Availability with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Prairie Chapel Ranch
July 21, 2003
11:13 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for coming. I'm honored to host my friend, the Prime
Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi. It's such an honor for us to welcome
-- I say "us," Laura welcomes him, as well as I, to our ranch.
We welcome the Prime Minister as a good friend, and he represents a country
which is a strong ally to America. Welcome.
THE PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank him for being such a gracious host during
our trips overseas, and we're really pleased to return the hospitality.
Last year, on America's Memorial Day, Prime Minister Berlusconi visited
an American military cemetery in Italy to honor our service members who gave
their lives defending freedom in Europe. His actions touched me, personally.
He understands the history and the values that our two countries share. The
people of the United States and Italy love freedom. And we know that freedom
must be defended.
We also understand that defending freedom requires cost and sacrifice. And
the United States is grateful for Italy's willingness to bear the burdens
with us. Italy and America stood together through nearly a half a century
of Cold War. Over the past decade, we have stood together against oppression
and hatred in the Balkans. And in the months since September the 11th, 2001,
Italy and America have stood side-by-side against tyranny and global terror.
The war on terror continues. We will see it through to victory. Global terrorist
networks are a threat to America, to Italy, and to all peaceful nations.
And we are disrupting and destroying those networks. The proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction is a threat to America, to Italy and to all peaceful
We will persevere until that threat is removed. Radicalism and ideologies
of hatred are a threat to America, to Italy and to all peaceful nations.
And we are determined to spread liberty and progress and hope. My country
is especially grateful to the Italian troops and police who are serving with
skill and courage in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our efforts to work for freedom
and stability in these countries and throughout the entire region are an
integral part of the war on terror. And we will make both our nations safer
and advance the peace of the world.
The Prime Minister and I are both encouraged by signs of progress toward
a great goal in the Middle East. Two states, Palestine and Israel, living
side-by-side in peace and security. Both Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister
Sharon are showing leadership and courage. Now it is time for governments
across the Middle East to support the efforts of these two men by fighting
terror in all its forms. This includes the governments of Syria and Iran.
Their behavior is -- today, Syria and Iran continue to harbor and assist
terrorists. This behavior is completely unacceptable and states that support
terror will be held accountable.
Supporting and harboring terrorists undermines the prospects for peace in
the Middle East, and betrays the true interests of the Palestinian people.
Terrorism is the greatest obstacle to the emergence of a Palestinian state.
And all leaders who seek this goal have an obligation to back up their words
in real actions against terror. And leaders who are interested in a peaceful
solution in the Middle East must support the efforts of Prime Minister Abbas
to build a democratic Palestine and ease the hardships faced by the Palestinian
The Prime Minister and I are in complete agreement that Europe and America
are both more secure and more effective when we act together. I'm pleased
that Prime Minister Berlusconi is now serving as the President of the European
Union. And I'm confident that under his leadership of the EU, Europe and
America will continue to meet the great challenges before us.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your leadership, your wise counsel and
your friendship, and welcome to Crawford, Texas.
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for hosting
me and thank you for inviting me here to visit a country which I love very
much, to talk about our common concerns, that is freedom, democracy and justice
Thank you very much for welcoming me in your home, making me feel as a member
of your family. Please let me say so, this is again a chance for me to talk
to you and tell you about the gratitude I have, the gratitude I, personally,
have, my country has for you, for a country which allowed us to enjoy our
freedom and our welfare and well-being and to enjoy all of this.
This morning I attended one of your meetings, work meetings and I was strongly
impressed by the burden of responsibilities that you take on yourself, and
on your country. And I really thought that it was extremely important for
the citizens in the West to know with what attention and care, and with what
spirit of sacrifice and generosity the United States and its President follow
the developments all over the world, which might bring about danger and threat
and hurt, any country in the world.
He already mentioned the topics we discussed in our meeting, and already
said that we have a common vision on all of these issues, with no exception.
I'll go back to Italy and Europe with a belief, which I already had, but
which was strengthened by my visit here.
My belief is that we really need to support and develop the culture of union
and cohesion, and certainly not nurture the culture of division. Selfishness,
narcissism and division shall never win. We need to revive the huge strength
of cohesion. And this has to be a vital force, able to plan and build something.
And this is the message which I'm going to bring back to my European allies
as President of the European Union.
