White House Daily Briefing, December 22, 2003


Monday December 22, 2003

Office of the Press Secretary
December 22, 2003



-- Secretary Baker
-- Homeland security
-- Israel
-- Road map
-- Vice President medical records
-- Libya
-- India, Pakistan
-- Argentina
-- Religion
-- Ambassador Bremer

Office of the Press Secretary
December 22, 2003


The James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:28 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I want to give you an update on the schedule of Special Presidential Envoy Baker, and then I have a few phone calls to read out and I'll be glad to take questions after that.

Special Presidential Envoy James A. Baker III will travel to Japan, South Korea and China December 27th through 30th, to discuss reduction of Iraq's official debt. Secretary Baker will meet with the leaders of Japan and then South Korea, December 29th; and China on December 30th.

Let me update you on a few calls -- a few from the weekend and one this morning. This Saturday, the President spoke briefly with President Wad of Senegal. President Wad called to congratulate the President on capturing Saddam Hussein. The President thanked President Wad and wished him a happy holiday. The United States and Senegal continue to enjoy close relations and cooperate closely on a variety of issues.

Following that call, the President called Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. The President thanked the Prime Minister for Japan's support on Iraq reconstruction, including the Japanese government's recent decision to dispatch forces to Iraq. The President also thanked Prime Minister Koizumi for welcoming Special Envoy James Baker to Tokyo on December 29th. And the Prime Minister congratulated the President on the capture of Saddam Hussein and the progress in eliminating Libya's weapons of mass destruction programs. The two leaders also discussed next steps on the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Following that call, later in the morning on Saturday, the President spoke with President Hu. The two leaders discussed progress in Iraq. They also discussed next steps on the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The President thanked President Hu for welcoming Special Envoy James Baker to Beijing on December 30th. The President reiterated that there should be no unilateral action taken by either side of the Taiwan Strait to change the status quo.

And then this morning, the President spoke with President Roh of South Korea. The President thanked President Roh for his preparations to deploy South Korean forces to Iraq. The two leaders discussed next steps on the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and the President thanked President Roh for welcoming Special Envoy James Baker to Seoul on December 29th.

And with that, I'll be glad to go into your questions for the day.

QUESTION: Scott, on this homeland security briefing that the President received, or that he convened, Homeland Security Council, what makes this different in his mind, this threat level? What should Americans know as they set out for the holidays that puts this on a different plane?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Secretary Ridge went through some of this yesterday and earlier this morning, as well. Following the Homeland Security Council meeting, the President did participate in a meeting earlier today with his Homeland Security Council. And it was the recommendation, the consensus recommendation of the Homeland Security Council yesterday to the President of the United States that the threat level be raised from elevated to high, or yellow to orange. And the President agreed with that. And I think that the reasons he agreed with that were spelled out by Secretary Ridge.

The intelligence community has received a substantial increase in volume of threat-related intelligence reports. There are a number of credible sources that suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond. And I think in the post-September 11th period that we have been in, it has been described that this is perhaps the highest level of chatter that we have seen.

There's still information that indicates that terrorists abroad are anticipating attacks that they believe will rival or exceed the scope and impact of those we experienced on September 11th. And recent reporting continues to reiterate that al Qaeda seeks to use aircraft as a weapon in suicide-type attacks. And, certainly, as Secretary Ridge pointed out, that acquiring and using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials remains a top al Qaeda objective. And I think it was for all these reasons that the decision was made, and the President agreed with that decision.

Q: I realize it's impossible to know the answer to this question, but --

MR. McCLELLAN: But you'll ask it anyway.

Q: But I'll ask it anyway, because it's a matter of, I guess, degree. Whether on the side of the enemies there is some effort to set the process in motion, that that's part of the end game, which is to make a few well placed phone calls to get that chatter up, to set this system off, to put people on edge -- how do you -- how do you evaluate that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that's -- that's always a determination made by -- the Homeland Security Council is made up by a variety of heads of the different departments and agencies that are involved in homeland security matters. That's why they meet on a regular basis, to assess the threats that they are hearing about. And they make a determination, and they look at the credibility of those sources. And so that's what they look at. And if you'll recall that over the past few weeks, the Department of Homeland Security has sent out bulletins and bulletins to homeland security officials and law enforcement around the United States, urging them to continue to be on a heightened state of alert.

