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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Bush, Howard Make Remarks at White House

Aired February 10, 2003 - 18:03   ET

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

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Excuse me, John, I understand we do have the president now. Let's go to that tape right now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to make some welcoming comments. The prime minister's going to say some things. We'll then take some questions, two from the American side and two from the Australian side.

Prime Minister Howard is a close personal friend of mine, a person whose judgment I count on, a person with whom I speak quite frequently. I believe he's a man of clear vision who see the threats that the free world faces as we go into the 21st Century.

I'm proud to -- I'm proud to work with him on behalf of a peaceful world and a freer society. He's a man grounded in good values, and I respect him a lot and I'm glad he's back here in the Oval Office.

Welcome.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.

I'm delighted to be back in the United States. We talked, naturally, about Iraq and other related matters.

I want to say that from the very beginning the president has shown very strong leadership on a difficult issue. He's been prepared to go out and argue a very strong case. It's not been an issue that's been free of criticism for any of those who've advocated a particular point of view.

Australia's position concerning Iraq is very clear.

HOWARD: We believe the -- a world in which weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of rogue states with the potential threat of them falling into the hands of terrorists is not a world that Australia, if we can possibly avoid it, wants to be part of.

And that is the fundamental reason why Australia has taken the position she has, and it's the fundamental reason why we believe the goals that the United States set of disarming Iraq are proper goals, and they are goals that the entire world should pursue.

We all hope that there might -- despite the apparent unlikelihood, we all hope that there might be a peaceful solution. The one real chance of a peaceful solution is the whole world saying the same thing to Iraq.

And that's why we believe the closest possible cooperation and unity of objective and unity of advocacy is very important.

BUSH: Thanks, John.

Don't worry, malfunctioning light. There it is. Patsy (ph), then Ron (ph). Well, you're from Australia.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Knowing Ron's (ph) happy, you probably will hate everything.

QUESTION: Iraq has agreed to allow U-2 flights, and also private interviews with some scientists. Does this make it harder for you to argue that Saddam Hussein is not cooperative -- is not cooperating?

BUSH: Iraq needs to disarm, and the reason why we even need to fly U-2 flights is because they're not disarming. We know what a disarmed country looks like, and Iraq is -- doesn't look like that.

This is a man who is trying to stall for time. He's trying to play a diplomatic game. He's been successful at it for 12 years. But no, the question is, will he disarm?

I notice somebody said the other day, "Well, we need more inspectors." Well, a disarmed -- a country which is disarming really needs one or two inspectors to verify the fact that they're disarming. We're not playing hide-and-seek. That's what he wants to continue to play. And so, you know, Saddam's got to disarm. If he doesn't, we'll disarm him.

QUESTION: Sir, can I ask a further question?

BUSH: Please.

QUESTION: Could you tell us whether you count Australia as part of the coalition of the willing?

BUSH: Yes, I do. And I -- you know, what that means is up to John to decide, but I certainly count him as somebody who understands that the world changed on September the 11th, 2001.

Ironically enough, John Howard was in America that day, in Washington, D.C., the day the enemy hit.

In our country it used to be that oceans could protect us, at least we thought so. There was wars on other continents, but we were safe. And so we could decide whether or not we addressed a threat on our own time. If there was a threat gathering from afar, we could say, "Well, let's see, it may be in our interest to get involved or it may not be." We had the luxury.

September the 11th that changed. America is now a battleground in the war on terror.

Secondly, the secretary of state made it very clear that there are connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorist networks. And, therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us who love freedom to understand the new world in which we live. John Howard understands that.

Ron (ph)?

QUESTION: In addition to being among some people who are calling for inspections, the French today blocked NATO from helping Turkey, and President Chirac said nothing today justified a war.

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Given what Americans and the French went through in the last century, are you upset by their attitude now?

BUSH: No, I wouldn't -- upset isn't the proper word.

BUSH: I am disappointed that France would block NATO from helping a country like Turkey prepare. I don't understand that decision. It affects the alliance in a negative way.

QUESTION: You think it does?

BUSH: I think it affects the alliance in a negative way when you're not able to make a statement of mutual defense.

I had a good talk with Jacques Chirac recently. I assured him that -- you know, that we would continue to try to work with France as best we can. France has been a longtime friend of the United States. We've got a lot in common. But I think their decision at NATO is shortsighted, in my judgment. I hope they'll reconsider.

QUESTION: Mr. President, for many Australians (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: My personal message is that I want to keep the peace and make the world more peaceful.

I understand why people don't like to commit the military to action. I can understand that; I'm the person in this country that hugs the mothers and the widows if their son or husband dies. I know people would like to avoid armed conflict, and so would I. But the risks of doing nothing far outweigh the risks of whatever it takes to disarm Saddam Hussein.

I've thought long and hard about this issue. My job is to protect the American people from further harm. I believe that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American people. I also know he's a threat to our friends and allies.

The second thing in my message is -- and I started speaking about this today -- I also have got great compassion and concern for the Iraqi people. These are people who have been tortured and brutalized, people who've been raped because they may disagree with Saddam Hussein. He's a brutal dictator.

In this country, and in Australia, people believe that everybody has got worth, everybody counts, that everybody is equal in the eyes of the Almighty. So the issue is not only peace, the issue is freedom and liberty.

I made it clear in my State of the Union, and the people of Australia must understand this, I don't believe liberty is America's gift to the world. I believe it is God's gift to humanity.

Thank you all.

DOBBS: President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard wrapping up just about eight minutes of comments there as well as taking a few questions.

I want to bring back, if I may, our senior White House correspondent John King. John, you heard the president say that in his judgment Iraq is stalling for time. At the same time, willing to seek a second U.N. resolution.

Your thoughts?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the administration clearly trying to make the case that piecemeal or occasional cooperation, occasional gestures like allowing the U-2 flights are not enough. The Bush administration will try to argue the case over the next five days before that key Security Council meeting on Friday.

The Bush administration had hoped for a second resolution that explicitly said the threat of military force was imminent. Some now in the administration believing if France, Germany, Russia and others will not change their position, that the administration might have to seek a more modest resolution that simply says Iraq is in material breach and then the Bush administration would go from there and say, Resolution 1441, the previous resolution, now allows military force.

That will be the difficult diplomatic challenge in the days ahead, but you heard the president quite clearly, he signaled this last week, some Iraqi gestures in the days ahead, the president saying total disarmament or not good enough -- Lou.

DOBBS: The president, John, also focusing, following a question on France, Germany and Russia, as blocking the request by Turkey for defense aid from NATO. He says this is negative before the alliance, as the alliance is refusing to honor mutual assistance and defense to one of its members.

What is the sense there at the White House? There seems to be great frustration on the part of the president here.

KING: There is frustration. The president said disappointment. He wouldn't use the term frustration.

We continue to hear from senior administration officials that privately the conversations are much more encouraging but what was -- what took them most aback here at the White House today, Lou, was not so much that President Chirac said give the inspectors more time, but that he said explicitly he has not seen any definitive proof Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.

White House officials were frankly apoplectic about that. They say President Chirac has seen the intelligence and that he knows full well Saddam still has weapons of mass destruction. They did not understand that statement today. Privately, they believe in the end that it's possible to get the French on board, but they also acknowledge with these continuing strong public statements from the French government, they may have to move to a backup plan.

DOBBS: John king, thank you very much. Senior White House correspondent.

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