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21 March 2002

Bush, Cheney Brief about Vice-President's Trip to Mideast

(Cheney prepared to meet Arafat if Arafat works to end violence)


Vice President Dick Cheney is prepared to return to the Middle East on

short notice to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat if Arafat

meets U.S. conditions about stopping violence, President Bush said in

Washington March 21.

After having breakfast together, Bush and Cheney briefed reporters

about the results of Cheney's ten-day trip through the Middle East.

Bush said the vice president made progress toward peace between

Israelis and Palestinians by convincing the parties that the Tenet

security work plan and the Mitchell peace plan offer the means to

achieve a resolution of the conflict.

If U.S. special envoy General Anthony Zinni concludes that Arafat is

living up -- and not just saying he will live up -- to his commitments

to stop violence, then, Cheney said, "I'm prepared to go back almost

immediately for a meeting."

Cheney said that at every stop on his trip, he talked about the

campaign in Afghanistan, the war on terror, the Israeli-Palestinian

conflict, and Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction. The

vice president also visited U.S. troops stationed in the region.

"I found at virtually every stop that the United States has great

friends and allies in that part of the world," Cheney said.

Cheney said the allies are uniformly concerned about Iraq's refusal to

live up to the U.N. Security Council resolutions and continued

development of weapons of mass destruction.

"I went out there to consult with them, to seek their advice and

counsel to be able to report back to the president on how we might

best to deal with that mutual problem," Cheney said.

"[T]his is an administration that when we say we're going to do

something, we mean it; that we are resolved to fight the war on

terror," Bush said.

Following is the transcript of the Bush-Cheney media availability:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary March 21, 2002



The Oval Office

8:16 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you all for coming. I just had a

breakfast with Vice President Cheney, and as you all know, he's

returned from a lengthy and successful trip to the Middle East -- the

first trip I asked him to go on. I sent him to the region because this

is an incredibly important part of the world and it's a turbulent part

of the world, and the Vice President took a lot of messages on behalf

of our administration and made some really good progress. I'm really

proud of how he handled himself and how he delivered the message.

As a result of this trip, and as a result of working with General

Zinni, there is some progress being made in the Middle East. And I

want to thank the Vice President for being very firm and deliberate,

and convincing both parties that the Tenet plan and, ultimately, the

Mitchell plan is a way to achieve what we all want in the world, which

is a peaceful resolution to this longstanding conflict.

But, Mr. Vice President, welcome back.  Thanks, you did a great job.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President. It was a good

trip. And as you say, there are a lot of issues on the agenda right

now that are important in that part of the world. I talked extensively

with our friends about the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan and the war

against terror that affects all of us, and everybody in the region.

Spent a lot of time on the Israeli peace problems and propositions --

the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians, obviously. A lot

of time on the Iraqi situation, and Saddam Hussein's development of

weapons of mass destruction. But I found at virtually every stop that

the United States has great friends and allies in that part of the

world. I also had the opportunity to visit with a number of our

military personnel that are conducting active operations or supporting

those operations in Afghanistan and the region. So, all in all, it was

a great trip. I'm ready to go back there --

THE PRESIDENT:  Questions?

Q Mr. President -- interested in your own calculations when the Vice

President called to discuss the possibility of the Arafat meeting;

your calculations in making the decision to change slightly the

administration's standard for opening the door to a meeting with him.

And, Mr. Vice President, do you believe now that meeting will happen?

Is Mr. Arafat keeping his end of the bargain?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I've always been one that trusts

the judgment of people I send on a mission. And the Vice President

called me, with General Zinni by his side, and said, there's a chance

that we can get into the Tenet security agreement, and if that were to

happen, in my judgment, I think it would be best if I would then go

see Mr. Arafat.

And I trust the Vice President's judgment. He's a man of enormous

experience who's got a good feel for things. And we both trust General

Zinni. And so the definition of whether or not he is going to see Mr.

Arafat depends upon the feel for our negotiator, General Zinni. But I

think it was the right thing to do, obviously.

We've set some strong conditions, and we expect Mr. Arafat to meet

those conditions. I, frankly, have been disappointed in his

performance. I'm hopeful, however, that he listens to what the Vice

President told him, and said that in order for us to have influence in

terms of achieving any kind of peaceful resolution, he must - he, Mr.

Arafat -- must do everything in his power to stop the violence.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as I've said before, John, the key here will

be General Zinni. And he'll make his judgment based on whether or not

Arafat is, in fact, implementing Tenet, not just promising to

implement, but implementing Tenet. If he's doing that, if he's living

up to those requirements, and General Zinni signs off on it, then I'm

prepared to go back almost immediately for a meeting. But it will

depend on whether or not Arafat is complying.

Q Mr. Vice President, on Iraq, the other main item on your agenda, you

said we have a lot of allies out there. But I haven't noticed any of

the Arab states -- maybe they say things privately that they don't

publicly, we've long been told that -- supporting strong action

against Iraq. They seem to want diplomacy to be given a chance,

Annan's efforts, sanction changes, et cetera. What kind of response

did you get?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- I guess the way I would

characterize is they are uniformly concerned about the situation in

Iraq, in particular about Saddam Hussein's failure to live up to the

U.N. Security Council resolutions, especially number 687, that he

pledged to at the end of the war, that said he'd get rid of all of his

weapons of mass destruction.

And they are as concerned as we are when they see the work that he has

done to develop chemical and biological weapons, and his pursuit of

nuclear weapons; the past history that we all know about, in terms of

his having used chemicals. If you haven't seen it, there's a

devastating piece in this week's New Yorker magazine on the 1988 use

by Saddam Hussein of chemical weapons against the Kurds. If the

article is accurate -- and I've asked for verification, if we can find

it -- he ran a campaign against the Kurds for 17 months, and bombed

literally 200 villages and killed thousands and thousands of Iraqis

with chemical weapons.

That's not the kind of man we want to see develop even more deadly

capacity -- for example nuclear weapons. And my experience is that our

friends in the region are just as concerned about those developments

as we are. And I went out there to consult with them, seek their

advice and counsel, to be able to report back to the President on how

we might best proceed to deal with that mutual problem, and that's

exactly what I've done.

THE PRESIDENT: I think one other point that the Vice President made,

which is a good point, is that this is an administration that when we

say we're going to do something, we mean it; that we are resolved to

fight the war on terror; this isn't a short-term strategy for us; that

we understand history has called us into action, and we're not going

to miss this opportunity to make the world more peaceful and more


And the Vice President delivered that message. I was grateful that he

was able to do so. It's very important for these leaders to understand

the nature of this administration, so there's no doubt in their mind

that when we speak we mean what we say, that we're not posturing. We

don't take a bunch of polls and focus groups to tell us what -- how to

-- what we ought to do in the world. When we say we want to defend

freedom, we mean it. And the Vice President did a fine job of

delivering that message.

Part of any foreign policy -- good foreign policy -- is to consult

with our friends and allies. We've told our friends and allies we'll

do so on all kinds of issues. And the Vice President did that in a

really good way.

Q Mr. President, different part of the world. A car bomb exploded in

Lima last night, killing nine people. Are you concerned about your


THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm still going. I'm sure President Toledo will do

everything he can to make Lima safe for our trip. Two-bit terrorists

aren't going to prevent me from doing what we need to do, and that is

to promote our friendship in the hemisphere. Our neighborhood is

important to us, Peru is an important country. President Toledo has

been a reformist, obviously worked within the democratic system. And

you bet I'm going.

END 8:25 A.M. EST





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