Op with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
White House Colonnade
October 15, 2001
12:11 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's my honor to welcome the leader of one of our nation's best
friends, the Prime Minister of a country that has had so much to do with our
nation and its development.
I'm also pleased to be able to give him a lunch -- after all, I had one of the
best lunches I've had since I've been the President because of the Prime Minister.
We had a long discussion about our mutual desire to rout out terrorism where
it might exist. He understands as well as I understand that the war on terrorism
will be waged on many fronts, and I'm so pleased with the efforts of his government
to join with us in disrupting the financial networks of terrorist organizations.
I'm pleased that we're sharing intelligence. I'm pleased that the Prime Minister
understands that al Qaeda has cells all around the world and he's more than
willing to work with us to disrupt those cells, to bring people to justice.
We're making progress.
One reason we're making progress is because we've got good, strong friends such
as the Italians and the Italian government.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. It's my honor to have you here.
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: Thank you, Mr. President, I am here, first of all,
to express our great pain and sadness for the attack on September the 11th and
to say to you if the same attack had been -- had occurred on an Italian city
we would have felt the same pain as you are.
And also I'm here to express to you our desire to be as close as possible and
to provide both moral and material support.
As I mentioned earlier this morning, this attack was an attack not only against
citizens, but also against freedom and liberty. The U.S. is the defensor of
liberty all over the world, and that's what this attack was about.
THE PRESIDENT: We'll answer a couple of questions.
QUESTION: These anthrax attacks, sir, do you believe that there is any connection to
bin Laden's organization? Your Vice President, on Friday, seemed to indicate
there may be some possible link.
THE PRESIDENT: There may be some possible link. We have no hard data yet. But
it's clear that Mr. bin Laden is a man who is an evil man. He and his spokesmen
are openly bragging about how they hope to inflict more pain on our country.
So we're watching every piece of evidence. We're making sure that we connect
any dots that we have, to find out who's doing this. I wouldn't put it past
him, but we don't have hard evidence, yet.
QUESTION: Do you have anything that points towards bin Laden, besides your gut? And
has there been any other reports of anthrax tainted mail being received by U.S.
businesses or government offices today?
THE PRESIDENT: There has been today. I just talked to Leader Daschle. His office
received a letter, and it had anthrax in it. The letter was field tested. The
staffers that have been exposed are being treated. The powder that had been
field tested is now, obviously, going to the CDC lab.
Beyond that, I don't know more about it. I spoke to the Leader; he is, obviously,
concerned, as am I. The key thing for the American people is to be cautious
about letters that come from somebody you may not know, unmarked letters, letters
that have got -- that look suspicious. And give those letters and packages to
local law authorities.
Again, the process is working; but, today, the Senate Majority Leader, his office
did receive a letter.
QUESTION: Was it definitely anthrax, or just a preliminary test, do you know?
THE PRESIDENT: The field test shows it to be anthrax. Ron, there's more tests
being conducted as we speak. The Leader believes it is anthrax, but we'll find
out more as time goes on.
They've got the letter. As he said, it was a letter that had been wrapped a
lot and that the powder was within the confines of the -- within the envelope.
It wasn't on the outside of the envelope, it was within the envelope. And a
staffer opened the letter. They obviously became suspicious of the material
within the letter and immediately called in for a field test. The field test
was done, shows it to be anthrax, and then all people are being treated.
QUESTION: India says it opened fire on Pakistani positions in the Kashmir region today,
this just an hour or two after Secretary Powell landed in Pakistan. How helpful
is something like that?
THE PRESIDENT: I haven't see a report yet, John. And I think it is very important
that India and Pakistan stand down during our activities in Afghanistan; stand
down, for that matter, forever.
But I am -- I need to find out more about the report; I will find out more about
the report. As you noted, our Secretary of State is in the region. One reason
he's there is to talk to both sides about making sure that there is no -- that
if there are tensions and, obviously, there are, that they be reduced, that
we are mindful that activities around Kashmir could create issues in that part
of the region, particularly as we're conducting our operations in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you have mentioned that you would -- the other evening in your
press conference, that you would like to see more action from the allies. And
you mentioned what the U.K. is doing. What would you say about what Italy has
done? And what was the subject of your conversation? Would you like to see something
more done by Italy? And, also, from Europe, would you like to see more economic
action from the European side to help the U.S. economy? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. First of all, we're taking measures here at home to
get our economy started. There is some optimism, as some numbers recently have
shown that consumer confidence is getting stronger, that people are getting
to get on the airways more, that people are traveling. So there are some positive
I hope to work with -- I am working with Congress and hope to get a stimulus
package that will dovetail nicely with the tax cuts we had this summer, coupled
with some of the spending measures we've taken since September 11th.
First of all, I'm very pleased with the cooperation and support of Italy. They
have been very strong from the beginning. The Prime Minister has been very,
not only supportive, but has asked how to help in significant ways to fight
Again, I repeat to you, this is a war that's going to be fought on a variety
of fronts. One such front will be to disrupt financial -- the finances of the
terrorist organizations. And he was discussing with me some executive orders
that had been taken recently that showed Italy's desire to be very firm about
disrupting finances. There is a sharing of information that goes on.
I'm confident that if we put out the word that we needed more help from Italy
they would be more than willing to help. Each of us has a role to play. And
the Italian government, under this good man's leadership, is playing a very