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Bush, Abdullah Meet with Reporters

Aired August 1, 2002 - 10:39   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: The big story out of Washington, President Bush is meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan today. This is very important, as looking for peace and more calm in the Middle East. Also, in what we have been hearing about U.S. possible plans to go into Iraq.

Let's bring in our Wolf Blitzer from Washington to take a look at this meeting -- good morning, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Daryn. Two very important issues, what to do about Iraq, what to do about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. That conflict, of course, very, very tense, especially in the aftermath of yesterday's bombing at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.

Both of these issues very much on the agenda between these two allies. King Abdullah of Jordan and President Bush, of course, of the United States.

Later this morning, by the way, the president will be dropping by a meeting. The Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, will also be at the White House for meetings with the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, so the president will be hearing from the Arab side, King Abdullah, as well as from the Israeli side, the foreign minister of Israel, Shimon Peres.

The agenda is very important right now because the situation in the Middle East, obviously, very tense. Further complicating the situation, a clear desire by the Bush administration to move forward with some sort of effort to overthrow the regime of President Saddam Hussein in Iraq. King Abdullah, in advance of his meetings with President Bush this morning, making it clear he is not anxious -- in fact, strongly opposes the United States going it alone against his neighbor to the east, Iraq. The president and the king are in the Oval Office. They spoke just a little while ago. Here is the tape.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... apiece after our opening statements.

First, Your Majesty, welcome back. I look forward to a good and fruitful discussion about our common interests. Obviously, your neighborhood is still a dangerous place. Today in America we mourn the loss of American lives. My prayers and sympathies go to the loved ones of those who were killed by terrorists who must hate the thought of peace, who must firmly believe that violence is the best hope for mankind in that part of the world, a concept I strongly reject. It's a concept that is just foreign to peace. And therefore the first thing we must do is to work hard as a team to uphold our responsibilities and fight off terrorist activities that kill innocent life.

I'm talking to His Majesty about how to move the foundations of peace, the prospects of peace forward in the Middle East.

That's going to, of course, be discussions about a security force in the Palestinian territory that will be able to help deal with those who want to destroy the prospects for peace.

I want to thank His Majesty for working with CIA Director Tenet to strategize about how to best help the Palestinians have a more secure future. We'll also be talking about the plight of the Palestinian people -- how sad it is that for too long the Palestinians have suffered. They've been pawns in the game of foreign policy, and we want to help them.

It's going to be very important for us as we go forward to have confidence, however, in the Palestinian government that emerges. We want to have confidence that the money that we eventually will spend to help the Palestinian people spent on the people. We want to have confidence that those who emerge to lead the Palestinian people long for peace and want to coexist side-by-side in peace with Israel.

And so, Your Majesty, welcome back. I look forward to a good and fruitful discussion.

KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. president.

Again, it's a delight to be back with you here, especially to discuss your tremendous commitment to bring peace and stability to our region. You really have given us hope that once and for all we will be able to move forward as Arabs and Israelis to be able to live in harmony and have a tremendous future.

We're here, obviously, to discuss how we can best move the process forward. But, again, the president's very strong commitment to assist in alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people, which is of tremendous importance, and we're very grateful for that. So I'm looking forward to it.

BUSH: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the American victims now (OFF-MIKE) raise the war on terrorism to a new level (OFF-MIKE).

BUSH: Well, we are responding to the murder of Americans. We're responding all across the globe to murders of Americans. We responded in Afghanistan to murders. We responded in the Philippines. We will -- we're responding by working with our Arab friends, and Israel, of course, to track these people down.

The war on terror is fought on many fronts. And, you know, I just -- I cannot speak strongly enough about how we must collectively get after those who kill in the name of -- the name of some kind of false religion. And, you know, I just -- I grieve for all people whose lives are taken by terrorist activities. I'm particularly sad today because of the American families who cry today and weep at the loss of a loved one because there's some fanatic who believes that killing innocent life is positive. It's incredibly negative.

And so, yes, we're committed to the war on terror and to fighting the war on terror and to winning the war on terror. And this bombing in Israel showed how tough it's going to be. But this country is tough and united and strong, Your Majesty.

QUESTION: Mr. President?

BUSH: Yes.


BUSH: Yes.


BUSH: Well, first of all, I'm committed to peace. I can speak for myself. And I'm committed to a vision of two states respecting each other, two states living side by side in peace.

Secondly, there is an action plan going forward, and that's what I'm going to review with His Majesty. Step one is to develop a security force that actually serves the people, not a particular leader. A security force must be designed to fight off terror, not designed to serve the whims and interests of a -- of one person.

Secondly, we've got to work together to develop a constitution so that the institutions of a new state are bigger than any one person. And that's very important.

Thirdly, we've got to make sure that there is the capacity for the Palestinian authority to spend money in a way, and account for money in a transparent way that will give us all confidence that when we try to help the Palestinian people, the money goes to the people.

