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Bush, Musharraf Speak at White House

Aired February 13, 2002 - 11:33   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Live now to the State Floor (ph) in the White House.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...leader with great courage and vision, and his nation is a key partner in the global coalition against terror.

Pakistan's continuing support of Operation Enduring Freedom has been critical to our success so far in toppling the Taliban and routing out the Al Qaeda network.

Yet President Musharraf has made an even broader commitment: He has declared that Pakistan will be an enemy of terrorism and extremism wherever it exists, including inside his own border. He understands that terrorism is wrong and destructive in any cause.

He knows that his nation cannot grow peacefully if terrorists are tolerated or ignored in his country, in his region or in the world. He is committed to banning the groups that practice terror, closing their offices and arresting the terrorists themselves.

Terrorists operating in Pakistan recently kidnapped American reporter Daniel Pearl. We spent a time today in the Oval Office talking about our mutual desire to see that Mr. Pearl is returned home safely. I want to thank the president for his assistance and work on securing Mr. Pearl's release.

I also applaud President Musharraf's clearly stated intention to work for peace in Kashmir and lower tensions with India. I'm particularly pleased to note that he is going to be holding elections later on this fall.

The president has articulated a vision of a Pakistan as a progressive, modern and democratic Islamic society, determined and serious about seeking greater learning and greater prosperity for its citizens. The United States is committed to work in partnership with Pakistan to pursue these objections.

Together, our nations will continue to cooperate against terror and trafficking in drugs.

BUSH: We'll strengthen ties of trade and investment between our nations. We'll work to improve educational and economic opportunities for all Pakistanis, especially women and children.

And my government stands ready to work with all parties on the subcontinent to foster dialogue to lower tensions and resolve outstanding issues.

The forces of history have accelerated the growth of friendship between the United States and Pakistan. I believe the pages of history will record that this friendship was hopeful and positive and will lead to peace.

Mr. President?


BUSH: Thank you, sir.

MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your welcome and kind words and sentiments express for me and for Pakistan and for my government.

I recall with great pleasure our very productive meeting last November in New York. We have also spoken quite frequently on the telephone since then. I value most highly this opportunity to exchange views with you in person.

Our discussions this morning have been fruitful and constructive and will continue over the lunch. Our meetings and discussions with senior members of your administration continue as part of the ongoing dialogue which characterizes our close and cooperative relations.

For more than half a century, the relations between Pakistan and the United States have been friendly, multifaceted and enduring. They represent an important element of stability in our region and beyond.

The criminal terrorist attacks of September 11 and the momentous events since then have demonstrated the depth and strength of this relationship between United States and Pakistan.

Pakistan has a firm position of principle in the international battle against terrorism.

We reject terrorism in all its forms and manifestations anywhere in the world. We will continue to fulfill our responsibilities flowing from our commitment.

I'm gratified that my vision of Pakistan as a dynamic, liberal, progressive, peaceful and generally democratic Muslim country and my decisions I announced on 12 January have evoked a supportive response in the United States.

I believe that Pakistan-United States relationship must draw strength from our past relationship as we move to a new century, a changed world and meet the challenges we face ahead.

I apprised the president of the massive and aggressive deployment of Indian forces on our borders and the serious security situation that it has created. The immediate return of Indian forces to peacetime locations and the early resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India is the way forward.

We welcome the constructive role played by President Bush and Secretary Powell in urging restraint and diffusing military tensions. I'm committed to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

All other differences existing between Pakistan and India should also be settled through peaceful means.

We believe the United States can facilitate such a solution and help South Asia turn a new leaf.

The faithful implementation of the Bonn Accord provides the best guarantee for the future of Afghanistan. The interim administration must be strengthened and its writ established over the entire country. Rehabilitation and reconstruction must begin in Afghanistan.

The Tokyo donor's conference has provided a forceful and timely impulse to this process, which will also accelerate the return of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan to their homeland.

Together, the United States and Pakistan can accomplish great things. We are embarked on a long-term partnership. We look forward to an era of robust collaboration.

I look forward, Mr. President, to your visit to Pakistan, where a warm and cordial welcome awaits you from the people of Pakistan who hold you in the highest of esteem.

I thank you, sir.

BUSH: Thank you, Mr. President. Good job.

MUSHARRAF: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President (OFF-MIKE) in Iraq. Are you looking at military action to achieve that goal? How could Saddam be toppled (ph)?

