Availability with United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair
Belfast, Northern Ireland
11:08 A.M. (Local)
April 8, 2003
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Good morning, everyone. First of all, I would like to
extend a very warm welcome to President Bush to Northern Ireland.
America has long been a friend of Northern Ireland and a friend to us in
this important period for the peace process. So it's both significant and
welcome that the President is here in person to give, once more, his support,
and to join with me and, later today, with the Irish Taoiseach in urging
the parties to take the final steps towards a lasting peace here in Northern
It's also perhaps fitting that here in Northern Ireland a good part of our
discussion focused on the Middle East. It's not so many years ago that it
would have been said that the peace process here was in far worse shape than
the process out in the Middle East. Yet, here we are, for all the difficulties
in Northern Ireland, able to point back to real improvements in the security
and the standard of living of people here, and to point forward to turning
progress into lasting change, lasting security and lasting peace, which is
what people want to see here. And we've made that progress because of patience
and perseverance, and because friends like those in the United States of
America have helped us get there.
So, to those who can sometimes say that the process in the Middle East
is hopeless, I say we can look at Northern Ireland and take some hope from
I want to thank the President also for the impetus he has given to the two-state
solution in the Middle East that he outlined last June, a secure Israel and
a viable Palestinian state; and for his decision that the road map be published
-- which, as you know, depends upon the foundation of Abu Mazen's cabinet.
Of course, our discussions have naturally continued to focus upon Iraq,
upon the continuing military campaign, where, once again, our forces have
performed superbly. And I want to pay tribute to the U.S., UK, and other
coalition forces. In all parts of the country, our power is strengthening,
the regime is weakening, the Iraqi people are turning towards us.
I'd like to pay tribute to the professionalism and the compassion that
they continue to show, and to express my condolences to the families of those
that have lost their lives in this conflict -- most recently, the three brave
soldiers who lost their lives fighting to liberate Basra. I think anyone
who has seen the joy on the faces of people in Basra as they realize that
the regime that they detest is finally collapsing knows very well that this
was, indeed, a war of liberation and not of conquest.
On weapons of mass destruction, we know that the regime has them. We know
that as the regime collapses, we will be led to them. We pledged to disarm
Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and we will keep that commitment.
On Saddam, his grip on power has been prized away. He has ruled by fear,
but as the knowledge sinks in that we will get the job done, the people realize
there's not going to be a repeat of 1991, there's not going to be a repeat
of the past. The power of Saddam is ending.
And our enemy in this conflict has always been Saddam and his regime, not
the Iraqi people. We are the friends of the Iraq people. So much of our discussion
today has focused on how we continue to get vital supplies of food, water
and medicines to them, and how we help the process of transition to the day
when Iraq is governed by the Iraqi people for the Iraqi people.
As we said, our forces will not stay in Iraq a day longer than is necessary.
We will take on the legal and moral obligations that will fall to us as the
forces on the ground to stabilize the country, to keep basic services going,
to protect civilian life. Then we will help Iraq move as swiftly as possible
to an interim authority run by Iraqis. And that, in turn, is designed to
pave the way for a truly representative government which respects human rights
and the rule of law; which spends Iraq's wealth not on palaces and weapons
of mass destruction, but on the well-being, prosperity of the people of Iraq.
And this new Iraq that will emerge is not to be run either by us or, indeed,
by the U.N. That is a false choice. It will be run by the Iraqi people. All
of us will do what we can to help in that process of transition. We are,
of course, agreed, as we say in our joint statement, that there will be a
vital role for the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq. But the
key is that Iraq, in the end, should be governed by the Iraqi people.
Once again, let me thank President Bush for coming here. Let me say, as
well as our own pride in our own forces during the course of this conflict,
we have watched with immense admiration the skill and tenacity and professionalism
of the American forces. This is a strong alliance. We're strong allies. And
I think, day by day, the proof of the wisdom of that alliance grows.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much, Tony. It's an honor to be with you
again. It's -- I'm really pleased to be here in Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister is a man of his word. He is a man of great ability, deep
conviction, and steady courage. He has my admiration, and he has the admiration
of the American people.