And so those are assessments that are made on a daily basis, an ongoing basis. I think what's important for the American people to know is that the federal government is working hard, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to do everything we can to prevent an attack from happening. Even more importantly, the President of the United States took decisive action after September 11th to prevent attacks from happening by taking the fight to the enemy. That is the best way to prevent attacks from happening in the first place, is to go after the enemy where they are and take the battle to them, and disrupt and dismantle their organizations. And we have made great success.

But, obviously, in a post-September 11th world, there are a lot of new and dangerous threats that we face. And you also have to take steps to secure the homeland, and that's why we have taken unprecedented and extraordinary action to do that, starting with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Q: Scott, some months ago the President said that al Qaeda had been weakened. Is it now your feeling that they are growing in strength?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what the President has always said is that the war on terrorism will take time, but he is committed to seeing it through, that it's not going to be won overnight. We have made great success in disrupting and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, disrupting and dismantling the al Qaeda leadership and, certainly, we have captured or eliminated two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership. So there has been great success, but the war continues. And, again, the best way to win the war on terrorism and prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again is to take the fight to the enemy, and that's exactly what this administration is committed to doing and seeing through.

Q: But are their numbers increasing? Do you have any evidence of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that there are people out there that continue to want to do harm to America and our friends and allies. And that's why there is a global coalition waging a war on terrorism. We will continue to go after them, and bring them to justice. We will continue to go after the terrorists and seek to disrupt their plans before they can carry them out, by taking the fight to them.

Q: Is the President in favor of international inspection of Israel's nuclear arsenal, which is pretty well known?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I agree with that, the premise of your question. But the United States has a longstanding position of universal adherence to the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. That has been our longstanding position --

Q: They never signed it.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that is universal adherence. Well, we have urged all states that have not yet adhered to the treaty to do so, and to accept the IAEA safeguards on nuclear activities that would come with it.

Q: Are we trying to persuade Israel to sign it, and to be open to inspection?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, one, in terms of specifics about the Israeli government, you need to refer those questions to the Israeli government.

Q: No, no, I'm asking our position.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I've told you that the long held position of the United States is the universal adherence to the nonproliferation treaty.

Q: Scott, is there any concern, or even -- maybe even some real knowledge from sources that al Zawahiri's statement last Friday on Al Jazeera might have been considered a "go" signal to some of the sleeper cells, or folks who are planning attacks?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that it's a reminder that the war on terrorism continues. That's what it is. I think that we've described, in terms of the volume of threat activity that we've been seeing, I think we've described that. But I think tapes like that are another reminder that the war on terrorism continues.

Q: How much did that play into the fact that it was just two days later --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Secretary Ridge has gone through what played into the reason for increasing the threat level. I described it, too, as well. And that's where it stands.

Q: Scott, in light of your stated concern that terrorists would like to repeat a 9/11-style attack, are we thoroughly comfortable with the security precautions taken at international airports, and particularly airports that are close to the United States, Canada, Central America, Mexico?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, since September 11th, we have taken significant steps to not only improve aviation security in the United States, but overseas, as well. Of course, in the United States the steps that we have taken have been to have federal -- deploy federal air marshals on flights across the United States, to have highly trained professional screeners put into place under the direction of the federal government, to have reinforced cockpit doors, as well as training pilots to protect the cockpit, as well. So there are a number of steps we've taken at home, and there's -- you always have to keep in mind that there are ways that people -- that al Qaeda would like to try to circumvent the security measures that are in place.

But we have, as well, shared information with our international partners so that they can enhance aviation security and address the threats that we face out there. And we are working with them to make sure we're doing everything possible to make sure that passengers are screened and limiting access to secure areas in the airport, as well.