Once again, thank you, Mr. President, for the friendship of your people
to my country and for your personal friendship and esteem.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Before the Prime Minister and I take a tour
of the ranch, we'll answer a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, a mortar shell has hit the U.S. embassy in Liberia. The
U.S. has sent a contingent of Marines there to protect its interests. What
about the civilians being killed? There were some civilians dragged in front
of the embassy this morning. Sir, my question is, can the U.S. stand by and
watch the violence spiral out of control, and what about sending U.S. peacekeepers?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you're right, we just sent a group of troops in to
protect our interests, and we're concerned about our people in Liberia. We'll
continue to monitor the situation very closely. We're working with the United
Nations to affect policy necessary to get the cease fire back in place. We
are working with ECOWAS to determine when they will be prepared to move in
the peacekeeper troops that I have said we'll be willing to help move in
to Liberia. We're monitoring the situation very carefully.
You call on somebody.
THE PRIME MINISTER: Prego.
QUESTION: The question, if possible, could be answered by both of you -- that is,
the situation in Iraq. Did you discuss the possibility of having Italian
troops taking over and replacing the -- taking over the peacekeeping operations
and taking over from the U.S. military? And did you talk about reconstruction
of Iraq? And did you also mention the possibility that countries which did
not participate in the coalition can have the same role and same share in
the reconstruction of Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we didn't talk about Italy replacing the United States
as peacekeepers. Yes, we did discuss how to broaden the coalition to bring
more security to Iraq.
It's very important for our citizens of both countries to understand that
this extension of hostility is really a part of the war to liberate Iraq.
There are people in Iraq who hate the thought of freedom. There are Saddam
apologists who want to try to stay in power through terrorist activity. And
I explained to the Prime Minister, we're patient, we're strong, we're resolute
and we will see this matter through.
And, obviously, the more help we can get, the more we appreciate it. And
we are continuing to work with other nations to ask their help advice. But
we appreciate the leadership of the Prime Minister.
Secondly, the answer to your question about reconstruction efforts, the
answer is, who can do the best job for the Iraqi people? The reconstruction
effort shouldn't be viewed as a political exercise. It shouldn't be viewed
as an international grab bag. It shouldn't be viewed as a special opportunity.
The answer to your question is, how best to improve the lives of the Iraqi
people, how best to quickly establish electricity and clean water and hospitals
and schools, all the things necessary for a free society to develop. And
so if that can be -- if that question can be answered positively by somebody
who didn't necessarily agree with the decision, that's fine. We're interested
-- mostly interested in the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you want to answer that, sir?
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: No, no, I completely share what the President
THE PRESIDENT: Then why don't you ask the Prime Minister a question so he
can answer a question.
QUESTION: Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Adam.
QUESTION: New evidence suggests North Korea may have built a second, secret site
to process plutonium. How concerned are you? Are you going to let this stand?
Also, are you still hopeful of making progress in talks through the Chinese?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate you bringing up the latter, because I
do believe we can solve this issue diplomatically by encouraging the neighborhood
-- the Chinese, the South Koreans and the Japanese to join us with a single
voice that says to Mr. Kim Chong-il, a decision to develop a nuclear arsenal
is one that will alienate you from the rest of the world.
The desire by the North Koreans to convince the world that they're in the
process of developing a nuclear arsenal is nothing new. We've known that
for a while. And, therefore, we must continue to work with the neighborhood
to convince Kim Chong-il that his decision is an unwise decision. And we
will do just that.
QUESTION: Would you accept a new United Nation resolution about Iraq? You know that
some countries are asking.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're in close consultation with the U.N. We believe
that 1483 empowers countries to make a proper decision to get involved in
Iraq. Let me talk about the U.N. in relations to Iraq in general. Mr. deMello
is doing a very fine job. He is working very closely with Bremer. They've
got a fine relationship. And that bodes well for future discussions. Fourteen
eighty-three is a very strong resolution and a very adequate resolution.
But we're constantly in touch with U.N. officials. And Kofi Annan was in
my office the other day, discussing a lot of different issues. And one of
the issues was Iraq. The more people involved in Iraq, the better off we
will be. And that's exactly what our intention is, to encourage people to
participate in the -- making Iraq more secure and more free. A free Iraq
is a crucial part of winning the war on terror.
And now I'm going to go see to it that the Prime Minister is well fed. We're
going to feed him some chicken.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate it very much. Thank you, all.