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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Last Cabinet Meeting of 2003

Aired December 11, 2003 - 11:01   ET

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

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCOHR: As promised a little bit earlier in the broadcast we were telling you about President Bush and his cabinet meeting, the last one of the year. We want to look at some of the tape just coming in to us now. Expected to talk a little bit about his accomplishments of the year we're going to listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: .. to continue to do for the American people to keep this country safe and prosperous and strong and a better place for all our citizens. And we look forward to working with the Congress in the year '04 to accomplish those objectives.

Today is Mel Martinez's, the fine secretary of HUD, last meeting. Mel has served our country with class and distinction.

I'm proud, Mel, to have had you on this team. Good job.

I'll answer a couple of questions. That would be two questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what did the leaders of France, Russia and Germany say to you yesterday about being excluded from reconstruction contracts in Iraq? And can those countries be considered for the contracts if they forgive debt to (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Make sure everybody understands that men and women from our country, who proudly wear our uniform, risked their life to free Iraq.

BUSH: Men and women from other countries in a broad coalition risked their lives to free Iraq. And the expenditure of U.S. dollars will reflect the fact that U.S. troops and other troops risked their life.

Now, we want to work with all countries. We have a common goal and that is to see that Iraq is free and peaceful. It is in every nation's interest that Iraq be free and peaceful. And we welcome contributions, we welcome people's willingness to participate in this difficult yet important job of rebuilding Iraq.

QUESTION: Sir, Chancellor Schroeder says international law must apply in this case. Well, what's your understanding of the law?

BUSH: International law? I better call my lawyer.

He didn't bring that up to me. I asked President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder and President Putin to see Jim Baker to talk about debt restructuring. If these countries want to participate in helping the world become more secure by enabling Iraq to emerge as a free and peaceful country, one way to contribute is through debt restructuring.

And so Jim Baker, with the consent of the secretary of state, is going to go over and talk to these leaders about that.

But I don't know what you're talking about by international law. I better consult my lawyer.

QUESTION: Can I clarify one thing?

BUSH: Yes, you may clarify something.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

BUSH: Depends on what it is, though.

QUESTION: Same issue.

BUSH: OK.

QUESTION: You seem to be saying that the boots on the ground are the only qualifications to build, but what about the forgiveness of debts? Isn't that fairly substantial?

BUSH: It is. It would be significant contribution for which we would be very grateful. What I'm saying is in the expenditure of taxpayers' money -- and that's what we're talking about now -- the U.S. people, the taxpayers, understand why it makes sense for countries that risked lives to participate in the contracts in Iraq.

It's very simple: Our people risked their lives, our friendly coalition folks risked their lives and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that. And that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect.

Thank you all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Once again, we've listening into comments just a few months ago from President Bush at the end of his cabinet meeting. It was the last one of this year.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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