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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush Meets With New Kuwaiti Prime Minister

Aired September 10, 2003 - 12:15   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to the White House in a few seconds. The president has been meeting with the visiting prime minister of Kuwait in the Oval office, an important meeting. Kuwait, of course, one of the key U.S. allies. Almost all of the U.S. forces that invaded Iraq in March came from Kuwait. The president presumably expressing his thanks to the Kuwaitis.
Let's listen to this exchange.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my honor and honor of senior members of my administration, to welcome you, sir, to the Oval Office.

Kuwait is a steady and strong friend of the United States. I think you for your friendship.

This country led a vast coalition to make the world more secure and more peaceful. And Kuwait was steadfast in her support of our common desire to respect human life, to promote peace.

And I want to thank you for that very much.

We called upon you to make some difficult choices, and you made those choices. And the world is better off as a result of the decisions your government made.

So it's my honor to welcome you here, sir, today.

PRIME MINISTER SHEIKH SABAH AL AHMED AL SABAH, KUWAIT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I would like to take this opportunity to thank the president.

And thank you, Mr. President, for this invitation and for asking us to come here.

I believe that the discussions that I had with you were frank discussions, and they were discussions between friends, people who are friends and allies together.

I would like to assure you that this friendship and alliance between our two countries and our two peoples will continue and it will not be limited to the official government levels, but will be also and continue to be between the people. This relationship will continue to exist, because we strongly believe that it's in the interests of the peoples in both countries, as well as the region.

Once again, Mr. President, thank you, sir, for this invitation. QUESTION: Mr. President, what is your evaluation of the new Palestinian prime minister? Do you think he is someone that you're able to work with as well as you were able to work with Mr. Mahmoud Abbas?

BUSH: Well, time will tell. I still believe strongly that two states living side by side in peace is a hopeful vision for the future of the Middle East. The road map is still there. The fundamental question is whether or not people -- peaceful people will be on the road.

And one of the essential tenets of the road map is that people are responsible, parties need to be responsible for creating the conditions necessary for peace to prevail.

BUSH: Probably the most important condition for peace to prevail is for all parties to fight off terror, to dismantle organizations whose intent is to destroy the vision of peace.

And the prime minister designee -- I understand he accepted the position minutes ago; the question is will he be confirmed by his parliament. And his job is -- if he's interested in a two-state solution -- is to consolidate power within his administration, to get the security forces under control -- all security forces. And then to unleash those security forces against killers. And we can make progress if that's the case.

The prime minister and I discussed this subject. He made a very interesting point that nations need to cut off funding to terrorist groups, and I appreciated that very much. In other words, that's part of the responsibility.

Israel, of course, has got responsibility, not only to protect their people, but to create the conditions necessary for those in the Palestinian authority who do believe in peace, who do believe in the vision to prevail.

And so, you know, it's tough times here now. And we mourn the loss of innocent life. But the vision is still there because I strongly believe it's in the interest of everybody that two states live side by side in peace.

And would you care to call on somebody from the press?

QUESTION: What do you expect from Kuwait to play a role in the future in peace, in the future of Iraq? And how do you view this visit and Kuwait as an ally to the (INAUDIBLE)?

BUSH: Well, this is a very important visit, because it gives me a chance to publicly offer my sincere thanks to an important leader in the Oval Office.

BUSH: Secondly, we did discuss our mutual responsibilities to promote peace. I assured the prime minister that this country would stay in Iraq to fulfill our promise to Iraqi citizens who are desperate for peace and for the chance to succeed. The prime minister said that he appreciated our commitment. And he was glad to be reassured that we will finish the job. And said he'd be willing to help. And I appreciate that.

Our friendship is one we're able to have mutual, frank discussions, and we will continue our discussions over lunch. And I am grateful for his presence and his willingness to talk frankly about issues that relate to our future.

QUESTION: Considering that France and Germany are in opposition, how are you going to get a new U.N. resolution on Iraq? Are you going to concede any control to the U.N.?

BUSH: Oh, I think that, you know, we're hopeful we can get a good resolution. We're in consultations now. I think it's in everybody's interest that Iraq be free and be peaceful. And we will continue to work through issues.

And I don't think they're opposed to a resolution. I think you're putting words in their mouth that -- they may want to try to fine-tune a resolution. And we're listening, we're open for suggestions.

But what is necessary, however, to trust the Iraqi people, the governing council to come up with a timetable for elections.

They're making good progress there now. They've got ministers in charge of key parts of the country. They are beginning to put in place a timetable necessary for the writing of a constitution. And there will be free elections, and that ought to be decided by the governing council. These are people who know full well how best to move Iraq forward.

And we'll work with all parties involved. My call, however, to nations is that let us not get caught up in past bickering. Let us move forward. A free Iraq is in everybody's interest. A peaceful Iraq is in the world's interest. And I'm confident we can work together to achieve that.

BUSH: The secretary of state will be going around the world urging people to make serious contributions. And I will, once again, make that please. We expect and hope that our friends contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq. It is in your interest that you do so.

Final question?

QUESTION: Mr. President, the $87 billion you say you want for peacekeeping in Iraq accounts for, roughly, a fifth of domestic discretionary spending next year. Realistically, sir, how can you do that and hold the line on domestic programs without gutting those programs? Do you really...

BUSH: Yes. I think, of course, we can do -- first of all, the $87 billion, it's important to spend that money. It's in our national interest that we spend it. A free and peaceful for Iraq will save this country money in the long term. It's important to get it done now.

And yes, I also believe the 4 percent discretionary -- increase in discretionary spending number I sent up to Congress makes sense.

I heard somebody say, "Well, what we need to do is have a tax increase to pay for this." That's an absurd notion. You don't raise taxes when the economy is recovering. As matter of fact, lower taxes will help enhance economic recovery. We want our people going back to work. We've got a good momentum now in our economy and we don't want to destroy that momentum.

But the $87 billion is worth it and I look forward to working with Congress to get that number completed and get the job done.

Thank you all.

BLITZER: So there it is, the president of the United States with the visiting prime minister of Kuwait. The president expressing his appreciation to Kuwait for its support during the war with Iraq.

The president saying that Secretary of State Powell is going to go around the world now to seek some contributions, presumably financial contributions, to help the U.S. deal with reconstruction in Iraq. The president also saying that the U.S. is clearly open, the Bush administration, to, in his words, fine tuning that U.N. resolution that's now out there to try to get additional political support for this post-war environment in Iraq.

As far as the Middle East the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is concerned, the president says time will tell whether the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qorei, is, in fact, going to be a source of support, a source of progress in this process, as opposed to a source of continued tension. The president, though, saying the road map is still there, a two-state solution remains the only solution -- Israel living alongside a new Palestinian state.

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