Our two countries are joined in large tasks because we share fundamental
convictions. We believe that free nations have the responsibility to confront
terrorism. We believe free nations must oppose the spread of weapons of mass
destruction. And we believe that free nations must advance human rights and
dignity across the world. We believe that the just demands of the international
community must be enforced, not ignored. We believe this so strongly that
we are acting on our convictions.
America and Britain have been partners in Afghanistan, where a terrorist
regime has bee replaced by a government committed to justice and to peace.
At this moment, our military forces are fighting side-by-side in Iraq to
defend our security and to free that nation from oppression. Our governments
are working to help bring about a settlement in the Middle East that protects
the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, that promotes the peace, that promotes
security, that promotes human dignity.
In Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister and I are committed the helping
the parties take the final steps toward a lasting peace. Later this week,
Prime Minister Blair and the Taoiseach will release a plan setting out the
remaining actions that must be taken to realize the promise of the Good Friday
Agreement. I support, and my government strongly supports their efforts.
At the meeting this afternoon I will urge Northern Ireland's political leaders
to adopt this plan as their own.
This is an historic moment, and I ask all the communities of Northern Ireland
to seize this opportunity for peace.
Prime Minister Blair and I are also reviewing the course of the battle
in Iraq. We're spending a lot of time talking about that country's future
beyond war and beyond tyranny. As the Prime Minister mentioned, our armed
services are conducting themselves with great courage and, at the same time,
great humanity. I'm proud of our forces. I'm proud of the British forces.
We're both proud of the Australian forces.
We share sacrifices; we share grief. We pray for those families who mourn
the loss of life -- American families, British families. And as this war
has progressed, the world has witnessed the brutal desperation, the true
character of the Iraqi regime. The world is also witnessing the liberation
and humanitarian aid our coalition is bringing to that country as a new day
begins in Iraq.
In fighting this war, we're taking every precaution to protect innocent
life. We're showing respect for the Iraqi people, respect for their culture.
There will be difficult fighting ahead, yet the outcome is not in doubt:
Iraq will be free.
After the current regime is removed, our coalition will work to restore
electricity and water supplies, medical care, and other essential services
in Iraq. We'll move as quickly as possible to place governmental responsibilities
under the control of an interim authority composed of Iraqis from both inside
and outside the country. The interim authority will serve until a permanent
government can be chosen by the Iraqi people. The rebuilding of Iraq will
require the support and expertise of the international community. We're committed
to working with international institutions, including the United Nations,
which will have a vital role to play in this task.
This work when the war is finished will not be easy, by we're going to
see it through. A free Iraq will be ruled by laws, not by a dictator. A free
Iraq will be peaceful, and not a friend to terrorists or a menace to its
neighbors. A free Iraq will give up all its weapons of mass destruction.
A free Iraq will set itself on the path to democracy. The end of Saddam's
regime will also remove a source of violence and instability in the Middle
Prime Minister Blair and I are determined to move toward our vision of broader
peace in that region. We're committed to implementing the road map toward
peace, to bring closer the day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live
side-by-side in peace and stability.
Peace in the Middle East will require overcoming deep divisions of history
and religion. Yet we know this is possible; it is happening in Northern Ireland.
We are proving that old patterns of bitterness and violence, the habits of
hatred and retribution, can be broken when one generation makes the choice
to break those habits. And now this process of healing must be carried forward.
The United States and the United Kingdom accept our responsibilities --
accept our responsibilities for peace; we accept our responsibilities for
security. Across the world, we are meeting these responsibilities together.
America has no finer ally than the United Kingdom, and no finer friend than
the Prime Minister. And I'm grateful for his leadership in these crucial
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Right. Adam.
