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Bush, Ahern Hold News Conference

Aired June 26, 2004 - 09:13   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Live event in Ireland. This is British Prime Minister Bertie Ahern introducing a news conference after the European summit.
BERTIE AHERN, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: ... for this important summit. We'll thank him for coming to us and for the participation with our president, Romano Prodi, and under the Irish presidency.

Our meeting has not only been extremely productive, I think it's for us also been historic, because it's the first summit between the enlarged E.U. of 25 and the United States. And it's also the first since we succeeded in concluding the negotiations in the European Constitution last weekend.

From the outset, the transatlantic relationship has been a core focus of our presidency. And it is my steadfast belief that a close transatlantic partnership is essential for prosperity and for growth on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as for the broader international community. And I'm pleased that this summit has reaffirmed the strength, the depth, and the significance of our relationship in the spirit of partnership.

The economic relationship between the European Union, United States, has been a central focus of our discussions today. It's a relationship that generates 12 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. We agree the joint declaration on strengthening our economic partnership, which includes the commitments to work for a successful outcome of the World Trade Organization negotiations.

We also launched a comprehensive review to maximize investment and reduce barriers to trade across the Atlantic, and the review will be concluded in time for the next summit this time next year.

We also focused on common challenges facing the European Union and the United States, including the pressing need to promote peace in the Middle East, and how we can best work together to support the people of Iraq as they start the process of building a sovereign, secure, and democratic country.

We discussed and have issued joint declarations on Iraq, as well as on counterterrorism, on nonproliferation, the fight against HIV and AIDS, Sudan, and partnership with the Mediterranean and Middle East.

So the European Union and United States share, ladies and gentlemen, a common set of values based on the unshakable commitments to democracy, to human rights and the rule of law. And it's these shared values which make us enduring partners, a partnership that has been fundamental to the stability and prosperity of both Europe and America over the last 50 years.

And this summit has added significantly to our close relationship, and I thank the president, and I thank President Prodi for the good work that we've done today.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thanks for your hospitality. Thanks for doing such a great job at the E.U. President Prodi as well, thanks for your welcome, Taoiseach. We, Laura and I thank you for your hospitality, and we appreciate the people of this great country for welcoming us as well.

I want to thank the people who work at this beautiful resort for their warmth and their great service. It's a wonderful place. Not only is it beautiful, but the people who work here are really fine people.

I congratulate the nations of Europe on the enlargement of your union to 25 members. This historic achievement, you are erasing the last traces of the Iron Curtain and creating a new beginning for the continent.

Tomorrow I will travel to Turkey for the NATO summit. Actually, today I will travel to Turkey. Tomorrow is the NATO summit. Turkey is a proud nation that successfully blends a European identity with Islamic traditions. As Turkey meets the E.U. standards for membership, the European Union should begin talks that will lead to full membership for the Republic of Turkey.

Europe and America are linked by the ties of family, friendship, and common struggle and common values. We're also bound to each other by common responsibilities. Because we met our responsibilities in the last century, we realize the vision of a continent that is whole, free, and at peace. As we meet our responsibilities in this new century, we will defeat the forces of terror and help to build a freer, safer, and more prosperous world.

The advance of freedom led to peace and prosperity in Europe, and it can do the same for the wider world. So our alliance is looking beyond the borders of Europe, to support the momentum of freedom in the broader Middle East. The people of that region are eager for reform, and we are listening to their voices.

Earlier this month, the nations of the G-8, four of them members of this union, pledged their energies and resources to working in partnership with the peoples of the broader Middle East to advance the universal values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and economic opportunity.

A free and democratic Iraq is rising in the heart of the broader Middle East. We just concluded a constructive discussion on our common efforts to help the Iraqi people achieve the stability, prosperity, and democracy they seek. As Iraq moves toward the transfer of sovereignty next week, the E.U. and the United States are united in our determination to help the people of Iraq.

We also discussed the many actions our nations are taking to secure our homelands from the threat of terror. We took new steps to strengthen our efforts to freeze and block terrorist finances. And to make travel and transportation safer, we established new guidelines for sharing airline passenger records to improve the way we screen for terrorists while protecting the privacy of innocent travelers.

We agreed to increase and improve the sharing of information and intelligence. We pledged to build on this progress by launching a new dialogue on transportation and border security. Travel between our nations is the lifeblood of our friendships, our economies, and our alliance, and our travel system must not only be safe but efficient.

Earlier today we also signed an agreement that ensures compatibility between America's global positioning system and its future European counterpart, Galileo. This agreement will protect our common security, improve the delivery of emergency services, and further our economic cooperation. This is a hard agreement to make, but because we worked together, we now have an agreement. The two systems will be compatible and interoperable, and users from business to science to government in America and Europe will benefit.

