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President Bush Talks Terrorism Insurance, Iraq

Aired October 1, 2002 - 10:40   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I understand now President Bush is just again wrapped up a meeting with some congressional leaders, talking about terrorism insurance, and as well as Iraq and some other matters, and we'll have that for you, coverage of that for you, in just a moment.
In the meantime, we want to check in with our Andrea Koppel right now. She's got some other news she'd like to report for right now.

Andrea, what's the word?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, as you know, the Bush administration has been aggressively trying to push through a tough new resolution at the United Nations. They're meeting at this hour.

But CNN has also learned that behind the scenes, officials here at the State Department have begun to quietly draft language for two separate U.N. Resolutions which would basically be a compromise solution. The French have been saying all along that they didn't want to have the threat of force on Iraq in the first resolution, that they wanted to separate that out to a second resolution. Under the plan that is currently being drafted here at the State Department, officials tell CNN that they would have a trigger mechanism between the first two resolutions so that you would have it automatically happen. Even though you might have a second vote, the Security Council members would agree ahead of time that there would be a threat of force used against Iraq if Saddam Hussein did not comply.

Having said that, one senior State Department official said that Secretary of State Powell has not signed off on this approach, that the U.S. Is still going to push very aggressively to try to get one resolution through at the United Nations, but as you know, Leon, acknowledging this publicly would undermine the U.S. negotiating position, but this is something that we're told is going on right now. The plan b approach is being worked on -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, Andrea, any other word about the fault lines that lie on either side of this, and what's likely to happen if this plan b approach is not accepted?

KOPPEL: Well, they would -- the only way they would put forward a plan b approach is if all members -- the permanent members of the security council, the French, the Chinese and the Russians, would agree to it ahead of time.

So right now, this is sort of on the back burner. U.S. officials are trying to be realistic and they're also trying to prepare for a contingency plan if what they're doing right now up at the United Nations, the negotiating they're doing on one single tough resolution with the threat of force in the language there doesn't work out.

HARRIS: All right, Andrea, we are hearing that President Bush is saying this morning he does not want a resolution coming from Congress that's going to tie his hands with -- considering what he is planning to do and the showdown he is facing there with the U.N. as well. How is that playing there at the State Department?

KOPPEL: Well, Secretary of State Powell, as you know, was on the Hill last week, urging Congress to push through their resolution as quickly as possible, saying that to do so would show a united front here in the United States and could only help the U.S. case in trying to get this U.N. Resolution through up -- in New York, rather.

HARRIS: All right. And, again, going back to the talks that are under way right now in Vienna, are you getting a sense there of optimism coming from the State Department about what's going to happen were those talks?

KOPPEL: You know, Leon, privately, State Department officials are very frustrated by what's going on in Vienna right now, the very idea that you would have discussions going on on an old resolution while you're negotiating a current one.

HARRIS: All right, Andrea, we are going to break away. We have got tape coming in now from the White House, release of the playback of the tape that was recorded at the White House moments ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we had a very good discussion about how Congress and the administration can work together to get a terrorism insurance bill done before Congress goes home. I asked the members to get at -- to work hard in the next couple of days and get an agreement by Friday. They're gong to work hard to see if they can't come up with an agreement.

There's over $15.5 billion worth of construction projects which aren't going forward because they can't get insurance on their projects, can't insure the buildings or the project. And therefore, the 300,000 people who -- jobs that aren't going forward. And this is a way for us to work together to put people back to work here in America.

BUSH: It's a really important piece of legislation. And I appreciate the spirit of both Republicans and Democrats, senators and congressmen, to get this thing done before they go home.

I'll answer a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Thank you sir. Is a resolution being circulated by Senators Biden and Lugar, an alternative resolution on authorizing force in Iraq. What's wrong with that... BUSH: Well, first of all, I appreciate all the members of Congress working to come up with a resolution that sends a clear signal to the world that this country is determined to disarm Iraq, and thereby bring peace to the world.

Members of both parties are working to get a consensus. Secondly -- and we'll continue to work with the members of Congress. But I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands, a resolution which is weaker than that which was passed out of the Congress in 1998.

BUSH: Congress, in 1998, passed a very strong resolution. They wisely recognized that Saddam Hussein is a threat. He was a threat in '98, and he's more of a threat four years later. My question is, what's changed? Why would Congress want to weaken the resolution? This guy's had four years to lie, deceive, to arm up. He's had four years to thumb his nose at the world. He's stockpiling more weapons.

