final point for the world to hear: Saddam Hussein has defied the United Nations 16 times. Not once, not twice, 16 times, he has defied the U.N. The U.N. has told him after the Gulf War what to do, what the world expected, and 16 times he's defied it.

And enough is enough. The U.N. will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body as we head into the 21st century, or it will be irrelevant. And that's what we're about to find out.

But remember what I said in my speech: "Now is the time to deal with the problem."

QUESTION: What about...

BUSH: I should have clarified it by my statement. I just clarified it by my -- not should have -- I just.

QUESTION: (speaking in italian)

BERLUSCONI (through translator): First of all, as I said before, we want a common position with the United States of America. And we welcome the decision of President Bush to bring the problem to the table of the Security Council.

As it was stated clearly, the United Nations cannot continue to see its image undermined and its resolutions flaunted.

And I would hasten to add that a decision taken by President Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the agreement of my European colleagues and of the Russian Federation.

BUSH: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, if Saddam Hussein has defied the United Nation 16 times and stiffed for the world for a decade, why does he deserve one more chance?

BUSH: That's a very interesting question.


BUSH: First of all, the United Nations deserves another chance to prove its relevance.

BUSH: See, we're entering a new world. Wars of the future are not going to be like wars of the past. We fight these terrorists that hide in caves and send their youngsters to suicidal death.

They strike America, but they're likely to strike Italy. They hate freedom. They also are willing and want to work with countries like Iraq to develop the capacity to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

And therefore, the international community must work together to prevent this from happening. So this is the chance for the United Nations to show some backbone and resolve as we confront the true challenges of the 21st century. It's a chance for the United Nations to show its relevance. And that's why I gave the speech I gave.

But make no mistake about it, if we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it.

QUESTION: (speaking in italian)

BERLUSCONI: (speaking in italian)

BUSH: Thank you, all. Welcome to Camp David.


BUSH: No, you misunderstood. Two questions a piece. Sorry. No, two and two, see?


BUSH: Oh, you want English translation? All right, sorry. OK. Thought you might've been trying to defy the two-question rule.


QUESTION: What was the question?


TRANSLATOR: The question was, at this moment, what is the role Italy is going to play?

And the reply was, Italy today is playing a role which it was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to play up until some time ago, because Italy finds itself at a center of a series of relationships with the countries of the European Union, with the countries of the Middle East, with the countries of the Mediterranean. And we have the special friendship with the Russian Federation, with our common friend Vladimir Putin.

So Italy is playing its part. And it's able then to play its role in this context.

BUSH: Thank you all very much.

WHITFIELD: There are smiles on the faces of President Bush and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi. President Bush always trying finding -- trying to find a way to make light even of this serious topic, which is Iraq. He says that this is a time for the UN to show that it certainly has a function, of its relevance for to it to step in to force Iraq to allow UN weapons inspectors.

The Italian prime minister says that the U.S. is a great ally. It is very much respected, the relationship between Italy and the U.S. But he says they hope to find common ground.

White House correspondent, Kelly Wallace has been also been weighing in and watching this taped -- these taped comments come in live. This is the first time we've been able to bring our viewers this.

Kelly, we heard from the prime minister, Berlusconi, who says that they want to find common ground, but I didn't necessarily hear Berlusconi say, "All right, we're in it full force as well to try and force these weapons inspections."

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, and you would -- probably, we did not expect to hear that. You know, Prime Minister Berlusconi is a very strong ally of this president in Europe. But he has said before coming to Camp David, he thinks Iraq must be dealt with through the United Nations, that the U.S. should not take a go it alone approach. So you heard him say, "We hope to seek common ground." And he also said he certainly hopes and respects the president that he's going to consult with European and Russian allies before making a decision.

But the other note here, Fredricka, very tough talk coming from this president. You heard him say the UN has a chance to show it has a backbone and it has a chance to show it is relevant. "Enough is enough," he said. "Now is the time." You have a challenge of this president to the United Nations that it must act or the United States will. And the strategy is the president went to the UN He is hoping to dismiss critics who say he's trying to go it alone. But now, he is putting this challenge to the UN and clearly, his message is, if the UN does not act very, very soon, he's saying the U.S. will -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And President Bush says, you know, this country is willing to go it alone, but truly, you have to read between the lines. And he also said he needs the international community's support. That's why he's having the one-on-one meetings with the Italian prime minister. That's why it's been so important to forge and cultivate that relationship between Britain as well. We already know Britain is on board, but there is still a lot of international community support needed in order to make this a successful mission.

WALLACE: Absolutely. Support, of course, of Arab allies, of some of Iraq's neighbors, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Those allies would be very-- need to be very supportive for any possible, successful military operation. And the decision of this White House, it certainly knows it is preferable to have the international support. And so, the strategy is, the president, aides feel, that he laid out the case, put out a detailed case about Saddam Hussein is a threat. They feel very positive that now the world community is discussing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and how to deal with him. And the challenge for this White House is convincing some skeptical ally, countries like France and China, and Russia, all with veto power on the UN Security Council, to go ahead and support pressuring Saddam Hussein to allow weapons inspectors inside his country or face the consequences. And the question is, what will those consequences be -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Iraq, a primary concern but not the only topic in which the president touched on. He also said -- quote, unquote -- "We're making progress," talking about the ongoing war on terrorism, particularly going after al Qaeda's most wanted. President Bush about made it very clear they are celebrating what he considers to be a very significant arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh just recently with a joint effort in Pakistan. President Bush feeling somewhat galvanized by this war on terrorism, that perhaps this arrest might lead to more. WALLACE: Well, Fredricka, clearly a big victory for this administration and the timing, of course, coming the week the country mourning the more than 3,000 lives lost on September 11 and this figure, Ramzi Binalshibh, believed to be one of the masterminds, one of the plotters of the September 11 attack, believed to have been possibly the 20 hijacker, who was trying to get into the United States a couple of times but was unable to and also, the president talking about the coordination between the U.S. and Pakistani officials. You heard the president say the war on terror goes on. We will hunt them down one-by-one.

But Fredricka, over the past few months, this administration has not had a lot of victories, a number of top al Qaeda operatives still on the run. So administration officials certainly hailing this as a major development --Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: This will, perhaps, indeed as significant. Then -- even though this was a joint effort, then perhaps the question is jurisdiction. Who will have the jurisdiction in which to pursue any prosecution of Binalshibh?

WALLACE: It's a key question you raise because right now, we believe he's in Pakistani custody. The Germans are the ones, though, who had an arrest warrant out for him. And I believe Germany would like to have him extradited from Pakistan to Germany. Then the question is, well, how does that weigh in with the U.S. and its interest in obviously getting to him and possibly prosecuting him, of course, if he is believed and charged to be one of the key masterminds in the September 11 attacks? Also, though, will he talk, Fredricka? Will he give this administration information? That's the key question, as well --Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kelly Wallace, from Washington. Thank you very much. We'll be seeing you again in the next hour, appreciate it.




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