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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Daily White House Briefing

Aired April 1, 2003 - 14:02   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Let's quickly go to the White House briefing.
This is Ari Fleischer.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... administration, specifically Pentagon and State, over administering aid for the Iraqi people? It appears that some of it's being held up now at the port in Umm Qasr.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, one, there is an existing plan and structure for the administration of aid for Iraq, and this is something that was planned going in.

Follow-up to Helen's question. General Garner is, of course, working on that from the Defense Department, and as well as officials from State, from AID. They all will have a role.

The role really begins with the security of Iraq and that's why it begins at DOD, because this is going to become an outgrowth of the military operation to liberate Iraq, to disarm Iraq, and from the security point of view, to allow for the greatest administration as quickly as possible by the Iraqi people. That will include a role for others, including the United Nations, as I mentioned.

So it's all part and parcel of the original plan. Just a part of the discussions that are routine around here that involve the various agencies.

QUESTION: What does the president view as the United Nations' role? Will it be restricted to humanitarian aid? Or does he see a role for them in terms of administrating?

FLEISCHER: The statement that the president made in the Azores talked about a U.N. role in two part; one part being humanitarian and the other part being in the reconstruction.

QUESTION: As an administrative overseer of the interim authority?

FLEISCHER: In some role. I think the exact role remains to be seen. Obviously, the United States, being on the ground, providing the security, is going to have a substantial role to play, and we want to make certain and welcome the role that others can play as well. The exact nature of those roles is yet to be determined. QUESTION: I heard your answer to Randy (ph) that we don't know whether Saddam's alive or dead. No one's implying that you had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) proof. But do you have any more intelligence that leans you one way or the other? Is there more intelligence now than there was last week?

FLEISCHER: No, there really is still nothing hard or concrete to report. I think when I got asked about this on the day after the military strike, I said we don't know how Saddam is feeling today. We don't know how he's been feeling for a couple weeks.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I think, again, we don't have anything hard, concrete to report. I think if we did, we would want to share that information or...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: ... or, if Iraq had something...

(LAUGHTER)

Switch it around, though. If you're in Iraq, if you're part of the Iraqi regime, if you're part of the leadership structure especially, if you had something hard or concrete to report such as that Saddam was alive, the question is why aren't they showing it. And particularly today, after they advertised -- Al Jazeera did report it -- that Saddam Hussein would himself address the Iraqi people and he failed to show up, it does raise interesting questions.

But the bottom line is we don't know. We don't know and, therefore, we're going to be guarded in what we say because we don't know. He could show up, but he hasn't yet.

QUESTION: Can you answer his last question? What do we believe?

FLEISCHER: We believe that we don't know.

QUESTION: Following up on Campbell's question, have you said anything lately about the French preference to have U.N. administration over all of postwar Iraq versus any kind of U.S. control?

FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, the United Nations will have a role.

QUESTION: But they want to have the controlling role.

FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not certain that that's an accurate statement for what the U.N. wants. I think it remains to be seen exactly, the U.N. -- members of the Security Council. But there are some serious facts on the ground involving the United States and the United Kingdom and others who are there working with the Iraqi people.

But the fundamental issue is not whether it's the United Nations or the United States that will administer Iraq. The Iraqi people will administer Iraq. Iraq can be and should be and will be, in the president's judgment, administered by the Iraqi people from both inside and outside Iraq.

QUESTION: Has the president taken any role in calling anybody, talking to anybody about the dispute that is simmering between some active duty and off-duty military over the plan of the war?

FLEISCHER: Well, I don't know if you saw what General Myers said, but I think General Myers has addressed that issue.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: I don't think the president is bothering on that level. I think when you see what General Myers...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: I think when you see General Myers expressed it and Secretary Rumsfeld expressed it as so many layers down, I don't think anybody could put it more authoritatively, more clearly or more concisely than General Myers did.

QUESTION: So the president is...

FLEISCHER: I'm not aware that he's...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... believes that the war is progressing as planned?

FLEISCHER: There's no question. You know where the president stands on how well the war is progressing, correct.

QUESTION: Couple questions on the periphery of things. There's a poll out in Le Monde, one of the leading French newspapers, that a quarter of the French people hope Iraq wins this war. That's combined with, obviously, overwhelming opposition to the war, the government's efforts to obstruct U.S. diplomatic and in some ways military efforts. Can the president still consider a country like that an ally?

FLEISCHER: Well, I haven't seen it, and so I'm not going to comment on anything involving the percentage of French who would think that. I don't know that to be the case or not to be the case. Obviously, the foreign minister of France spoke, and then very quickly update what he said in regard to his sentiments about it. We have relations with the government; the government of France has spoken.

QUESTION: Another peripheral issue. Franklin Graham, the preacher who spoke at the president's inauguration, has said -- and who has also been quoted as calling Islam a very wicked and violent religion -- has said that he is in contact with United States officials in Jordan for his charity, Samaritan's Purse, to work inside Iraq as coalition forces stabilize the south. Is the United States government encouraging Samaritan's Purse and other, explicitly evangelical charities, to go to work in Iraq? FLEISCHER: Any questions about that would have to be addressed to State Department or Jordanians or any other authorities. It's not a White House matter, so I really don't have anything on it.

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