I'm not sure why members would like to weaken the resolution, but we'll work with the members, and I'm confident we can get something done. And we'll be speaking with one voice here in the country, and that's going to be important for the United Nations to hear that voice. It's going to be important for the world to hear that voice.

I also recognize a military option is not the first choice. Disarming this man is because he poses a true threat to the United States, and we've just got to work together to get something done.


QUESTION: Did the (inaudible) U.S. economy did not require a Taft-Hart injunction?

BUSH: We're worried about it. We're closely monitoring it. Any strike is a tough situation, but this one happens to come -- or a lockout is a touch situation or no work is a tough situation.

It's come at a bad time. And so we're watching very closely. There's a federal mediator on the ground, and I urge both parties to utilize the mediator. But we'll continue to pay attention to it. It's a problem.

It's something that we're just going to have to get these parties to work through and get back to work, open these ports up. It's important for our economy to do so.

Stretch (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, increasingly investment fund managers are saying a prospect of war with Iraq has contributed to the third quarter performances here, and they're worse since the crash in 1987. Are you concerned, first of all, about the shrinking investment in retirement portfolios for Americans? And then, do you think the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand a war with Iraq should we end up in war in that region?

BUSH: Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq, but made up mind that we need to disarm the man.

Secondly, yes, I think the U.S. economy is strong. Obviously, there's some rough spots in our economy. We'll deal with them. Interest rates are low; inflation's low; productivity is high. This great country is going to recover. And yes, we're strong enough to handle the challenges ahead.

Yes, John (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, the permanent five of the Security Council are meeting as you speak, and France is holding fast to the position of wanting a two-state (ph) resolution. Are you willing to modify your position, sir, to come in line with France's position in the spirit of cooperation to achieve a tough U.N. resolution?

BUSH: What I won't accept is something that allows Saddam Hussein to continue to lie, deceive the world. He's been doing that for 11 years. For 11 years, he's told the United Nations Security Council, "Don't worry. I accept your resolution." Then he doesn't follow through. And we're just not going to accept something that is weak.

It's not worth it. The United Nations must show its backbone. And we'll work with members of the Security Council to put a little calcium there, put calcium in the backbone, so this organization is able to more likely keep the peace as we go down the road.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting the French proposal is weak?

BUSH: I'm suggesting that the same old stuff isn't going to work, and we won't accept the status quo. There needs to be a strong new resolution in order for us to make it clear to the world -- and to Saddam Hussein, more importantly -- that you must disarm. And I look forward to looking at all their proposals, just like we're dealing with everybody concerned, we will listen to points of view.

But the final bottom line has got to be a very strong resolution so that we don't fall into the same trap we have done for the last 11 years, which is nothing happens. Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the world. He's a threat to the neighborhood. He's a threat to Israel. He's a threat to the United States of America, and we're just going to have to deal with him.

And the best way to deal with him is for the world to rise up and say, "You disarm, and we'll disarm you." And if not, if, at the very end of the day, nothing happens, the United States, along with others, will act (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And those are the words we got from President Bush a little while ago, and as you saw there at the top of that tape, he was meeting with his congressional leaders there, talking about terrorism insurance, but then, as you can also see, the talk quickly talk turned to Iraq. President Bush here saying that he's looking forward to getting a resolution coming from Congress that is going to be a strong resolution and one that is no weaker than the one that was passed in 1998. Let's check in with our Kelly Wallace who is standing by at the White House -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Leon, two things we really should watch for throughout the day, because the president later will be meeting with some House members here at the White House to talk again about this congressional resolution.

You have some Democrats putting forward in the Senate at least a proposal that would really limit the authority to use force solely to deal with Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. You heard the president ask about that, and he said, "I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands," which he thinks is weaker then resolutions in the past. He wants the authority to use force, also to deal with Saddam Hussein and any oppression he does to his people, any human rights violations.

So this is a stumbling block here, something we will watch for to see if the Democrats and the White House can resolve this. Also, on the other front, up at the U.N., you heard this president ask about some concerns in the United Nations security council, whether he would support this two-stage resolution. You heard the president continue to use the word "resolution." He wants a strong resolution, but as our own Andrea Koppel was reporting, there is a compromise floating out there for two stages to deal with Saddam Hussein -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, Kelly Wallace at the White House. Thanks, Kelly.


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