QUESTION: Mr. President, welcome to Northern Ireland. I wonder if I could ask you
how you feel about meeting the leaders of the Republican movement, bearing
in mind that unlike Saddam Hussein, they have directly targeted British civilians,
British politicians, members of the British military and the police -- and
also, of course, they oppose the war. So you're welcoming Gerry Adams, apparently,
and, yet, you're not going to see someone like the Democratic Unionists who
are a constitutional party opposed to terrorism.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. This isn't my first time I've met Mr. Adams or any
of the other parties who have committed to the Good Friday Agreement -- as
a matter of fact, I welcomed to the Oval Office, around St. Patrick's Day
of this year, and last year, and the year before.
I am honored to have been asked to be here to help move the process along.
These are men who have committed to an agreement that the Prime Minister
and the Taoiseach worked a long time to achieve. They've signed on to a process
that will yield peace. They have agreed to put hatreds in the past. They
have agreed to say the history is just that -- history. And they look forward
to a future in which young generations of Northern Irelanders can grow up
in peace. That's what they've committed themselves to. And as a result of
making that commitment, I am perfectly comfortable about urging them to see
the process through.
There is such hope here in Northern Ireland that the past can be broken.
And the Prime Minister is right when he says that when the peace process
is successful here, it will send a really important signal to other parts
of the world. It will confirm the fact that people who have a vision for
peace can see that vision become a reality.
It's the same vision we need to have in the Middle East. It's a hopeful
time in the Middle East, as far as I'm concerned. I believe we can make substantial
progress. I'm pleased with the new leader of the Palestinian Authority. I
look forward to him finally putting his cabinet in place so we can release
the road map.
I believe peace is possible. Being here in Northern Ireland even makes me
even more firm in my belief that peace is possible. I've talked at length
with the Prime Minister about how hard he had to work to bring the process
this far. I'm willing to expend the same amount of energy in the Middle East.
And so I hope these leaders hear me when I say that -- achieve the agreement,
because it will have an effect beyond Northern Ireland. And I think it will.
QUESTION: Mr. President, how reliable was the intelligence that put Saddam Hussein
at the site of last night's attack? Did he survive? And given the incursions
in Baghdad recently, is the war nearly over?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, I don't know whether he survived. The only thing
I know is he's losing power. I know that because the Royal Marines in Basra
worked so hard that the people of Basra are beginning to understand that
-- a couple of things -- one, when we said we would come and stay to achieve
their liberty, we meant it. That in Basra, for example, the Royal Marine
-- the presence of the Royal Marines is providing enough comfort for people
to begin to express their own opinions, they're beginning to realize freedom
These are people in the south of Iraq that had been betrayed, tortured;
had been told they were going to be free, took a risk in the past and then
were absolutely hammered by the Iraqi regime. They were skeptical, they were
cynical, they were doubtful. Now they believe, they're beginning to understand
we're real and true. And it's happening elsewhere. Freedom is spreading south
So the only thing I can tell you is that, that grip I used to describe that
Saddam had around the throats of the Iraqi people are loosening. I can't
tell you if all ten fingers are off the throat, but finger by finger, it's
coming off. And the people are beginning to realize that. It's important
for the Iraqi people to continue to hear this message: We will not stop until
they are free. Saddam Hussein will be gone. It might have been yesterday,
I don't know. But he'll be gone and they just need to know that, because
we're not leaving. And not only that, they need to hear the message that
we're not leaving after he's gone, until they are ready to run their own
I hear a lot of talk here about how we're going to impose this leader or
that leader. Forget it. From day one, we have said the Iraqi people are capable
of running their own country. That's what we believe. The position of the
United States of America is, the Iraqis are plenty capable of running Iraq.
And that's precisely what is going to happen.
QUESTION: Picking up if I could, just on that last point for both of you, have you
agreed whether the United Nations will have any role in selecting the interim
Iraqi authority? Or will that be entirely for the coalition?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, I mean, when we say vital role for the United Nations,
we mean vital role for the United Nations in all aspects of the issue --
whether it be humanitarian aid, or whether it be helping to stand up an interim
authority. The Iraqi people will decide who's on the Iraqi -- the interim
authority. The interim authority is a transition quasi-government until the
real government shows up; until the conditions are right for the people to
elect their own leadership. And the United Nations will have a vital role.
