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Bush, Mubarak Press Briefing

Aired April 12, 2004 - 13:43   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's go to Crawford, Texas, right now. This is not a live picture, this is a taped feed of an event which happened just a little while ago, as the president along with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak briefed reporters. The big news came at the end when the president announced there will be a formal news conference at White House tomorrow night, primetime.
Let's listen to the rest.


HOSNI MUBARAK, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT: Our strategic relationship, which has matured over the past 30 years, has constituted a force for stability, both regionally and globally.

The statement issued today at this 30th anniversary of the re- establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and the United States gives a clear reflection of our strong commitment to advance our special relationship and deepen our cooperation.

Together we have faced the challenges of peace, fighting terror and defeating aggression. In cooperation with the United States, many of Egypt's reform and development objectives have been achieved over the years.

Our partnership is based on trust, mutual respect and the increasing political will on both sides to continue to assume the responsibilities of leadership. These same principles will guide us into the future as we face a new set of challenges on the world stage, and as we enter a new phase of reform on our domestic fronts.

Egypt has moved with vigor and determination over the past years to shoulder its increasing responsibilities in the Middle East.

At the same time, we've confronted domestic challenges through an (ph) ambition and irreversible organ (ph) of reform. Our reform efforts have and will continue to emanate from my government's desire to further widen the scope of democracy, freedom and political participation in a vibrant and dynamic civil society.

MUBARAK: Egypt's political reform program constitutes a core component of our comprehensive effort to improve the quality of life of our people. Our efforts continue to focus on opening up new opportunities for our citizens to improve their livelihood within a competitive global environment. In this, we seek to build on our numerous achievements in the areas of good governance, sustainable economic growth, education and health care, within a caring society in which social policies are central to our development goals.

We continue to move forward with the process of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the interaction between government, civic society and different political parties in Egypt. We have also expanded that debate to include participation from the Arab world through a process of interaction among civic society representatives in the region, which was launched at the library of Alexandria last month.

Your support, Mr. President, for our steps in that endeavor is appreciated.

On regional issues, we discussed our respective responsibilities regarding the peace process in the Middle East. The United States has always assumed a leading role in the search for peace in our region. I expressed my strong desire to see that leading role continue with ever-greater vigor and determination to realize our vision of a two- state solution as early as possible in the context of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the president the centrality of the conflict to the people of the region. It is our conviction that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the hopes of peace through our determined efforts to put the peace process back on track is central to enhancing the prospects of reform and the prosperity in the region.

Egypt has pioneered the processes in the region for over 25 years and will continued to assume its responsibilities for peace today. I reaffirmed to President Bush Egypt's steadfast commitment to do whatever it takes to revive the hopes for a comprehensive settlement and to bring the parties back to the path of dialogue and negotiation.

MUBARAK: On Iraq, I conveyed to the president our serious concerns about the current state of affairs, particularly in the security and the humanitarian areas.

I further stressed the importance of restoring Iraq's sovereignty as soon as possible within a context that preserves its territorial integrity and unites all Iraqis toward a common future. The recent efforts to increase the role of the U.N. in that process is an important step that should be further encouraged.

We discussed our joint efforts to fight terror. We agreed to intensify our extensive cooperation in this regard. They include finding solutions to the political and economic problems that represent the underlying causes of terror.

We discussed also various aspects of our bilateral relation, including the importance of deepening our economic and cultural (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

In the economic field, I briefed the president on our economic reform program and stated the importance of free trade with the United States in attaining our economic objectives.

I also stressed the importance of promoting cultural exchange and furthering the links between civil society in both our nations. This is certain to enhance mutual understanding between our two peoples and between the United States and the Arab world at large.

I'm confident, Mr. President, after your talks today, that through our strategic partnership we will continue to confront the challenge before us with greater determination and resolute leadership.

MUBARAK: Thank you.


We'll answer two questions a side. We'll start with the American side.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to take you back to August 6, 2001, if I could, ask you about your personal response when you received the PDB. Do you recall whether you called Bob Mueller, asked him about what the FBI was doing, asked about these 70 field investigations? And also, did your mind go back to the PDB when September 11th hit?

BUSH: Bob Mueller wasn't the director of the FBI at the time.

QUESTION: Did you call the director?