And I would remind you that all international flights now entering the United States have reinforced cockpit doors. And we also receive data on all passengers aboard these international flights before they arrive in the United States. And we have also issued a security directed to all the airlines into the United States to enhance their security measures. And we're working very closely with other international countries.

Q: Is that a "yes" to my questions, or are you saying you're getting there? Are you comfortable with security everywhere --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we've taken --

Q: -- are you comfortable that they have all taken --- that their level of concern is adequate, is what it should be? Or do you think there are more steps for them to do?

MR. McCLELLAN: Wendell, I don't think you ever look at it as adequate. I think you look at it as, are we doing everything we can to protect America and to make the world a safer and better place. On the one hand, as I talked about earlier, we are doing what's most important. That is taking the fight to the enemy, and getting them before they can carry out their attacks. And we have made great success in that regard.

On the other hand, we have taken significant steps, both here and abroad, in terms of aviation security -- I just outlined a number of those -- to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the homeland and protect the American people. And there have been some significant steps that have been taken. There's always more that you look to make sure that you are doing. And we will continue to work to do even more, but we are committed to making sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the homeland. And that's where we are.

Go ahead, April.

Q: Scott, are first responders up to par, or up to speed with what they need to be doing in case of an attack on the United States, wherever in the world, or simultaneous attacks? And, also, as the nation is trying to rebound on the economic front, where does this leave the economy and President Bush's hope to bolster the economy in the midst of this threat?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the President's most solemn obligation is to protect the American people. And you do that on the offensive, but you also have to take defensive security measures, as well. And that's why we've taken the steps that we have in the war on terrorism, and that's why we've taken the steps here to secure the homeland.

We've taken extraordinary steps to improve and strengthen aviation security, to improve and strengthen our border security, to make sure that our critical infrastructure is protected, as well. There's close coordination between the federal government and states and local governments, as well. I'd say it's unprecedented cooperation. And Secretary Ridge spelled out some of the steps that he immediately took to notify our nation's governors and local governments, as well as the private sector, about steps that needed to be put in place, additional measures that should be taken under this current threat level that we're in right now.

Q: But, Scott, are the first responders at the level that they should be in case of an attack? And also --

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that it's the same thing I said, we are doing everything we can to make sure we are protecting the American people. But there's always more to do. This is not a job that ever stops. You are constantly assessing and evaluating and adjusting and improving where you can. But we have taken extraordinary steps to improve coordination at the local level. Our first responders, we have the local -- or state, homeland security directors in place, our local governments have put into place homeland security measures that have gone a long way to making America more secure here at home and to prevent attacks from happening in the first place, but also to be prepared, if an attack does happen, to respond in the appropriate fashion.

Q: What about the economy? You haven't answered that question.

MR. McCLELLAN: What is your question on the economy?

Q: The question is, this threat may put a damper on people going shopping, the shopping season, with the economy the President is hoping to bolster. What are the thoughts about this, in the midst of people possibly staying home as precautionary measures?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that, one, you have to keep in mind we live in a post-September 11th world. There are new and dangerous threats that we've had to confront, and we are confronting that -- confronting those threats in a number of ways. I think we've made it very clear that the American people should go about living their lives, but there are steps that they can take, as well. They need to be vigilant, particularly when we're in this heightened state of alert. The American people can play a role in preventing attacks from happening in the first place. The American people should be on the lookout and report any suspicious activity or packages. The American people should, as we have previously outlined, plan on what they should do in an emergency, and plan what their family should do. They can go to the website, ready.gov, to get more information about that, and they should certainly be aware of their surroundings and the current threats that we may be facing.

Q: Scott, first of all, on the attack on the Egyptian minister in Israel, does that change any tactics or change anything?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've just seen those reports. I don't really have more information on that at this point. I mean, it would be very unfortunate if that did occur, but I just saw those reports before coming out here.

