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Cheney, Mubarak Speak in Sharm-el-Sheikh

Aired March 13, 2002 - 11:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go now to Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. You see there Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is out, speaking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

HOSNI MUBARAK, PRESIDENT, ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT: ... in all fields, into new horizons. We discussed the current deteriorating situation in the Middle East, which raises great concern. None of us can tolerate the continuation of that situation. Hence, we agreed on the necessity proceed right away with extensive efforts that will lead to the speedy implementation of the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell report recommendations (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and resuming the peace negotiations...

(AUDIO GAP)

HARRIS: Well, we apologize for that. Obviously, we seem -- we lost a satellite feed that we had coming up from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, there, as Egyptian president Mubarak was just beginning his remarks -- here, we have it again. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MUBARAK: ... ending the occupation, the establishment of a viable Palestinian, and the right for all countries in the region to live within secure borders. That end will only be achieved through negotiations. As Palestinians are expected to exert the maximum restraint possible, Israel should clearly understand that the policy of collective punishment, demolition of homes, humiliation of Palestinian civil population and its current military offensive in civilian towns and villages cannot be tolerated and must be immediately stopped.

In this context, we appreciate the American commitment to the peace process and we hope that the Vice President Cheney talks in the region, followed by General Zinni's mission, would help pave the way for cessation of violence and the resumption of negotiations promptly and in good faith. All parts concerned should do all what they can in order to help achieve that.

We also discussed the situation in Iraq. Egypt believes that every possible effort should be exerted to implement the relevant Security Council resolution without inflicting more suffering on the Iraqi people. On the other hand, it is of vital importance to maintain the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. This is a must for preserving regional stability.

On the world affairs, we reiterated our determination to continue the campaign against terrorism, which constitutes a threat toward the peace and stability until we get rid of this evil and its underlying causes,

In conclusion, I wish Vice President Cheney success in his mission and invite him to deliver his opening remarks. Thank you.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you, Mr. President.

It's a pleasure to be back in Egypt once again and to have the opportunity to again be hosted by President Mubarak. I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Egypt a great many times over the years and count President Mubarak a longtime friend. He and I have worked closely together on many occasions over the years, most recently saw each other in Washington just a short time ago.

President Bush and I place great store by his wisdom and his experience.

I've come to the Middle East on behalf of President Bush to confer with regional leaders on issues of great importance, especially our continuing cooperative efforts to fight terrorism and our determination to promote Arab and Israeli peace and reconciliation. We are conferring as well about challenges to regional security and the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

Here in Sharm el-Sheikh I also reaffirm America's strong commitment and our enduring bilateral relationship with Egypt. There is a close friendship between our two countries; Egypt is a vital, strategic partner for the United States. We have a common interest in assuring a stable, peaceful and prosperous future for all the people of the region. Americans are grateful for the assistance our coalition has received from Egypt. The Egyptian people have themselves been the victims of terror in the past, and our governments share a deep commitment to defeating this threat to the civilized world.

We also appreciate Egypt's leadership on behalf of peace in the Middle East. President Mubarak has been unfaltering in his dedication to trying to get all the parties back to the negotiating table and back on the path toward peace.

As President Bush made clear again last week, the United States will do all it can to end the tragic violence between Palestinians and Israelis and to resume a serious negotiating process. The United States also supports Egypt's efforts to ensure continued economic growth and the creation of new jobs and opportunities for the people of Egypt. To that end, the U.S. has accelerated economic assistance to Egypt, and we look forward to working with President Mubarak to expand trade and investment opportunities between our two countries. Here and throughout this trip to the Middle East, I am seeking open, frank discussion on a wide range of issues and the wise counsel of experienced leaders such as President Mubarak.

Mr. President, I want to thank you again for your hospitality today and may I offer once again to you and to all of the citizens of this nation the respect and good wishes of the American people and of President Bush.

Thank you.

MUBARAK: Thank you.

I think we have two questions from both sides. Two questions from the American side and another two questions from the Egyptian side. We'll start with the American side.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, the United States has been saying for months that Yasser Arafat must do more to end violence in the Middle East. Has the burden now been shifted to the Israelis? And how has the new U.N. resolution, discussing a Palestinian state, affected the goal of Middle East peace negotiations?

CHENEY: I think the burden is on both parties to bring an end to the violence. It's not going to be possible to make progress until both parties can agree to a cease-fire and to get into the Tenet and the Mitchell plans, and so I think obviously the burden resides on both parties.

With respect to the U.N. resolution that the United States supported last night, it once again reaffirms a commitment the president made earlier this year that our vision for the Israelis and Palestinians is in two sovereign states able to reside in peace with one another. And the president's made clear that the U.S. vision for that part of the world includes a Palestinian homeland as well.

The resolution that was adopted last night and widely supported, obviously unanimously by the Council, with one exception I believe of an abstention, was in fact we felt a positive statement of the hopes that all of us have that we can in fact begin to make progress.

QUESTION: But Mr. Vice President, in spite of regional and international efforts, Sharon is continuing an outrageous all-out war against Palestinians. Hundreds of casualties have fallen in the past few days alone. How and when will your promises of a Palestinian state be turned into a fact on the ground?

And President Mubarak, you have often warned that Israeli terror will backfire. How can you help?

CHENEY: I think...

MUBARAK: You asked me more than one question. Two questions. Only one question.

CHENEY: You want me to answer first? (LAUGHTER)

CHENEY: I was hoping you would go first.