And to President Musharraf, are you confident that Mr. Pearl is alive and will be released soon?

BUSH: I meant what I said the other night, that there are some nations in the world which develop weapons of mass destruction with one intention, and that is to hold America hostage and, or harm Americans and, or our friends and allies. And I also meant when I said, that I look forward to working with the world to bring pressure on those nations to change their behavior.

But make no mistake about it, if we need to, we will take necessary action to defend the American people. And I think that statement was clear enough for Iraq to hear me. And I will reserve whatever options I have.

I'll keep him close to my vest.

Saddam Hussein needs to understand I'm serious about defending our country. I think one of the worst things that could happen in the world is terrorist organizations mating up with nations which have had a bad history and nations which develop weapons of mass destruction. It would be devastating for those of us who fight for freedom. And, therefore, we, the free world, must make it clear to these nations that they've got a choice to make, and I'll keep all options available if they don't make the choice.

QUESTION: Mr. President, is...

BUSH: Hold on a second, please. Hold on a second.

These two press people are going to actually bring some order to this by calling upon individuals, and the president's going to speak about Daniel Pearl.

PERVEZ: Yes. Your first part of the question, whether Mr. Pearl is alive or dead, I am reasonably sure he is alive and I really very much hope -- we all hope that he is alive.

About getting him released, well, let me say, we are as close as possible to getting him released, but I would like to emphasize here that I have taken certain steps in Pakistan to crush extremism, religious intolerance in the society, and, therefore, I expected a certain degree of fallout of these steps.

But, however, I would like to say we are not deterred. These kind of things were expected, and we will meet this challenge and try to resolve whatever negative influences it creates in our society.

I very much hope that, with all our efforts and the combined efforts of all the intelligence agencies in Pakistan, we will be able to get Mr. Pearl released.

QUESTION: Mr. President, it is evident that the Kashmiri has not been resolved through bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. In the beginning, the U.S. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) U.N. resolution. Now, we hope that U.S. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and remediation can resolve this issue, because this is the main issue between India and Pakistan (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BUSH: Well, our hope is that we can facilitate meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The only way this issue is going to be solved is if the Pakistani government and the Indian government sit down and have serious, meaningful dialogue to resolve this issue. You heard the president of Pakistan say his hope is that there's a peaceful resolution. That's our hope as well.

And so the best thing our government can do is to encourage there to be a -- to come to the table and start to have meaningful, real dialogue, and that's what we'll continue to press for.

QUESTION: On campaign finance reform, sir...


BUSH: Is this for the Pakistani president or me?


QUESTION: Campaign finance reform, are Republican operatives trying to kill the bill? And will you sign Shays-Meehan if it gets to your desk?

BUSH: Well, I want to sign a bill that improves the system, and it seems like, to me, that if they get a bill out of the House of Representatives that improves the system it ought to be in effect immediately.

But we'll see what comes my way. And, you know, I would look at it very carefully and give it a good look.

QUESTION: What about Republican operatives, are they trying to kill the bill?


BUSH: I've talked to many Republicans that want -- are trying to improve the system as well.

And again, I repeat, I understand there's a chance to amend the bill that says, if it improves the system, let's have it in effect this year, and I support that, I think it makes sense.

But I'll take a good look at it. It's making its way through the system, and I'll give it a good look.



BUSH: Oh, history, yes. I'm getting a little hard of hearing.


BUSH: Well, that's a very legitimate question, and it's one of the reasons why President Musharraf and I are spending time together, is he has got to be confident in me and my government willingness to stay supportive of Pakistan. One of the things, in order for us to have a positive relationship, is that he realizes that, when we say we're committed, we're committed.

And we're committed to peace in the region. We're committed to fighting terror.

The president made a tough decision and a strong decision. It's not only a decision about fighting terror; it's a decision for the direction of his country, and we support that strongly. And so I can understand why some in Pakistan are saying, "Well, oh, this is just a short-term dance." But so long as we share the same ideals and values and common objectives, we'll work with Pakistan. And there are ways to help.

The president is going to go see Secretary Rumsfeld today. He negotiated, and we willingly supported a strong aid package in the '02 budget. We're now discussing help in the '03 budget. We want to help facilitate the president's concerns about a debt burden on Pakistan. We want to talk about trade matters. We want to help him achieve his vision of elevating the average citizen by giving him a chance and a hopeful opportunity for life.

