Skip to main content
CNN.com /TRANSCRIPTS

CNN TV
EDITIONS





CNN BREAKING NEWS

Bush Comments on Suicide Attack

Aired March 27, 2002 - 14:22   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: As we await more news from the Middle East, there is reaction already here at home. President Bush had comments a short time ago. To Major Garrett right now, traveling with the president here in the city of Atlanta.

Major, welcome to Atlanta, first of all. Good afternoon. I wish we could talk on other matters, but again, this is at the forefront for attention at the White House. Hello.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. And what we have from the White House is very recent reaction to the tragic, horrific events in the Middle East. Claire Buchanan, deputy White House press secretary, travelling aboard Air Force One, telling reporters here, moments after the president touched down here in Atlanta, that he's aware of the latest news from the Middle East, deplores the violence, urges both sides, again, to restrain from using violence as a means of achieving political ends.

But just a couple of hours ago, Bill, in our first stop of the day after leaving Washington. Greeneville, South Carolina, where the president was on the road to do a couple of things, talk about homeland security and raise some money for Republican candidate for Senate, Lindsey Graham, a member of the House of Representatives.

The president was somewhat upbeat about the prospects for an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians on a security situation, where both sides would exchange security information, put together a cease-fire. A necessary first step, the president said, to get a political dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Here's what the president said just a couple of hours ago in Greeneville, South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The important thing about the Middle East is that we're making very good progress on the Tenet Accord. In other words, there's a chance we'll have an agreement on the security arrangements necessary, to hopefully then get into Mitchell. General Zinni is still in the area.

Let me put it this way. I'm optimistic that progress is being made. And I've asked General Zinni to continue the work with both parties, regardless of whether or not they're headed to Beirut or not. The most important thing is getting into Tenet, getting into a security arrangement. And we're optimistic. We'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: "We're optimistic." That was the word from the president just a few hours ago, Bill. And what often happens in situations in the Middle East, for every U.S. president -- it happened to Bill Clinton, it's happening again now, to President Bush -- there's a degree of optimism about talks between officials from both sides.

And, yet, as is often the case in the Palestinian side of the equation, those who are not in the room sometimes undertake acts of violence that undermine what official Palestinian representatives are talking to the Israelis about. And that appears to be what has happened here.

The president, from his Middle East envoy, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, feeling there was some headway being made in those official talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, about the Tenet plan -- that was what the president was referring to. Tenet is the security arrangement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

A necessary precursor, in the minds of all, to getting to the Mitchell Plan, which is talk about politics and settling some of the longstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. All sides agree, you can't get to the politics unless you take care of a security arrangement and a cease-fire, which is what Tenet is all about.

A few hours ago, the president optimistic. But this latest act of violence clearly complicates calculations on all sides. The Israelis already saying this latest suicide bombing attack, a clear indication, at least to them, that the Palestinians are in no way interested in any kind of cease-fire, be it temporary or permanent -- Bill.

HEMMER: Major, you mentioned Anthony Zinni still on the ground there. With the violence that we've seen, there's been no stoppage in that, is there any consideration given to pulling Zinni out once again? Or would that be just too much of a -- too much of a public embarrassment, knowing that he's been there three times now, trying to forge the cease-fire?

GARRETT: Well, the White House evaluates that question on an almost daily basis. But all that evaluation is done privately. The calculations right now are to keep working, to try to work through this process as best as possible.

And the prospects for the White House this time, or the calculations of the white House this time are a lot more difficult. Because before when Zinni was there and there would be an upsurge in violence, he would be withdrawn and the White House would say very directly, "he's not going to return until the violence ebbs, or at least diminishes in some noticeable form."

Well, that wasn't the case this third time. General Zinni went back when the violence was at its peak. So, as the violence continues, the White House will have to find a different explanation. If they withdraw General Zinni, because he already went there when the violence was high. They'd have to have some other explanation for why they were going to bring him back.

And the president has said, the Secretary of State Colin Powell has said so as well, that he's going to stay there and try to work through this as long as he possibly can, to try to force the two sides. Use some U.S. pressure on the two sides, to get the security arrangement taken care of. Because that, first and foremost, is what needs to take hold before there can be any prospect whatsoever of a political dialogue.

HEMMER: It is a monumental task at this point, I'll tell you. Quickly, Major -- I know the president is going to speak about 30 minutes from now. Is this something that he would talk about at the lectern today?

GARRETT: No indications of that, although we had some experience last week when there was a fresh round of violence, the president stopping in El Paso before going on his Latin America tour. Added a couple of remarks to a speech, talking about the violence in the Middle East, urging Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to take more steps to reduce violence, clearly putting the onus back on the Palestinian leader.

There's no indication from senior White House officials traveling with the president he'll do so again today. But if in fact he did, it would be consistent with the president's evaluation of the facts on the ground, which is that it's Palestinian militants who are undermining the U.S., Israeli and official Palestinian efforts to achieve some sort of cease-fire.

HEMMER: Major, thanks. Major Garrett, again, here in the city of Atlanta, traveling with the president. Major, thanks to you.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com





 
 
 
 


 Search   

Back to the top