BUSH: I don't think there was a director.

But, no, here's my recollection. First, I asked for the PDB. In other words, I said to the intelligence agency, "Bring me up to date. What do you know? Give me an assessment," I guess is the best way to put it. And I read it, and obviously was discomforted by the fact that Osama bin Laden hated America. But as I mentioned yesterday, we already knew that.

And the fundamental question is, you know, was there any actionable intelligence? And by that I mean, was there anything that the agency could tell me that would then cause me to have to do something, to make a decision to protect America? There was nothing there that said, you know, "There's an imminent attack." There was nothing in this report to me that said, "Oh, by the way, we've got intelligence that says something is about to happen in America." That wasn't what this report said. The report was, kind of, a history of Osama's intentions, I guess is the best way to put it -- kind of a history of what the agency had known.

And you're right, they included the fact that the FBI was conducting field investigations, which comforted me. You see, it meant the FBI was doing its job, the FBI was running down any lead.

And I will tell you this: that had they found something, I'm confident they would have reported back to me. That's the way the system works. BUSH: And whoever was the acting FBI director, had they found something, would have said, "Mr. President we have found something that you need to be concerned about in your duties to protect America." That didn't happen.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with their performance then today?

BUSH: I'm confident that had they found something that was a direct threat to America they would have brought it to my attention.

Now, the 9/11 commission hearings are going to analyze that which went on and hopefully bring recommendations forward to help this administration and future administrations do our solemn duty to protect the American people. And that's why I think the hearings are a good thing, particularly when they address any weaknesses in the system.

And Condi mentioned the other day something very interesting and that is that, you know, now may be a time to revamp and reform our intelligence services. And we look forward to hearing recommendations. We're thinking about that ourselves and we look forward to working with the commission.

QUESTION: What's on the table in the way of reform?

BUSH: Hold on a second please. I don't want to lecture you hear, but you were given one question and President Mubarak's going to wonder, "Is the press corps totally out of control here in America?" So I'm going to have to cut you off at this point.

QUESTION: President Bush, in recent days we've seen a significant deterioration in the security situation in Iraq. Do you see a serious risk in that such events and the American military response to them would lead to a wider, popular resistance to the American presence in Iraq? And would that complicate the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people?

BUSH: Thank you and welcome.

We will transfer sovereignty. And as a matter of fact, the United Nations representative, Brahimi, is in Baghdad as we speak working with different parties to help devise the system through which we transfer sovereignty. And we look forward to that.

Secondly, the situation in Iraq has improved. But you're right, it was a tough week because there was lawlessness and gangs that were trying to take the law in their own hands. These were people that were trying to make a statement prior to the transfer of sovereignty that they would get to decide the fate of Iraq through violence.

BUSH: A civil society, a peaceful society can't grow with people who are willing to kill in order to stop progress. And our job is to provide security for the Iraqi people so that a transition can take place. And that's what you were seeing.

And our job also is to protect American lives. If our soldiers are at risk, they will defend themselves.

And I'm proud of the fact that our soldiers did so mindful that there are innocent Iraqis oftentimes in between them and an enemy that is shooting at them. We're a compassionate country that cares about the loss of innocent life and it grieves us when we see innocent life lost. However, we will defend ourselves.

I strongly believe that by far the vast majority of Iraqis want there to be a peaceful country and a free country. And so the Iraq people are on the side of the transition to a peaceful country.

We just can't let a few people -- and I say a few -- listen, there was enough to cause harm -- but a few relative to the rest of the people -- you just can't let, you know, a small percentage of the Iraqi people decide the fate of everybody and that's what you're seeing.

QUESTION: If I could ask both of you, are both of you prepared to endorse the Israeli withdrawal plan?

BUSH: I welcome -- first of all, let's not prejudge what Prime Minister Sharon is going to tell me. So I don't want to put words in his mouth until he actually comes to America on Wednesday.

We discussed the rumors of such a withdrawal. And we discussed it in the context of the two-state solution and the road map. In other words, we both are in agreement that if Israel makes the decision to withdraw, it doesn't replace the road map. It is a part of the road map, so that we can continue progress toward the two-state solution.

BUSH: And I really welcomed my friend's advice. He knows the area well and he has been in touch with the parties, and he has good judgment on this matter.

