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:
THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary March 21, 2002
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT UPON CONCLUSION OF
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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