White House Daily Briefing

 

Friday  April 18, 2003

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary Crawford, Texas April 18, 2003 PRESS GAGGLE BY CLAIRE BUCHAN Crawford Elementary School Crawford, Texas 1:53 P.M. CDT MS. BUCHAN: Let me start by telling you a little bit about the President's day today. He began his day with his usual intelligence briefing. He then spent the morning working on the ranch, clearing cedar. And he looks forward this afternoon to visiting with friends who will be visiting him, and also working on some official business. On Sunday the President will travel to Fort Hood where he will attend church service. After service, he'll return to the ranch, and then he will return to Washington on Monday. And later in the week the President will travel outside of Washington -- and we'll have more details on that, in terms of the specifics, next week. But he will travel outside of Washington to speak about both progress in Iraq and also to promote his jobs and growth plan. And with that, I'll take your questions. Q: Is there any chance he's going to meet with the POWs at Fort Hood, who are returning there this weekend? MS. BUCHAN: If we have any updates to the schedule, we'll let you know. At this point, he's planning to attend church. Q: And that's it right now? MS. BUCHAN: At this point, yes. Q: Does the President still plan to send someone to talks in North Korea -- in China, on North Korea? MS. BUCHAN: We've seen the statement by North Korea and we're consulting with other interested parties, including Korea, Japan and China on where we go from here. And once we have a clear sense of the facts and the views of our friends and allies, we'll make a decision about how to proceed. Q: Can you say how alarming this report is about the reprocessing? MS. BUCHAN: As I said, we're consulting with our -- with other interested states, and once we have a clear set of the facts and the views of our friends and allies, we'll make a decision as to how to proceed. So we're evaluating the statement and we're consulting with others. Q: Does that mean that the facts are in question, essentially? The facts of whether they're actually reprocessing or not? MS. BUCHAN: It means that we're consulting with others, we're reviewing the facts. And once we've had an opportunity to do that, we'll have a clearer sense of how to proceed. Q: So it could go either way? MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry? Q: It could go either way, depending upon what you learn, it could either -- MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything new on the meeting at this point, but we are continuing to consult and to review the facts and then we'll have a clearer sense once we've done so. Q: That seems to indicate that there could be a change in the current status, once you learn more. You could decide to do it or to not do it? MS. BUCHAN: Well, we will make a decision as to how to proceed once we've completed those discussions and that review. Q: -- making a decision this weekend? MS. BUCHAN: I don't have a time table for you, but discussions are ongoing. Q: How alarming is their announcement that they're reprocessing fuel rods? How alarming is it? MS. BUCHAN: We're reviewing the statement. We're consulting with others. And we'll know more after we've had an opportunity to do that. Q: -- that this is serious enough where these kinds of -- these kinds of outside consultations are necessary? MS. BUCHAN: At this point, we have seen the statement. We are going to talk with China, we'll talk with Japan, with South Korea. And we'll have more to say after that. Q: Back on the POWs, might he meet them tomorrow, or is that - MS. BUCHAN: At this point, his schedule is that he will go to Fort Hood on Sunday to attend church. Q: -- Sunday remains an open question? MS. BUCHAN: If there's anything to add, we'll always let you know. At this point, he's attending church and returning to the ranch. Q: -- anticipated tomorrow? MS. BUCHAN: Not at this point, I don't have anything. Q: Will the POWs be at the church service, though? The Fort Hood POWs? MS. BUCHAN: We'll see -- if we get word that they're going to be there, we'll let you know if we're able to do that. Q: Claire, what's your reaction to the latest Saddam tape? And has the President seen it? MS. BUCHAN: I don't know if he's seen it, I wasn't able to determine that. We don't know whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead, but what we do know is that the people of Iraq are free of the threat from Saddam Hussein and the people of the United States and the world are also free of that threat. Q: You said you're going to consult or you are consulting. Do you know if any of the consulting with the allies is going on right now? MS. BUCHAN: We are consulting. Q: Is the President involved in those consultations? Is he reaching out to the leaders of any of those countries? MS. BUCHAN: He has not made any phone calls to foreign