And so I would suggest that people in Pakistan remember -- to think about the future and not dwell in the past. That's what the president has done with this vision. And I'm proud to call him friend.

I want to remind people from Pakistan that I didn't mention many world leaders in my State of the Union. But I mentioned President Musharraf for a reason. And hopefully, that's an indication of my sincerity of developing a strong and meaningful relationship.

QUESTION: Mr. Bush and Mr. Musharraf, should secular schools be the standard for the Islamic communities in Pakistan who have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) other terrorist attacks like 9/11?

BUSH: Let me first -- and I'd like the president to speak on this, on basically the madrasa school issue in Pakistan. And one of the things that most impressed me about President Musharraf, that gives me confidence in his vision is that we -- and the last time we met in New York City, we spent a fair amount of time talking about education reform.

BUSH: And the president has placed a very intriguing and very interesting woman in charge of the education system in Pakistan. She used to work in rural areas, a rural province of the country. He's elevated her to cabinet position, because she's a reformer. She understands the modern world requires an education system that trains children in the basic sciences and reading and math and the history of Pakistan.

And the president laid out to me a vision, which he can share with you, about how to encourage madrasas to adopt a curriculum that will actually -- will work and will provide a work force, a trained work force, and will give people hope. And so our government is committed to working with the Pakistani government on education reform.

As I understand, of the $600 million, part of the aid package last year, $100 million of those dollars have gone into education reform. The president will make the decision as to how best to use that. There's $35 million or $34 million additional dollars this year that will go help on education reform.

I shared with him my passion about education reform here in American, and I want to applaud him for making a, you know, a visionary statement about education. He knows what I know: An educated child is one much more likely to be able to realize dreams and to be a productive citizen.

So I'll let the president speak to this issue, if you don't mind?

MUSHARRAF: Thank you. We are involved in Pakistan, as I laid out in the 12th of January speech. In a Jihad -- Jihad akbat (ph), which I call, a greater Jihad, which is in our teachings in Islam, a Jihad against illiteracy, a Jihad against poverty, backwardness, hunger. So this is the Jihad that we have waged now and we have initiated.

Now, within this Jihad, education forms a focal area. And since the president wants me to focus particularly on madrasas, in education, we are taking three areas of education: One is the madrasa education; the second is the primary and secondary education; and the third is higher education. I would just like to focus on the madrasa education. We have formulated strategies in each one of these three areas.

Madrasas, we must understand, are basically -- there are about 600,000 to 800,000 students here in madrasas. Now, the positive aspect of the madrasa, which I did lay out in my speech also, I would like to highlight for every to hear, is that they have a welfare and humanitarian aspect to them. They feed and house the poorest of the poor children. So this is the positive aspect of their providing free board and lodge to the poorest of the poor.

Now, the weaknesses of some of the madrasas only teaching religious, giving religious education to the children has to be removed.

And the children in these madrasas need to be brought into the mainstream of life, and that is what we are doing. We have asked the madrasas to introduce four subjects, and these are science, English, Pakistan studies and mathematics.

Now, with these four subjects introduced, we have also created a board for them to take their examinations from, and once they take their examination through these boards, it will make them a eligible to transfer to any other college or university, if I want to give them a scholarship and take them there, or to get them a job anywhere in the banking area or in the military or anywhere instead of focusing only into the religious field.

So this is the strategy that we have adopted to get these children into the mainstream of life in Pakistan. So the basic idea is: utilize their strength, the strength of their giving free board and lodge to such a vast major population of the poorest of the poor; and eradicate their weakness so that they are drawn into the mainstream of life in Pakistan. This is the strategy we are following.

QUESTION: My question is for President Bush.


QUESTION: Mr. President, as you know, almost more than 700,000 Pakistanis are based in the United States.

BUSH: Say that again, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Almost more than 700,000 Pakistanis are based in the United States.

BUSH: Right. Right.

QUESTION: But after September 11, FBI and different law enforcement agencies, they made a major crack down against different communities. And Pakistani communities have especially been targeted by law enforcement agencies, with hundreds of Pakistanis at different detention centers, and there is a sense in the community that they are keeping them like a terrorist.