When we say vital role, that's precisely what we mean -- that they will
be involved, along with the coalition, in helping to stand up an interim
authority. But the Iraqi people are responsible for who's on that authority.
And Tony can describe what's happening in Basra. He might describe some of
the meetings that are taking place as leadership begins to emerge.
It is a -- it is a cynical world that says it's impossible for the Iraqis
to run themselves. It is a cynical world which condemns Iraq to failure.
We refuse to accept that. We believe that the Iraqi people are capable, talented,
and will be successful in running their own government.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I agree with all that, as you would expect. (Laughter.)
And can I just make this further point to you, the one thing that is interesting
is that as people in Iraq realize that Saddam and his regime are going, as
they realize that, they are coming out. And it's not that they're welcoming
us because they're welcoming foreign troops. They're welcoming the fact of
their liberation, from a regime the more we know about it, the more brutal,
repressive, tyrannical we see its character. And therefore, these people,
given a chance, already now they're in discussion with our people inside
Basra -- people coming forward, people talking about those who have got support
within the local community.
Iraq -- it's not just that it's right that Iraq is run by Iraqi people;
they want the chance to run their own country. They haven't wanted to be
under the yoke of tyranny for all these decades. The reason you have this
incredibly tyrannical, repressive security apparatus was in order to suppress
the proper feelings of the people there.
Now, of course, we're going to work with everyone -- we'll work with the
U.N., we'll work with everyone in order to bring this about. But if I can
just make this point to your point -- the important thing is not to get into
some battle about words of the precise role here or there; but let's all
work together internationally -- the coalition forces, the international
community together -- to do what we really should be doing, which is making
sure that that will of the Iraqi people is properly expressed in institutions
that in the end they own, not any outside power or authority.
And I think if we keep that vision in our minds, then we'll get this right.
And rather than having a sort of, you know, endless diplomatic wrangles over
it, let's all just agree that the basic things that the Iraqi people want
is they want to have a country where they are able to exploit their own wealth
for their own prosperity, where they have basic protection of human rights,
and where they have a government genuinely representative of Iraqi people
-- of the full diversity of Iraqi people.
And I think what the President's just said there is so true, that -- I can't
tell you how many times people have said to me in these situations, well,
the outside world doesn't really understand, somehow these people who are
living under these types of tyrannies really -- that's the way they live.
That's not the way they want to live. It's the way they're forced to live.
Give them a chance to live freely, and they will live freely.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what is -- what exactly is the vital role for the U.N.
that you both mentioned? How do you explain what is a vital role? And are
we going to see the same U.N. debate over postwar Iraq that we saw before
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I view a vital role as a agent to help people live
freely. That's a vital role. That means food, that means medicine, that means
aid, that means a place where people can give their contributions, that means
suggesting people for the IIA, that means being a party to the progress being
made in Iraq. That's what that means. And I want to thank Kofi Annan for
naming a personal representative to the process yesterday. It is a positive
We have said all along there needs to be a role for the United Nations.
We said so in the Azores. We will keep repeating it. And evidently there's
some skepticism here in Europe about whether or not I mean what I say. Saddam
Hussein clearly knows I mean what I say. And when, you know, we -- and people
in Iraq will know we mean what we say when we talk about freedom. And a vital
role for the United Nations means a vital role for the United Nations.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Absolutely. And there is no reason whatever why we
need to go back into the wrangles we had over, you know, the so-called second
resolution. If people keep in mind the key objective -- which is the well-being
of the Iraqi people -- whatever -- the past is the past. But this country
is in the process of being liberated if they keep in mind the well-being
of the Iraqi people, then I think -- I think we all then share a responsibilities
to make that objective be fulfilled in terms of what the Iraqi people want,
in terms of their democratic rights, in terms of their prosperity, in terms
of their freedom. And with goodwill and common sense, I'm sure it can be