The U.S. and the E.U. share a fundamental interest in the health of the global economy. Our trade and investment relationship is the largest in the world, one that creates millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet we're always exploring ways to make it stronger, and we did so in these meetings. Lowering trade barrier increases the -- trade barriers increases the prosperity of all our nations.

And so we're looking at new ways to open markets on both sides of the Atlantic. Free and fair trade has the power to lift nations out of poverty, so we reaffirmed our commitment to the Doha development agenda, which seeks to remove obstacles to global trade and growth in the developing world.

As I said, tomorrow I'm going to go to Turkey for the NATO summit. Today I'm going to Turkey. Tomorrow is the summit. I look forward to working with our European allies on many of the same issues we addressed here in Ireland. The unity of the transatlantic alliance in the face of new challenges and the advance of freedom in the world, that's what we're going to talk about.

NATO continues to transform itself to meet the new threats of the 21st century. The NATO mission in Afghanistan is helping the people of that country establish democracy after years of tyranny. And NATO has the capability, and, I believe, the responsibility to help the Iraqi people defeat the terrorist threat that's facing their country.

I look forward to discussing NATO's response to Prime Minister Allawi's request to help train Iraq's new security forces. Together, we can forge a new relationship between NATO and the Iraqi people.

Taoiseach, this has been a very useful summit. I appreciate your leadership. I appreciate President Prodi's leadership as well. I look forward to working with the nations of the European Union to increase our common prosperity, to strengthen our common security, and to advance our common interests in the spread of liberty.

Thank you.

AHERN: Mr. President.

President Prodi.

ROMANO PRODI, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN UNION COMMISSION: Thank you, George. I thank you, Bertie, for the success of this summit.

This is, for me, the last summit in which I have taken part as a president of the commission. And over the past five years, Europe has gone through an enormous transformation. We have helped to deliver the euro, and now the single currency is the currency of more than 300 million people.

We have negotiated and completed the biggest expansion in the history of the European project by bringing in 10 new countries. And together, with the skillful Irish presidency, you have negotiated and completed the biggest step ahead in our institution, adopting a new European constitution.

As a consequence, this union has become an important and political actor in the global scene. In our discussion with President Bush, we -- Prime Minister Ahern and myself -- have today spoken in the name of more than 450 million Europeans. This is the new reality in Europe, and the new reality in European Union-United States relations.

Everyone here knows how close the ties between Europe and the U.S. are. We know as well that these ties are not based only on our historic cultural and political links, but on a rock-solid economic partnership as well. I remind you only one figure, $2 billions per day flow across the Atlantic, per day, in investment of trade.

In this summit, our cooperation has broken new frontiers. The agreement and cooperation between our two global satellite navigation system, Galileo and GPS, is a win-win situation. I am certain that the repercussion for the global market of civilian use of such satellite navigation system are very positive. And this system will become operational in 2008 and will create 150,000 jobs in Europe alone.

Galileo is also a good example of how European Union, strengthened by the euro, the constitution, and the reunification of the continent, can and will play its full part as an international actor.

Together, the European Union and the U.S. can meet the global original challenge, as well as threats to our security.

But -- and I want to emphasize this strongly -- we must work together as true partners and friends can do. AHERN: Thank you, President Prodi.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), president, you call the first question.

BUSH: I have to?

AHERN: Yes. We rotate them.

BUSH: I didn't ask for an answer. I just said, Do I have to?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use the microphone, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, today's statement talks about shared commitments in Iraq and support for training Iraqi security forces. Does that mean that NATO is going to shoulder a larger military role in Iraq, and that the bitter differences over the war are over?

BUSH: Let me start with the latter half of that question. I think the bitter differences of the war are over. I think people -- you know, people, some people didn't agree with the decision that I made, and others made as well. But we all agree that a democratic Iraq, a peaceful Iraq, an Iraq which is -- has its territorial integrity intact is in the benefit of the -- is in all our benefit.

And so there is a common interest and a common goal to work together to help the Iraqi people realize the benefits of a free society.

President Allawi has written a letter to NATO asking for training and equipment. And I hope NATO responds in a positive way, because the ultimate success inside of Iraq is going to depend upon the ability of the Iraqi citizens to defend themselves.

We'll be turning over full sovereignty on June the 30. That means complete full sovereignty. The Iraqi government will now make the decisions and -- that are necessary to rebuild their country and to get to free elections. They have asked for our help, but they fully recognize what I've just described as necessary, that they have to have their forces, their police, well trained and well prepared to meet the threat of the few who want to derail the ambitions of the many.