And so, let's wait until the prime minister comes.

But if he were to decide to withdraw from the Gaza, it would be a positive development.

He wanted to have your reaction to a possible withdrawal, if you'd like to share that. You don't have to if you don't want to. He's a kind fellow.

MUBARAK: I have discussed this with the president -- the withdrawal from Gaza. I think any withdrawal from the occupied territory is very highly appreciated. But would like the withdrawal to coincide with the road map, which is very important because withdrawing from Gaza alone without connecting it with the road map, we never know it will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) alone -- will be very difficult. It will not be accepted by the public opinion in the area.

So the withdrawal from Gaza, if it is a part from the road map, I think it will be very highly appreciated.

BUSH: The point is that the decision doesn't replace the path toward the establishment of a Palestinian state that will provide hope for the Palestinian people and provide continuity and put the institutions in place necessary for a state to evolve.

I'm confident there'll be ample willingness of people in Europe or of the United States government to enact economic -- to take economic measures necessary to provide a hopeful future, and we're in accord on this issue.

And I look forward to meeting with the prime minister and hear what he has to say.

Final question. If you'd like to call on somebody.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. And my question is for you, Mr. Excellency Bush and Mr. Excellency Mubarak.

But let me first tell you happy Easter before asking about the peace process.

BUSH: Thank you. I'm sorry it's so chilly here.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

BUSH: It's usually warmer.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

Sir, you announced your vision of a two-state solution almost two years ago.

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think this vision can be realized in spite of the Israeli policy of expanding settlements and establishment of the separate wall which violates the Green Line?

And for you, Mr. President Mubarak, how can Egypt help the Palestinians to take their responsibilities after the Israeli withdrawal?

BUSH: Great question.

Yes, I think we can achieve a two-state solution. You're right, I think I made the speech at the United Nations in 2001, if I'm not mistaken, September of 2001 -- the first American president to do so, to make that public declaration of policy. And the reason I did is because I believe it's in the Palestinians' interest to have their own state and I believe it's in Israel's interest that the Palestinians develop a peaceful state.

The reason why -- we made some progress, by the way. There is what they call the road map, a strategy to achieve that, which is good. The problem is, is that there are terrorists who will kill people in order to stop the process, and that's why it is essential that we work together to stop terrorists killing.

There will never be a Palestinian state, in my judgment, if terrorists are willing to kill.

And so, the first step we've all got to do is to work on the mutual security concerns of the region. And we can't let people blow up a process, but that's what's happened, as you might recall. And there's been suiciders and killers and, you know, it's essential that we work together to stop that kind of terror.

It will be much easier for the Palestinians to assume their responsibilities. And there are responsibilities for the Palestinians, particularly when it comes to developing a state that is a peaceful state.

It will make it a lot easier -- if we can continue to keep the pressure on the terrorists, make it a lot easier for them to assume their responsibilities.

MUBARAK: The problem with the Middle East is really about to be 50 years now. It's a very complicated problem. And if we keep it, more and more it will be much more complicated than ever before.

It could have been solved several years ago, but now it's very difficult.

MUBARAK: But in this context I really thank President Bush for the first president of the United States who could say that I'm ready to agree on establishing two states beside each other -- independent states -- Palestinian state and the Israeli state.

This is the first time we could hear it. We have to build on it.

Concerning Gaza, I think we could help a lot in Gaza by training the police, by giving them advice, by sending in some groups to make plans for them how to work. And in that regard, we are ready to do.

We have contacts with them. We have contacts with the different factions, which could create problems every now and then. And, you remember, they convened in Cairo several times. We are ready to invite them again to ask to help stability in Gaza for a continuation for more withdrawal.

Thank you.

BUSH: Thank you, sir.

By the way, tomorrow night I'm interested in answering more questions for you all, so pick out a red or blue tie -- why not -- see you at the East Room.


O'BRIEN: President of the United States burying the lead there. Indicating there will be a formal news conference at the East Room of the White House tomorrow in prime time. We don't know the time yet, but we presume we'll see you here whatever time that is for live coverage of the president's news conference. The president along with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In addition to announcing that news conference talking much about Ariel Sharon's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, saying it is a positive development but not to be uncoupled from the so-called roadmap for peace.


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