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White House Press Secretary Fleischer Delivers Daily Briefing

Aired May 1, 2002 - 12:45   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: The White House is discussing Middle East and peace proposals on the table in various corners.

Here is Ari Fleischer at the White House.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... policy is the purview of the executive branch.

QUESTION: Can I just follow on that? Because we know the White House did ask Tom DeLay to hold off when he was going to bring his resolution to the House floor, asking -- saying, right now it could, quote, "inflame the situation."

So is the sense right now -- you said it's delicate -- that any resolution right now could potentially inflame the delicate situation?

FLEISCHER: It depends on what it says. Again, I note that it's non-binding so the precise language is important. But just as the president's congressional affairs people did with the House, they do with the Senate. They meet and they talk to the various people in the Senate or the House who have ideas, and we try to work these things together and cooperatively.

QUESTION: What was the president's reply to the majority leader when he said I'm thinking of having this resolution come forward?

FLEISCHER: I wasn't literally in the meeting, and so the president and the vice president were the only two from the administration in the meeting.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I'll see if I can get something.

QUESTION: Some of the so-called third parties to the Middle East peace process seem to think that they're moving closer to a summit at this point. Do you have anything on that?

FLEISCHER: No, I think anything of that nature is premature. The president understands that there still is a lot of work that has to be done on the ground in the Middle East on many levels before this rises up to the summit level. What has happened though, however, is, as a result of many of the meetings and phone calls that the president's engaged in, as well as the valiant and tremendous ongoing efforts of the secretary of state, who is probably kept more busy by this issue than any other issue, some recent progress has been made in the Middle East. In a region that has been marked by notes of despair, at long last, positive notes are beginning to sound.

That's caveated by the fact that the history of this region is that positive notes are often followed by sour notes, difficult notes. And so, this will continue to be an issue that the president is mindful of. For every couple steps forward, there are times when there are a couple steps backwards. So this is an ongoing process.

But what's important now is all the parties, the president believes, need to see that violence will get them nowhere, that the way to solutions in the Middle East are through political processes. And that's where he is focused, and with some good effect.

And again, I urge you to go back and take a careful look, from the very beginning of this administration, how much effort this president has made, talking with the Arab leaders in the region -- the numerous phone calls, the numerous meetings, the ongoing contacts. That's very productive, and it take time sometimes for it to pay off. But early indications are, for the first time, pretty good.

QUESTION: Back to what was brought up earlier about Jenin, you have restated the administration's position, but are you concerned, at this point, that too much time has maybe gone by, allowing either side to so-called sanitize the area?

FLEISCHER: Listen, I think, one, it's important and this has been done that Jenin be open to the press. I mean, even without a U.N. fact-finding mission, if that's the case, transparency can still be found. There still can be people who go to Jenin and make an independent analysis and give their indications. We will see if any of the initial reaction is overstated or overblown. People are there and are free to make their judgments.

But what the president thinks is very important, as well, is that the world focus on the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people in Jenin and elsewhere. There still are vital humanitarian concerns that need to be addressed to help the Palestinian people to have a bright future. And that's why the president has supported aid from the United States government to the Palestinian people, continues to support that. That's why there was a recent conference in Oslo to focus on an international way of bringing people together to bring aid to the Palestinian people. And that still is the president's focus.

QUESTION: Ari, a few weeks ago when the story first broke that ex-President Jimmy Carter as contemplating going to Cuba, you made some statements (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what the White House would like him to do if he were to go there. Well, he's going there.

My first question is, have there been contacts between the White House and ex-President Carter in a direct or indirect way concerning the trip?

And second, is there anything you'd like to add that he could ask when he goes there?

FLEISCHER: OK. On the second point, this would be a very good opportunity for former President Carter to remind President Castro of the need to bring freedom and opportunity and democracy to the people of Cuba who have been oppressed.

This will be very helpful in sending that signal that freedom and democracy are important in Cuba, and Cuba is one of the last nations left on this earth that has such an abysmal human rights record.

I can take a look. I am not aware of any contacts, but I'll have to ask the NSC if anybody there has had any contacts, because I can't speak for everybody.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Yes. I'm aware of that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: On the China meeting this afternoon, can you tell us what the White House hopes to gain...

HEMMER: All right, from Ari Fleischer at the White House.

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