BUSH: Well, we'll find out tomorrow. That's why I'm traveling to Turkey today, to be...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please use the microphone.

BUSH: Which president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, number 43. Mr. President, your predecessor, number 42, has, I understand, described Northern Ireland as the passion of his presidency. Where does it sit on your list of priorities? And do you regard it as a model for the resolution of conflicts like the Middle East? Thank you.

BUSH: That's a great question. I do view it as a model for resolution of conflict, whether it be in the Middle East or elsewhere. And we view this issue as a very important issue in my administration and stand ready to help. There's a special envoy from our government that is participating in the process. I have constantly asked the prime minister today whether or not the envoy is doing his job the way the prime minister thinks he ought to do the job, and the answer has been yes.

I'm fully aware that the prime minister of both Great Britain and Ireland are going to advance the process this early September. And we stand ready to help. I wish them all the best, because when this conflict is resolved, it will be a -- it will be an example for others that long-simmering disputes can be put behind them and free societies and peaceful societies can emerge for the interest of the peoples which have been involved in those disputes.

Steve? Go ahead and yell it out. If I don't like the question, I'll...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Should Americans see the June 30 handover as the beginning of an exit strategy from Iraq? And how big a threat is Zarqawi to the new government?

BUSH: Yes. Well, Zarqawi has been a threat to a lot of people. He was such a threat that he was the person that ordered the killing of Mr. Foley, who worked for the USAID, it's American citizen working for our government, worked for Colin Powell. Zarqawi ordered him to be killed. He had been in and out of Baghdad, by the way. This is prior to the liberation of Iraq.

He is a problem because he's willing to kill people, innocent people, in order to shake our will and shake our confidence. In other words, he's willing to use death to stop the advance of freedom. He's -- he recruits suiciders, orders suiciders, and has them attack on a regular basis, because he wants us to withdraw from Iraq. He wants Prime Minister Allawi to lose his will. He wants him to quit and surrender.

I spoke to the prime minister the other day. I believe he is a man of courage and backbone and a man who does believe in the aspirations of the Iraqi people. I believe he is one of the key ingredients to making sure that we move toward a free society.

In terms of exit strategies, listen, Steve, we will work to stand up an Iraqi security force and police force that is able to function, to work up a chain of command where the Iraqi police and security folks know that they're working for Iraqis, not for Americans. And we will stay as long as necessary, and then we will leave. We will complete the mission.

And the faster the Iraqis take over their own security needs, the faster the mission will end.

AHERN: Charlie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taoiseach, the president has said that the bitter differences over the war are over. This morning, President McAleese paid a courtesy call on President Bush. She expressed a certain disquiet on behalf of the people of Ireland over some of the differences of what's happened in Iraq. Did you echo those sentiments? And I could also put the same question to the president. How did he respond to what President McAleese had to say?

AHERN: And the answer is, I did, Charlie, and not on the first occasion. When I had the opportunity of meeting the president on St. Patrick's Day, as he kindly does every for us, we raised these issues. We discussed these issues at the G-8 meeting, how prisoners have been dealt with in some of the -- in certainly one of the prisons, what has happened in some of the -- from Afghanistan and Guantanamo. That's been an issue. The president has answered those.

The president's concerns about his own troops and some of the issues that happened as much as I am or anybody else in this country. And we've discussed that issue.

And I think it is the great thing, that where we have such good relationships with the United States, where we have so much cooperation, where today we can clear eight declarations. But still, we're all interested in progress. We're all interested in human rights and the dignity of the person that we can raise these issues.

That is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. The president has given us comprehensive answers, which I think both the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ad Minister Cowan administration myself were very glad to hear his perspective in this, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) admire it, because these things unfortunately happen. Of course we wish they didn't, but they do.

And what's important then is how they're dealt with, how things are improved for the future. And the questions were answered to -- as far as we were concerned, to our satisfaction, and the progress for the future of what the president is doing is also impressive.

BUSH: Of course the prime minister brought the issues of Iraq up, as did the president. And I told them both I was sick with what happened inside that prison, and so was, so were the American citizens. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the actions of those troops did not reflect what we think. And it did harm. It did harm, because there are people in Ireland and elsewhere say, Well, this isn't the America we know. This isn't the America that we believe exists.

And both leaders, of course, brought the issue up, and they should. And I assured them that we'll deal with this in a transparent way, which stands in stark contrast to how a tyrant would deal with it. And these abuses -- well, these abuses did take place in Iraq prior to our arrival. There were rape rooms, mass graves. I don't remember any international investigation of what took place in Iraq.

You'll -- we are investigating, and you'll be able to see exactly what takes place. And you'll be able to see the legal process that unfolds. And...