And you know very well, messages are delivering there to Pakistan that, in the United States, Pakistanis are treated like a terrorist. And on the other side, in Pakistan is supporting all the way the United States in the war against terrorism.

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: In the same White House, Mexican President, Mr. Fox, visited White House, and you promised that you will consider to give guest worker status to illegal Mexicans, 3.5 million.

So keeping in mind, you know, to Pakistan (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for United States, would you be kind enough to consider a legal status for a small number of illegal Pakistanis who are in process of legalization?

BUSH: Well, first, we need to reform our INS. There's no question the paperwork is -- delays are way too long. It's frustrating for people. So for those who are amazed at the fact that paperwork can stay in a process for such a period of time, I can understand that.

Secondly, I've always believed that we ought to encourage a willing employee and a willing employer to come together. And as we discussed immigration law, that ought to be an aspect of the law.

And finally, this great nation is a nation that will protect ourselves. We're still under threat. But we treat people with ultimate respect. I mean, people in this country have got a chance to get attorneys of law to help them. People are not being -- we never said, "Let's go single out a particular group of citizens."

Let's protect America. If we get any kind of lead or any kind of hint about anything that could lead to an attack, we're going to give people a chance to share information to protect America. Makes sense, if you're living here and you care about the country, that you ought to be given a chance to participate. So I don't know who specifically you're referring to, but people are being treated incredibly humanely here -- and in Guantanamo Bay, by the way. Perhaps you're referring to maybe some citizens there. I will just assure you, like I've assured the president, that people are getting fantastic health care, much better health care today in Guantanamo Bay than they were getting in Afghanistan, I can assure you. And so our country is mindful of the need to respect people's rights.

But I want to assure you, we will do, within our power, within the Constitution of the United States, what it takes to defend the American people. My most important job is to protect innocent Americans, and this is exactly what I'm going to do.

Listen, thank you all very much.

HARRIS: With that, the two presidents have wrapped up their little impromptu press conference there.

And let's check in now with our John King, who was there -- and John, for anyone who thought that perhaps these two only had Afghanistan to talk about, we learned today they had quite a bit more than that.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Quite a bit, Leon, to talk about. Let's go quickly through the headlines.

One, the president was asked about recent comments and recent developments in the administration that have led some to believe perhaps military action against Iraq is just down the road a bit. The president made clear that Iraq is on his watch list. He did make this distinction. He said, first goal is to apply diplomatic pressure, but if that fails, he said to the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, -- quote -- "make no mistake about it," he is prepared to take act if necessary. That was one headline.

The president weighing into the campaign finance debate going on in the Congress, making clear in his remarks, although he didn't say so directly, that he will sign a bill that, in his view, improves the system. The Republican leadership trying to kill one bill now making its way through the House of Representatives. They cannot count on a presidential veto. This part of that strategy.

In the ongoing war against terrorism, the president saying President Musharraf was a key ally. It might seem odd to some of our viewers, why were these two leaders from two very different countries spending so much time talking about education reform.

One of the great concerns of the Bush administration is that in the religious Islamic schools in Pakistan, especially in poor, rural areas that many young students are taught to hate America, taught to hate Western values and interests early on, so much of the aid going in from the United States to Pakistan now dedicated to what President Bush says is a bold education reform effort by the Pakistani president, General Musharraf. And, of course, General Musharraf took power in a military coup. President Bush saying he is finding some solace in the fact that President Musharraf is promising democratic elections later this year -- Leon.

HARRIS: One more thing, John. We also heard President Musharraf talking about the case of Daniel Pearl, the "Wall Street Journal" journalist who has been missing since January 23. Did you catch what he said, that he expected or his government actually expected something like this, a sort of a reaction there to his crackdown on extremism?

KING: A reaction to -- exactly. Remember President Bush and the Indian government urged a crackdown on suspected extremists and terrorists groups within Pakistan after that attack on the Indian parliament a little more than a month ago. President Musharraf saying he believes this, the Pearl kidnapping if you will, a backlash to that.

But he also said he was reasonably sure that he was alive, and he believed Mr. Pearl's release, if he is still alive, was as close as possible. That as the investigation in Pakistan continues. The arrest of one man believed to be a key suspect yesterday, the interrogation continues. U.S. officials were hoping for a breakthrough as soon as today. It is clear they will have to wait at least just bit longer.

HARRIS: John King at the White House. Thank you very much.




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