I -- during the course of my travels was reiterating the commitments the United States has made and the president's made to try to end the violence and bring about a resolution to the conflict. Our decision, the president made earlier, to send General Zinni back to the region -- he'll arrive there this weekend.

I will myself, after I conclude my swing through this part of the world, be in Egypt -- excuse me, in Israel early next week after I've completed my visit here in Egypt. And we plan to do everything we can to persuade both parties that it's time for violence to end, and I'll reiterate that position at every single stop along the way.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, Mr. President. I'd like to put this to you, Mr. Mubarak, first. Saddam Hussein has said that he will not accept U.N. inspectors. I'm wondering if you believe that perhaps the best and the only way for the United States to ensure that its and its allies would be safe from an Iraqi sponsored terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction is to topple Saddam Hussein and his regime?

And if so, do you think there has been enough or any serious consideration of what would replace that government and bring stability to the region?

MUBARAK: We'll try hard with Saddam Hussein to accept the U.N. inspectors to go there, and we are going to meet to some of his special envoys and tell them that this is a must.

And I think the Secretary General of the Arab League has discussed this issue when he was visiting Iraq a couple of weeks ago. And I think he had their approval from Saddam Hussein that he could start negotiations with the U.N. Secretary General. And I think, as far as my knowledge is that he is going to accept the inspectors. We will try in this direction as far as we can. Then after that, if there is nothing happening, we'll find out what could be done in that direction.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Question for both. Going back, President Mubarak, I'm going back to the resolution issued by the Security Council this morning, and how do you envision the success of implementing this resolution, especially -- or bearing in mind that there were, unfortunately, so many resolutions issued by the Security Council before, and they were not fulfilled?

MUBARAK: You mean the resolution which...

(CROSSTALK)

MUBARAK: ... of just yesterday?

QUESTION: Yes.

MUBARAK: We have so many resolutions in that direction. The president of the United States has already mentioned that even before this resolution, there should be a Palestinian-state beside the Israel-state and they should live in security with each other and work as neighbors. The Security Council resolution didn't differ with what the president of the United States has already mentioned before.

Thank you.

HARRIS: And with that, the press conference is now over. Let's now check in with our John King, who has been travelling with Vice President Cheney on his travels through the Middle East.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Leon.

Both leaders choosing their words very carefully there because of the very delicate diplomacy on both fronts, the Israeli-Palestinian violence and the U.S. efforts to win more Arab support or, at least, less Arab opposition to the tougher U.S. posture towards Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Very interesting, Mr. Cheney asked if the burden was now shifted from what the administration has said in the past, on Mr. Arafat to Prime Minister Sharon. He declined to say so, and said both parties have an obligation to end the violence.

It was very clear, as it was yesterday in Jordan, however, that President Mubarak of Egypt puts the blame on the Israelis, saying that the ongoing military campaign cannot be tolerated, and must be immediately stopped. That is the pressure these Arab leaders are putting on the U.S. Administration.

The vice president would prefer to talk about a tougher posture towards Iraq right now, but in the region here, yesterday in Jordan, today in Egypt, as the vice president travels on to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, the blunt message from Arab leaders is, the biggest threat, in their view, to the security in this region is that fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They want to talk about that, not what the vice president came here to talk about in the first place -- Leon.

HARRIS: Let me ask you a question. I talked earlier with Sheila MacVicar from Jerusalem today. Are you getting any sense at all that some of these talks may involve, I don't know if you want to use the term quid pro quo, but is Vice President Cheney, rather, talking with these leaders about getting their support on Iraq just because of what the U.S. has now proposed in the U.N. Security Council, and what they are trying to get done on the ground there in Jerusalem -- I'm sorry, not in Jerusalem, but in that region there?

KING: Well, the vice president insists there is no linkage, but certainly, you can make the case from a political standpoint the administration realizes quite well that if it did not energize the diplomatic effort between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it would be virtually impossible to even get a hearing, let alone support when it comes to the Bush administration posture towards another confrontation with Saddam Hussein. So, the public line is there is no linkage, but it is clear from the private meetings the vice president is having, and indeed clear, just from that news conference, and the words of President Mubarak, a very respected leader in this region, that the Arab leaders want to see the United States energized.

His tone about Iraq was probably as best as the White House could hope for. President Mubarak saying, Let's make another run at weapons inspections, let's see if we can negotiate a new inspections regime,and if that fails, if Saddam Hussein refuses, then let us see what happens next. That, from a public standpoint, is quite acceptable to the White House, and quite different from what the vice president heard yesterday in Jordan, where King Abdullah said any U.S. military action would be a catastrophe, a disaster, not only for Iraq, but for regional security.

So, the vice president will come away from these talks much more happy with the public statements, and we are told that even in Jordan, the private words of King Abdullah were not so objection, shall we say, not so against the U.S. policy.

HARRIS: Interesting.

KING: So, it is a very delicate diplomacy, and there certainly is a linkage, even though the White House would prefer that there not be.

HARRIS: Yeah, interesting. Where to next, now?

KING: The vice president goes on to Yemen with a very small group tomorrow morning for very sensitive conversations there. The White House very concerned that al Qaeda, now that it is being kicked out of Afghanistan, is looking for another base of operations in the region. Yemen is the prime suspect, because there are already al Qaeda operations there. So, security and intelligence sharing, and internal Yemeni law enforcement, the major subjects there. Change of focus, if you will, from the past few days, and the focus on Israeli- Palestinian violence, and Saddam Hussein.

HARRIS: All right, good deal. John King reporting live for us from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

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