leaders today. If there's anything to update you on, we will. Q: Claire, who are the friends at the ranch? MS. BUCHAN: I don't have their names. Q: Have his parents arrived yet, and do you know what their schedule is? MS. BUCHAN: I do not have any updates on any family that's arrived. He will be spending the Easter holiday with family and friends. He has friends visiting him today. But that's all I have at this point. Q: Will they be going with him to Fort Hood or anyone, like his parents? MS. BUCHAN: His family? I think maybe wait and see on Sunday which of his family attends with him. It wouldn't surprise me if members of the family didn't join. For church, that's right. Q: Can you give us any guidance for us at all for planning on Monday, in terms of time of departure we leave in the morning. And does he have any public events in Washington -- even if you can't say what they are, does he have something scheduled? Is it going to be a news day, in other words, probably, on Monday? MS. BUCHAN: We'll have more on the time tomorrow. I think we'll probably leave in the late morning, noon-ish time frame. I don't think there's anything on his public schedule when he gets back. As I said, later in the week he'll travel outside of Washington to promote the jobs and growth initiative and to talk about the progress in the war. Q: Where is he going? MS. BUCHAN: We'll have more on -- we're still sort of in this 48 hour rule, so I can't give you the specifics on that at this point. Q: -- one stop, though? MS. BUCHAN: I don't believe so. I think he's going to one city. Q: It's a day trip, though, right? MS. BUCHAN: It's a day trip. That's my understanding, yes. Q: Claire, kind of a housekeeping thing. The 48 rule went into effect because of the war and concern of security. Now that the threat alert is lowered, why is there still this 48 hour rule? Can that be reviewed, please? MS. BUCHAN: We are trying to work on that. We would like to be able to give you more information. But at this point, this is what we're being told that the security dictates, so obviously we're abiding by that. Q: If it is determined through these consultations and investigation that in fact North Korea has gone ahead and started reprocessing, would the President stand by what Secretary Powell said a couple of months ago, that such a step would change the landscape, as far as dealing with North Korea? MS. BUCHAN: I think we need to let the consultations go forward, and have the opportunity to have those consultations and determine the facts before I can -- Q: -- the seriousness of what the North Koreans, themselves, say they're doing. Why no warning or reaction at all from the White House about this? MS. BUCHAN: Because we're consulting with other interested parties, and we'll know -- have a better sense, once we've done that, as to how to proceed. Q: Claire, the North Koreans say they told the United States and other parties of this, and they've been doing it since early March. Why, apparently, didn't the government know about this? MS. BUCHAN: I don't know that that -- that all your facts are correct. You might talk to the State Department, and get their sense. But this is what we've got. Q: Has Peter McPherson of Michigan State University been chosen to head the economic team to rebuild Iraq? MS. BUCHAN: I've seen those reports. Let me see if we can get you anything on that. I don't know whether that would be something that Garner's office would come out with, or whether we'd have any role in that. But we'll see if we can't get information on that for you. Q: On North Korea, is canceling the Beijing meeting an option that's being discussed? MS. BUCHAN: Well, once we've had an opportunity to have the consultations with South Korea, with Japan, with China and to determine the facts and the views of these other countries, we'll have a better sense then as to how to proceed, and we'll made a decision then. We're evaluating that statement. And I just don't have anything new to add, Mark, on the meetings. Q: Is it fair to say the administration was surprised by the North Korean statement? MS. BUCHAN: I don't know that that is fair. I just don't have any information to tell me whether or not that's the case. Q: Is anyone talking to North Korea? You mentioned China, South Korea, Japan -- MS. BUCHAN: Let me find out who might be talking with North Korea. I don't know if there are individuals from our government or from any of these other interested governments having discussions with North Korea. I'll see what we can find out on that. Q: Is the President getting regular briefings on it, on the situation? MS. BUCHAN: During the day today? Q: Yes. MS. BUCHAN: I don't know. I know he began his day with his usual intelligence briefing. Dr. Rice is on the ranch, and certainly sees him from time to time when she's there. So I don't know the extent of all their conversations. Okay, thank you.

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