Reiterates Path for Peace in Middle East
Photo Op with United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair
June 26, 2002
9:07 A.M. (Local)
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to make a comment, the Prime Minister will make one.
We'll call in an orderly fashion, answer a couple of questions, if you don't
First, I'm -- it's great to be with my friend, the Prime Minister. This is our
second bilateral of the day, the first was in the gym. I went down after a run
and there was the Prime Minister working out -- an impressive regime, I might
add. (Laughter.) So we had a good visit there, and we'll have a good visit here.
America has got no better friend than the government of Great Britain. And I
really appreciate his advice and friendship, it's good to see him.
I am deeply concerned about some of the accounting practices that take place
in America. Today the revelations that Worldcom has misaccounted $3.4 billion
is outrageous. We will fully investigate and hold people accountable for misleading
not only shareholders, but employees, as well. There is a need for a renewed
corporate responsibility in America. Those entrusted with shareholders' money
must -- must -- strive for the highest of high standards. The good news is most
corporate leaders in America are good, honest, open people who care deeply about
shareholders and employees. And our economy is strong.
When we find egregious practices, such as the one revealed today, we'll go after
them. And need to.
Mr. Prime Minister.
THE PRIME MINISTER: Well, Mr. President, first of all, thank you for your kind
words. And I thought you looked in pretty good shape yourself this morning.
And once again let me pay tribute to your leadership at this time, particularly
post September the 11th, but actually on all the range of issues in the world
today. Our relationship is strong, partly because you and your colleagues are
so easy and open and transparent to deal with it, and I thank you for that.
And, obviously, we have discussed and will discuss all the key issues that are
to do with the summit, and the issues to do with the Middle East and so forth.
And I'm sure our discussions will be good and fruitful, as they always are.
THE PRESIDENT: Finlay.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in your speech you made it very clear that the current
leadership in Palestinian is not acceptable. If the outcome of the election
in January were to result in the reelection of Yasser Arafat, what would be
the policy of your government?
THE PRESIDENT: I meant what I said, that there needs to be change. If people
are interested in peace, something else has got to happen. We're mired in the
situation now where there is terror on the one hand and hopelessness on the
other, and that's unacceptable.
And therefore I laid out a way forward for Palestinians, the Israelis, the Arab
world and all the rest of us worried about. And it said basically the new institutions
-- there needs to be a new constitution, there needs to be elections, there
needs to be balance of power,there needs to be new security forces, there needs
to be transparency amongst financial institutions.
I also made it plenty clear that if there leadership compromised by terror,
we won't be on the path to peace. I've got confidence in the Palestinian when
they understand fully what we're saying, that they'll make right decisions as
to how we get down the road for peace. The status quo is simply unacceptable,
and it should be unacceptable to them. They live in a -- you know, they've been
pawns in the game of peace, they have no hope, their economy is in shambles,
they live in squalor. They're leadership has let them down.
QUESTION: Mr. President, who will be the judge, though, in the sufficiency of
the reforms that you're calling for?
THE PRESIDENT: The free world, the people that are going to be asked to put
up money. Listen, I can assure you we won't be putting money into a society
which is not transparent and corrupt. And I suspect other countries won't either.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, can I ask you, do you agree that there's got to
be change, and that means an end to Yasser Arafat? And can I ask you also, Mr.
President, whether you agree with the Europeans that you're not as serious as
Mr. Blair about helping Africa?
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
THE PRIME MINISTER: First of all, let me just make it clear, as I said to you
yesterday, it's for the Palestinians to elect the people that they choose to
elect. But if we're going to make progress, we need people that we can negotiate
with, who are serious about negotiating around the issues of security and political
reform necessary for the peace process to work.
So this is no question of us going in and saying to the Palestinians, look,
we're going to run your election. But it is a question of us saying, if we want
this peace process to work there are certain clear preconditions. One, we've
got to have leadership we can negotiate with that is serious about peace and
resists and totally rejects terrorism.
Two, we've got to have a security infrastructure in Palestine that has integrity.
And, three, we've got to have political institutions capable of giving rise
to the viable Palestinian state that we believe should be the outcome of this
So if in the end you want, as we want, an Israeli state that is confident about
its own security and a viable Palestinian state, those are the preconditions.
For Israel to be confident, it's got to have a negotiating partner that is serious
about tackling terrorism.
Now, that is, I think, the essence of it. So, you know, it's not a question
of saying we're going to tell people who they elect or not elect -- that's for
them. But it's for us to say the consequences of electing people who aren't
serious negotiating partners is that we can't move this forward.
QUESTION: And that's Arafat you're talking about --
THE PRIME MINISTER: Well, you know, as I said to you yesterday, we've had a
situation over the past few years -- and I've tried as hard as anyone, I think
I've had 30 different meetings with Chairman Arafat over the past few years.
But as I said to you yesterday, you've got a situation where we have not been
able to make progress and there has been an attitude towards terrorism that
is inconsistent with the notion of Israel's security.
