Joint Press Availability with President Jose Maria Aznar
The White House
May 7, 2003
5:58 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Welcome. It's also my honor to welcome an important friend
of America, President Jose Maria Aznar. I welcome you back to the Casa Blanca.
It's good to see you again.
Jose Maria is a man of principle and a man of courage. Under his leadership,
Spain has been a strong partner in the war against terror, and has stood with
the coalition to liberate the people of Iraq. He believes in freedom, freedom
Together, Spain and America will continue to meet the responsibilities of
free nations for the peace and security of the world.
We last met in March at the Atlantic Summit in the Azores. The eight weeks
since have been a momentous chapter in the history of freedom. We liberated
the people of Iraq from a brutal dictatorship. We brought greater security
to people of all nations.
I want to thank the President for Spain's diplomatic support before the conflict,
and for the use of Spanish airspace and bases as the war grew closer. I also
offer my condolences to the family and friends of the two members of the
Spanish media who lost their lives while covering the hostilities.
Both Spain and the United States are committed to a stable, democratic and
peaceful future for the people of Iraq. Spain has shown that commitment by
sending medical and engineering units to help the Iraqi people. And I thank
you for that help.
Today I removed the sanctions imposed by the United States against Iraq's
old government. First, based on the authority recently given to me by Congress,
I am suspending the Iraq Sanctions Act, which restricts the export of certain
equipment necessary for Iraq's reconstruction.
Secondly, I am directing Treasury Secretary Snow to relax administrative sanctions
on American companies and citizens conducting business in Iraq that contributes
to humanitarian relief and reconstruction.
Soon, at the U.N. Security Council, the United States, Great Britain and Spain
will introduce a new resolution to lift the sanctions imposed by the United
Nations. The regime that the sanctions were directed against no longer rules
Iraq. And no country in good conscience can support using sanctions to hold
back the hopes of the Iraqi people.
Across the globe, Spain and America will continue as strong allies in the
war against terror. Today, the United States took steps to cut off financing
for the Batasuna organization, because of its ties to the ETA. We believe that
the people of Spain, like everywhere, have a right to live free from terror.
We'll also work for a better world beyond the war on terror. We are committed
to expanding trade, which builds prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.
We'll work together to address global poverty and the terrible diseases, such
Spain and the United States will stand on the side of people everywhere who
are striving for greater freedom, tolerance, and opportunity. We are determined
to help build peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Last week's
confirmation of Abu Mazen and his cabinet permitted the release of the road
map for peace, developed with Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations.
Spain and the United States are determined to take advantage of this moment
of opportunity for peace. I'm grateful for the wise counsel and for the friendship
of Jose Maria Aznar.
PRESIDENT AZNAR: Good afternoon, everyone. I would, firstly, like to thank
President George Bush, and thank him because of his kind invitation. And I
want to thank the President personally because, upon his initiative, the U.S.
government has taken an extremely important decision in the anti-terrorist
struggle by legalizing Batasuna that has supported -- considering it -- sorry
-- a terrorist organization as part of the terrorist organization that has
made so many victims in Spain.
I want to recall here in the White House precisely that in July 2001 -- that
is to say, before 9/11 -- President Bush committed himself very firmly in Madrid
to solve and help to fight terrorism. So we're speaking of deep convictions
that unite us.
So I want you all to know that President Bush has scrupulously met his commitments,
and today, in a very fundamental support in the struggle against terrorism.
And I, as President of the government of Spain, as a Spaniard, and as a friend,
would like to thank him most especially.
The second thing I wanted to say is that the relationship between Spain and
the United States is extremely solid, strong, it's firm, and we want it to
be that way not only now, but also in the future. And I think that it is based
on a shared vision and on shared values, on many things. Given one clear example,
the most serious risk, perhaps, to us all -- terrorism. But this relationship
is based on firm belief in shared values, and in principles that we defend
and that we proclaim and that we assume.
And it's also based on something that is very important, in that commitments
are met. And that's something these days worth remembering. And that's the
value of giving your word. When you give your word and you keep it, then that
gives rise to trust, and that, in turn, friendship. And that, I believe, is
what serious countries and serious governments must do.