At the same time, as I mentioned in my talks, I do believe that we can get to a so-called conference within a three year period of time. But before -- what has to happen is that we must have confidence in a state. Now, there are some who say, "Well, you know, there's only one person that can conceivably make this happen from the Palestinians." I just simply don't believe that. I believe there's all kinds of brilliant and smart and capable Palestinians that given the chance, given a chance to emerge -- and by the way, people committed to peace -- and given the chance to articulate that vision of peace will do so.

And I look forward to working on the vision. It's the right vision. It will lead to peace. All parties have responsibilities, by the way. And we will continue to insist that people uphold their responsibilities.

QUESTION: President, thank you. Israel has said it will respond (OFF-MIKE) right thing to do at this time?

BUSH: Israel must defend herself. But as I say to all parties involved, we must keep the vision of peace in mind. We must be committed to peace. We must understand that the consequences we take to make the area more secure also must be in -- these decisions to make the area more secure must be made in the context of peace for the long run.

And I'm just as angry as Israel is right now. I'm furious that innocent life lost. However, through my fury, even though I am made, I still believe peace is possible, and I will -- and I know that we can improve the conditions of everybody in the region by working toward a vision that is hopeful and optimistic and not letting the terrorist destroy the possibility for peace.

ABDULLAH: Mr. President.

I have to support the president's vision that he does understand the suffering that Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs are going through in the Middle East. And what has been so reassuring to me is that the president has the commitment to work very hard with his government to give the hope for Arabs and Israelis to be able to move to the future. And we have always been working very closely with the president, and he does have the courage and conviction to stand up for the hope that we've all had in him and his government to bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East, and we're very grateful for your position on that.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you seem to disagree on Iraq. Are you going to discuss those disagreements (OFF-MIKE)?

BUSH: Well, I appreciate that. The policy of my government, our government, of this administration is regime change, for a reason. Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops weapons of mass destruction. And I'll assure His Majesty, like I have in the past, we're looking at all options, use of all tools. I'm a patient man. But I haven't changed my opinion since the last time he was in the Oval Office. And one of the things we will do is consult with our friends.

But he just needs to know how I feel. He knows how I feel. I had the opportunity and honor of explaining that to him before. And he'll find out I hadn't changed my mind.


ABDULLAH: Well, all I'd like to say is that, again what I found from day one with the president is he understands the bigger picture. And at the end of the day, peace and stability for the Middle East has been at the forefront of his mind. And so, we have many areas where we find common base to be able to move the region forward.

BUSH: Thank you.


KAGAN: We've been listening in as King Abdullah of Jordan pays a visit to President Bush at the White House. Some tape that the White House providing for us to get a little glimpse at that meeting.

Let's bring Wolf back in here -- Wolf, of course, talking about the five Americans who were included in the seven dead yesterday at Hebrew University, talking about the suffering of the Palestinian people, and then at the very end, getting to what will probably be the most contentious topic as these two leaders get together, and that is the plans that have been floating out there, possible plans of the U.S. trying to go in and take out Saddam Hussein.

This king, King Abdullah, who can be man of moderate words, is very strong in using words like saying it would be a tremendous mistake if the U.S. thinks it can go into Iraq, and plans to go into Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein. This is a king who is very worried about these possible U.S. plans.

BLITZER: He's worried about the fallout from any unilateral U.S. military strike against Saddam Hussein. When I interviewed King Abdullah on Sunday on "Late Edition," he said it would be ludicrous for the U.S. to take such steps without trying to first bring those U.N. weapons inspection teams back into Iraq, without trying to first resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said the political fallout from a U.S. strike against Iraq could be very, very dangerous for the entire region. Although you heard the president just now not back away at all from his long- standing position that there must be, in his words, "regime change in Baghdad," meaning Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, must go.

The president saying he hasn't changed his mind at all on that issue since the last time he met with King Abdullah here in Washington, which was only in May. The president being very forceful condemning Saddam Hussein, saying he poisons his own people, he threatens his neighbors. He is developing weapons of mass destruction. Clearly making the case for some sort of action. Although the president saying he hasn't made up his mind what kind of action, insisting he's a very patient man as far as that situation is concerned. Although we do know, Daryn, as you note, that the debate in Washington continues, day two right now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Joe Biden on the consequences of U.S. military action against Iraq.

On the other big issue that is, of course, on the forefront of the meeting between President Bush and King Abdullah, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. In the aftermath of the bombing yesterday at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in which five Americans were among the seven people killed, some 90 people injured, many of them very, very seriously. The president, in effect -- in effect signaling his understanding that the Israelis are likely to take severe retaliatory action. He says Israel must defend herself. He also goes on to say that he is just as angry as Israelis are right now.

"I'm furious that innocent life has been lost," the president strongly signaling his understanding if the Israelis go forward, as is widely expected with some sort of retaliatory action. He seems to be on board.

One tiny little caveat, he said that the Israelis must keep the vision of peace in mind even as they try to defend themselves. All very, very important issues, Daryn, with huge ramifications, consequences for U.S. interests in that part of the world.

KAGAN: Absolutely. Wolf Blitzer, thanks for coming up early for us.




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