THE PRESIDENT: As to Africa, all of us are doing as much as we possibly can.
I don't think this is a competition. I'm proud of the Blair government's efforts
for Africa and I'm proud of my efforts for Africa. After all, I laid out what
I call a Millennium Challenge Account in Monterrey, Mexico that says if countries
adopt the habits of democracy and freedom and private property and reform, there
will be $5 billion a year available. I laid out a new AIDS initiative that is
the first of its kind, that says we're going to provide a lot of money, about
half a billion dollars, to mother-to-child -- to affect mother-to-child transmission
We're also significantly involved in the AIDS fund. I laid out another initiative
on a $200 million education fund. So I'm plenty pleased with the progress we're
Stretch. We call him Stretch.
QUESTION: Glad to have it back. (Laughter.) Mr. President, if Yasser Arafat
is compromised by terror, and if the Palestinian Authority has trafficked with
terrorists, under your doctrine are you prepared for the U.S. to step up its
military role in eliminating him and those terror organizations which the administration
believes that he props up?
And totally unrelated to that, do you believe that there is a crisis in confidence
among the American people, vis a vis the economy, and particularly the stock
market in view of yet another failure of an American corporation?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me answer the second question first. The market isn't as
strong as it should be for three reasons. One, corporate profits. There's no
question some sectors of our economy are recovering from the slow-down, but
Secondly, there are still some concerns as to whether or not the United States
and our friends and allies will be able to prevent further terrorist attack.
In other words, there's some concerns about the capacity of the enemy to hit
us again. And I want to assure American investors and our friends that we're
doing everything we possibly can -- the government is on full alert, attempting
to run down every hint and every lead.
And, thirdly, there are some concerns about the validity of the balance sheets
of corporate America -- and I can understand why. We've had too many cases of
people abusing their responsibilities. And people just need to know that the
SEC is on it, our government is on it -- after all, Arthur Andersen has been
prosecuted. We will pursue within the full -- within our laws those who are
Having said that, I do believe the economy is strong and I know that most people
that run businesses in America are aboveboard, honest, care deeply about their
employees and their shareholders.
QUESTION: Under the Bush doctrine, any --
THE PRESIDENT: Under the Bush doctrine I said we'd use all resources, all available
resources to fight off terror. And that includes working with our friends and
allies to cut off money, to use diplomatic pressure, to convince -- to convince
those that think they can traffick in terror that they're going to face a mighty
coalition. And sometimes we use military force and sometimes we won't.
In the case of the Middle East, obviously, the road map I've laid out is one
that calls upon all our friends and allies to join and bind together against
terror; it calls upon the Arab nations to step up and firmly reject terror.
If you remember in my speech, I said they need to get on their public airways
and denounce terror, they need to work on Syria and Lebanon, to prevent Hezbollah
from creating chaos in the Middle East. We all have responsibilities and in
this case the tool I'm using is diplomatic pressure to work with our friends
and allies to convince all parties they have a responsibility to bear.
QUESTION: Are you ruling out military action?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm never ruling out military. All options are available. But
in this case, at the path I've laid out, is the path that ought to be clear
to you by now. It's one that -- the one that I spoke to clearly.
MR. FLEISCHER: Final question, British reporter.
QUESTION: I'm the only British reporter here. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: -- British accent? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I speak English.
THE PRESIDENT: I may not understand you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can we just ask about the war on terror, because you know, anyone
who has come up here knows what a fortress you've got here. What more have you
got to agree with your G8 partners here on --
THE PRESIDENT: On the war on terror?
QUESTION: On the war on terror.
THE PRESIDENT: I think it's just an up time to give an update. We've got to
do everything we can to cut off their money, do everything we can to keep the
pressure on countries which might not realize that we're still serious.
We've had some great successes. One of the most recent successes, of course,
is Gloria Arroyo in the Philippines. She's a part of our vast coalition. She
early on said we need to get after Abu -- you know, the Abu Zubaydah group.
And she did it. And to her credit, it looks like the leader met his demise.
And the Philippines are better off for that and so is the world.
And so this is a chance for us to continually remind each other that we -- our
countries are still under threat, but we're making good progress. This is a
different kind of war, I readily concede that. Sometimes people are going to
see success and sometimes they're not. But we're making success.
THE PRIME MINISTER: And I think the important thing, too, is to emphasize to
people that it's a continuing trend. I mean, this threat is not over yet. We
have to make sure that in every single battle we carry this fight on, and it
will take a long time.
But I think if you -- if we're to look at Afghanistan today and think back seven,
eight months, I think we've come a very, very long way, indeed. And I'm optimistic
about it, because I think the coalition against terror is as strong today as
it was all those months ago.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just make sure you understand, Fournier, what I said.
I can tell from the tone of your question that there was a little doubt in your
mind -- some doubt.
No leader ever takes options off a table. But the path to peace that I believe
is appropriate is the one I talked about in the Rose Garden the other day --
just to make sure you understand.