GRIFFIN: We've lost our feed from Ireland as the president, President Bush, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern from Ireland, and the European Commission president, Romano Prodi, are wrapping up the European Union meeting.

We'd like to bring in Frank Buckley, if we can, covering the president on his trip both to Ireland and to Turkey later on today.

Frank, this was very much about economics at this European summit, as we hear these leaders talk about what they've accomplished.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly that was one focus, the transatlantic business relationship.

But perhaps more importantly, the focus on Iraq and the attempt to gain unity among European leaders with the U.S. as Iraq goes into this handover period. You heard the president say that Europe and the United States are united in determination to help Iraq. He said the bitter differences of the war are over.

U.S. officials, pointing to the recent G-8 summit at Sea Island, saying that the warming of relations between countries that opposed the war, for example France and Germany, really starting to show for them. They are hoping that that will help to get NATO troops at the NATO summit.

Apparently we've got the feed back from the press avail, and we'll toss it back to Dromoland (ph) Castle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... poll standings, and is that something that should concern Americans?

BUSH: Well, Hutch, I must confess that the first polls I worry about are those that are going to take place in early November of this year. I -- listen, I care about the image of our country. We've got a country that we just got $2.5 trillion worth of trade, or $2.2 trillion worth of trade with the E.U. Obviously, something positive is happening.

I don't like it when the values of our country are misunderstood because of the actions of some people overseas. As far as my own personal standing goes, Hutch, my job is to do my job, you know? I'm going to do it the way I think is necessary. I'm going to set a vision. I will lead. And we'll just let the chips fall where they may.

AHERN: Romano.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody at the back. Nobody at the back?

BUSH: You look like a nice fellow. I don't know why they don't call on you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taoiseach, could I ask you to confirm that Portuguese Prime Minister Barroso has emerged as the likely successor to Mr. Prodi, and if you'll be proposing his name next Tuesday night as you're meeting with the fellow ministers?

AHERN: When I go back to Dublin to see them, I have to talk to still about half of my colleagues, which I hope to do that between about 5:00 and 9:00 tonight. I also have to talk to Jose Manuel Barroso, the present prime minister of Portugal. But we do hope, sincerely hope, that I will be in a position to both have the meeting and to make a recommendation and get a positive decision on Tuesday evening.


BUSH: Well, we got to go to Turkey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention here. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Taoiseach. Thank you, President Prodi.

GRIFFIN: This is the end of a European Union press conference being taking place at Newmarket-on-Fergus in Ireland.

Our Frank Buckley is nearby, traveling with the president in Ennis. Frank, any surprises from this news conference?

BUCKLEY: No, not really, Drew.

And just picking up on what we were saying a second ago, really, what's the most significant here is drawing the European Union into this -- what the U.S. officials consider to be a growing international consensus around supporting Iraq in this period after the handover. You talked -- you heard the president talk about the bitter differences of the war being over. Of course, the differences between European leaders in places like Germany and France very well known.

The joint statement that came out of the E.U. and the U.S. talking about supporting training and equipping Iraqi security forces, the U.S. Officials optimistic that NATO will do such a thing, at least provide a commitment to do those things at the request of Iraqi leadership.

Finally, you heard the president talking about the exit strategy in Iraq in response to a question. He said the U.S. Will stay as long as necessary, then we will leave. Of course, no date given. But right now, under the U.N. Security Council resolution, the period during which the U.S. forces would leave would probably be at the end of 2005, when a permanent Iraqi leadership is elected by the Iraqi people, Drew.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Frank, as you mentioned, a lot of this centered around getting support for Iraq and those forces there, those security forces. But also the president is in Ireland to try to get the E.U. to help forgive some of Iraq's debt. And we understand that ranges somewhere around $120 billion. What efforts were made on that front?

BUCKLEY: Well, the -- right now, that is one of the things that was another part of the joint declaration in support of Iraq. U.S. officials are saying that Iraq owes a great deal of money to its creditors. And what they would like to have happen is for that credit to essentially be written off, or a large portion of it. They point to an IMF analysis on debt sustainability that says that somewhere between $67 billion and $95 billion should be written off.

Some of the European leaders have suggested somewhere between $50 billion and $65 billion. So there is a bit of room there for negotiations. U.S. leaders say that they expect that. They understand that. They think that the Paris Club members should take this up. They know it will take some period of time.

But one thing they're insistent upon is that they -- that this takes place this year, 2004. They say that's absolutely crucial for Iraq moving forward, to not be burdened with this tremendous debt.

GRIFFIN: Frank, the president said it's on to Turkey now. We know you're going there with him. We wish you luck, and we'll talk to you from there.

And we'll be back right after this.


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