Op with Columbian President Alvaro Uribe
The Oval Office
The White House
April 30, 2003
5:20 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's my honor to welcome to the Oval Office a friend and courageous
person, the President of Colombia. He is determined to fight terror. He is
determined to fight the flow of narcotics to America. We appreciate his determination;
we appreciate his strength.
And so it's my honor to welcome you, Mr. President. Before I ask you to
speak, and before we answer two questions a side, I do want to say that today
we issued the road map. The road map is the beginning of a long process to
achieve peace in the Middle East. In order for there to be a peace in the
Middle East, it is important for all parties to assume the necessary responsibilities
to achieve the conditions so that peace can happen. That starts with fighting
off terror, to prevent killers from disrupting that which most citizens want
in the Middle East, and that is a peaceful, hopeful world.
I strongly condemn the killings that take place in the Middle East -- in
the last couple of days. I applaud the words of Abu Mazen, the new Prime
Minister of the Palestinian Authority, who renounced that terror. I look
forward to spending time and energies to move the process forward.
And finally, Mr. President, you're here on a day in which our country has
achieved another notable success in the war against terror. The Pakistan
authorities have detained Waleed ba Attash. He's a killer. He was one of
the top al Qaeda operatives. And he was right below Khalid Sheik Mohammed
on the organizational chart of al Qaeda. He is one less person that people
who love freedom have to worry about.
I want to thank our friends in Pakistan. I want to thank the Agency, the
CIA, for working hard to continue to win the war against terror. And make
no mistake about it, Mr. President, we will win the war against terror.
Thank you for your courageous fight in the war against terror, and welcome
to the Oval Office.
PRESIDENT URIBE: Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm welcome. This is
very important for my country. Colombia has suffered terrorism for a long
time. Thus, Colombia understands the need to fight terrorism in our country
and in other -- in any other country. And your government, your people, your
country, they are our best allies for us to succeed in our fight.
Thank you again, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
We'll have one -- we'll alternate questions between the American side and
the Colombian side. Tom.
QUESTION: Mr. President, even as the new Palestinian cabinet was sworn in, there
was a terror attack and the suicide bomber was linked to Mr. Abbas' own party.
How much confidence do you have that the new Prime Minister can control,
can reign in these people?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, for certain, in order for there to be peace, we must
all join together to fight off terror. Abu Mazen has publicly declared that
he will fight terror. He understands that in order for the Palestinian lives
to improve terror must be battled.
Listen, he's a man I can work with. And I look forward to working with him,
and will work with him, for the sake of peace, and for the sake of security.
Do you want to call on one of your reporters?
PRESIDENT URIBE: Half of my cabinet are made of women.
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I'm very impressed by that. (Laughter.) Not only that,
but they're very smart women.
QUESTION: -- Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, people in Colombia, we want to know how difficult is to
sign a bilateral trade agreement with Colombia. Is that going to be done?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, we've got a lot of work to do. The President and I
look forward to discussing trade. One thing that is for certain is we've
started down the road on a free trade agreement through the Free Trade Agreement
of the Americas, which I'm absolutely confident will boost the capacity of
the Colombian economy to grow.
And so we'll work -- we'll talk about all aspects of trade, including the
Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which, in my judgment, is the most
hopeful trade agreement there is. We've got all kinds of different opportunities
to work together, whether it be in trade or counter-narcotics, or fighting
terror. And we will stand as a strong friend and supporter of the Colombian
people as they take on difficult tasks.
QUESTION: Sir, previous Middle East peace initiatives haven't been all that successful.
What's different about this time?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, just because history has proven to be unsuccessful
doesn't mean that we're not going to try, for starters. I'm an optimist.
I believe now that we have a interlocutor from the Palestinian Authority
that has spoken clearly about the need to fight terror, that we have a good
opportunity to advance the peace process. And I will seize the opportunity.
Secondly, the war on Iraq has made it absolutely clear that those who harbor
terrorists, fund terrorists, or harbor weapons of mass destruction will be
held to account. That, in itself, helps create the conditions to move peace
And, by the way, in order for peace to occur, all parties must assume their
responsibilities. That includes the Arab nations which surround Israel and
the potential Palestinian state. They must cut off funding to terrorists.
They must create the conditions necessary for peace. Israel is going to have
to make some sacrifices in order to move the peace process forward. But no
sacrifice should be made that will allow and encourage terror to continue
QUESTION: Mr. Bush, more than 500 terrorists from the FARC have handed themselves
-- . We're wondering if the United States government would be willing at
some point to help reinsert into society these terrorists that have now handed
PRESIDENT BUSH: To help in what fashion? I didn't get your question.
QUESTION: -- to reinsert to the civil society --
PRESIDENT BUSH: To bring what to the civil society? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: To reinsert themselves, to go back to civil --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, to help them go back into civil society?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, some terrorists are just plain cold-blooded killers.
They're hard to retrain, somebody who is a killer. And we -- it's going to
be -- the President is going to have to make that decision, what's best for
his country. All I know is the man is absolutely committed to fighting terror.
For that, I appreciate it. He has got a straightforward, strong vision about
what has to happen to people who are willing to kill innocent people. And
that is, they must be dealt with severely.
And it's interesting, we share the same strategy. When al Qaeda came and
killed Americans, there's only one way to deal with them. That was to hunt
them down, find them and bring them to justice. And as I mentioned, today
we found one of the al Qaeda leaders. It was a major, significant find, his
detention. And the war goes on. It takes a while. We must be patient and
strong and diligent and focused.
And the President of Colombia is diligent, strong and focused. He knows
what he must do to make Colombia, a great nation, more safe and more secure
against people who, in my opinion, are nothing but terrorists.
PRESIDENT URIBE: Regarding this point, we have only one determination, to
defeat terrorists in Colombia. When you look at the people in the terror
organizations, you find the ringleaders, you find professional killers, and
you find young people mistakenly led by professional killers. Therefore,
we have the obligation to defeat terrorists, and the duty, the obligation
to give those young people the opportunity to come to live under our Constitution
We are telling them, you have the opportunity to follow the ringleaders
of the terror organizations, or you have the opportunity to come to live
in our community with the respect of our Constitution. For those who make,
who choose this option, we are ready to give them a new opportunity.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Never can tell what's going to kick in -- the urge. (Laughter.)