With regard to Iraq, that we've spoken about, I very much appreciate all the
information that the President shared with me. Well, we've done, very simply,
very normally, what we had to do. But today, we confront the future with optimism
from a founded hope for the Iraqi people in freedom. Having one freedom for
the Iraqis is the best hope we can sow for Iraq's future. And we want a democratic
Iraq in which the Iraqis may decide their own future, they can be -- have their
own future in their own hands, and naturally, that they can live in freedom.
That is something that Spain is committed to, to Iraq's reconstruction. And
we will, naturally, co-sponsor with our friends and partners, the United States,
Great Britain, the new resolution that the Security Council may take on sanctions.
Yesterday, I told Secretary General Kofi Annan that sanctions had to be lifted.
And I believe it should be done as quickly as possible, because they've lost
their reason to exist. And with that resolution we will also be meeting one
of the commitments of the Azores, and that is defining the central role of
the United Nations in the process.
One last consideration regarding the Middle East -- Israelis, Palestinians
-- the starting out of the road map is the expression of a firm political commitment
of all of us, and the expression of President Bush's firm political commitment.
That opens up possibilities, because after the situation in Iraq now many possibilities
opened up. But it also opens up responsibilities. Everyone has to meet their
responsibilities. And we very highly value the steps taken by the Palestinian
Authority. We wish Abu Mazen success. And we will actively cooperate so as
to sow the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians with co-existence,
peace and hope.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Dos preguntas por lado. Tom.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. How are you doing in getting a resolution put
together to win the support of some of the critics on the Security Council,
namely Russia and France? And is the United States prepared to ignore the sanctions
if the June 3rd deadline comes and it's necessary?
And to Mr. President Aznar, what will you be able to do to help win the speedy
vote you talked about? And do you find that public opinion at home is making
it harder for you to make such a case?
PRESIDENT BUSH: He managed to violate a rule. He asked two questions, instead
of one question. But that's okay. He's been around a long time. Yes, listen,
we have -- we discussed the resolution today. We believe there is a mood to
work together to achieve a resolution that will expedite the reconstruction
of Iraq. The read from at least our diplomats at the United Nations is that
the kind of atmosphere that existed prior to the war has changed, and that
people now want to work together for the good of the Iraqi people. I think
Jose Maria shares that sentiment.
PRESIDENT AZNAR: Absolutely. I hope it's true. For our part, the position
I've maintained is a clear one, and everyone needs to contribute to it within
the Security Council. And it's all about the Iraqi people, so I hope we're
QUESTION: Well, President Bush, you have expressed your condolences because of the
death of the two Spanish journalists in Iraq. My question would be, do you
think this was a mistake, firing against the Palestine Hotel, under which fire
Jose Couso died? And, if so, would you apologize, do you think it's necessary
to apologize before the Spanish government and the family of these journalists?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think war is a dangerous place. And I think that nobody
would kill a journalist intentionally.
PRESIDENT AZNAR: Well, the U.S. government has already said that this was
a mistake, and we believe this. I am truly, fully convinced that no one would
intentionally fire against innocent victims and, in this case, the journalists
who died. And that's all, that's it. The President has often expressed the
pain that this produces and his condolences because of this. And I think that's
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steven.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you have any reaction to Senator Byrd's criticism of your
aircraft carrier landing?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The fact that it was on the fourth hook?
QUESTION: I guess that's it. (Laughter.) I think the words were "flamboyant showmanship."
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. No, listen, it was an honor for me to go on the USS Abraham
Lincoln. I appreciate the chance to thank our troops. It was an unbelievably
positive experience. And not only was I able to thank our troops, I was able
to speak to the country and talk about not only their courage, but the courage
of a lot of other men and women who wear our country's uniform. I'm glad I
did it. It was also a really good landing.
QUESTION: The criticism is that -- the criticism was made of Chile and Mexico, that
they would not support the resolution in the U.N. Security Council, the war
against Iraq. What is your opinion of this?
PRESIDENT BUSH: They're friends of ours. Period. We've got great relations
with Mexico, and we'll continue to have great relations with Mexico. We've
got an important free trade agreement with Chile that we're going to move forward
PRESIDENT AZNAR: For my part, I have to say that in addition to being our
friends, they're family.