Q: I heard that he wasn't hurt, apparently. Will that impede the road map for peace in any way, the attempts?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President remains firmly committed to this two-state vision that he outlined, and the road map is the best way to get there. We're in close contact with the parties to get them moving again on the road map so that we can realize the President's two-state vision of Israel and Palestinian living side-by-side in peace and security.

Q: One more, the term "chatter," can you define it? Is this just intercepts of cell phones or --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's the way the Secretary described it, the volume of threat-related intelligence reports. That's what we're talking about -- what we're hearing in terms of the intelligence community, what information we're picking up from different sources, as well. And you always have to balance those assessments with the credibility of the information that you're receiving.

Q: Scott, what does it say about the nature of al Qaeda and the support that it apparently can draw on in parts of the world that, despite all of the progress that you've cited in disrupting and dismantling its leadership and capabilities, it's still able to generate what, by your own account, is the most serious threat to the United States since 9/11?

MR. McCLELLAN: Perhaps, perhaps the most serious.

Q: Well, what does it say about them that they're able to --

MR. McCLELLAN: It says that we're at war on terrorism and that the war on terrorism continues, and that we live in a post-September 11th world, that there are still people that seek to do us harm. But I know one thing, al Qaeda no longer has a safe haven in Afghanistan because of the action that the President of the United States took to remove the regime that sponsored or allowed al Qaeda to have a safe haven in their country. The world is becoming a safer and better place because of the decisive action we are taking to confront these kind of threats, and the decisive action we are taking to bring these individuals to justice, who seek to do harm to this country.

Q: But does it concern you that after all of this, al Qaeda is still functioning well enough to pose this kind of threat, potentially?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been very fortunate that there hasn't been an attack on the homeland since September 11th. But we cannot rest. We must continue carrying out the war on terrorism and taking the fight to the enemy. There are still people within the al Qaeda organization who want to plot and plan attacks against Americans and against the United States. And we will not rest, the President of the United States will continue to take the fight to the terrorists and bring them to justice, because that is the best way to prevent these types of attacks from happening in the first place.

Q: Scott, just to change the subject, does the President think that the Vice President should release his medical records and, specifically, the results of his last annual physical -- since this is a person who is literally a heartbeat away --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't had any discussions with the Vice President's Office about that. I saw one report. I mean, I'll be glad to look into it, but you might want to direct those questions to the Vice President. I think that they have provided updates on his health over the last few years.

Q: But not as a matter of routine --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll look into it more, Ed. I'll look into it more.

Q: Scott, there's a report in the British press over the weekend that there's consideration of some kind of a trilateral meeting -- Ghadafi, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair. Is there anything under consideration here at the White House for a --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update on anything such as that. But the President made it very clear the other night that now it's time for Colonel Ghadafi to follow through on the commitments he made, and we expect him to act on the commitments he's made. And the initial signs are positive. This was a very positive development the other night when Libya came forward and said, we are going to eliminate our weapons of mass destruction programs once and for all.

Q: What's the way forward, Scott? Is it a U.N. process?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of that, I think it was described the other day. We are working through those issues now. I mean, I think that Libya has indicated that they are open to the IAEA being there, they've had discussions with the IAEA. Then you also have the chemical side of things. But we're working through that with Libya now.

Q: Scott, The Washington Post reports that Judge Friedman's orders for medically unsupervised leave for John Hinckley require, among other things, that Hinckley's parents, both of whom are aged 78, are to notify law enforcement authorities at any hint of trouble. And my question, first of two: dan we count on very close Secret Service surveillance of Hinckley, in case this near-presidential assassin runs away from his parents or threatens his mother if his father doesn't drive them off in search of Jodie Foster --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think you can direct a specific question about the Secret Service to the Secret Service, in terms of what they would do. But I think I made our views known.

Q: They make no comment --

MR. McCLELLAN: I made our views known on this the other night, or the other afternoon.

Q: Well, you didn't explain what's going to happen if he runs -- I mean, can you just tell us --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that you need to direct those questions to the Secret Service.

Q: There have been statements about the existence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, a message Clinton, Albright, Daschle, Levin, Kerry, Graham, Gore and Kennedy. But actor Rob Reiner, in introducing Governor Dean in Iowa, said: George Bush said we had to go into Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction. He lied.

My question: Does the White House know whether Governor Dean ever disassociated himself from this Bush lie accusation, and do you think he should have?

MR. McCLELLAN: Nice way to try to pull us into a Democratic primary, but --

Q: I mean, he said he lied. You certainly want to respond to that, don't you?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll let the Democrats work out their differences.

Q: Back to the intelligence chatter for a moment. Has there been any indication when the peak threat might be, whether it's, like, this week, next week, or first half of January? Is there any --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Secretary Ridge has gotten into these questions. If there's information that needs to be shared, we share that appropriately, because of the seriousness of this issue.

Q: No indication of a peak period or --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Secretary Ridge has addressed this, in terms of the volume that we are seeing now, and if there is information that needs to be shared, we share that appropriately. That's why, over the last few weeks, we were sharing bulletins with homeland security officials in states, as well as local law enforcement, and we'll continue to share that information, as appropriate.

Q: Two questions. As far as this terror alert is concerned, it may be due to the capture of Saddam Hussein, because he's (inaudible) for the al Qaeda and his connection with al Qaeda. I just want to bring to your attention that in September 1990, (inaudible), saying that he was still threat to the world peace and connection with al Qaeda and terrorism.

This week General Musharraf, who really made some positive statements as far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned, an upcoming conference in Islamabad between those South Asian countries. He's important, according to a survey to the India-Pakistan peace at this time, and he has said that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are behind to assassinate him. So what are we doing to protect him at this time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think -- I don't have any specific updates in terms of that investigation, but President Musharraf is someone that has been working closely with us in the war on terrorism and we continue to work closely and cooperatively with Pakistan to win the war on terrorism, as I mentioned earlier. And we appreciate their close cooperation in the war on terrorism.

Q: And another one, my second question. We did a survey as far as presidential credentials are concerned for the whole year. And we came up with a survey that he's the man who is fighting against terrorism and also at the same time he's courage to -- we did this headline, "George W. Bush or Courage Bush," that he is really fighting this terrorism according to (inaudible) and also at the time encouraging statements and his interest in India-U.S. relations and India-Pakistan relations and peace in the region.

Also I would like to thank, as we enter the new year, we end 2003, I am very thankful to my colleagues here at the White House press corps, all their help and cooperation, also the White House press office and President Bush and you. My question is --

MR. McCLELLAN: We wish all of you a happy holiday, too. (Laughter.) I appreciate the cooperation I'm receiving from everybody here. (Laughter.)

Q: Quick question, really, how much President Bush will continue to engage as far as peace in the region in the South Asian concern, and India-U.S. relations?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's an important foreign policy priority, and there have been some welcome steps undertaken by the governments of Pakistan and India to reduce tensions in the region. We welcome those steps and we'll continue having discussions with them. It's important for them to continue to have dialogue and move forward on those commitments to reduce tensions in the region.

Q: Scott, there has been violence in Buenos Aires during the largest demonstration to date since Nestor Kirchner became President of Argentina. The unrest is over the lack of jobs and the deteriorating Argentine economy. Does the President plan to address these issues when he goes to Mexico next month?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, first of all we're a little bit a ways out from the Summit of the Americas in Mexico, so we'll have more to preview on that after we get back from the first of the year. And that's where it stands, and that's an internal matter you need to address to Argentina authorities there.

Terry, go ahead, you had a follow up?

Q: Yes. Has the United States government concluded that Pakistan is the source of the nuclear technology in Libya and in Iran? And what is the administration going to do about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, when you talk about the past, I mean, that is the past and for a variety of reasons I'm not in a position to discuss those matters relating to classified information and intelligence matters, such as sources and methods. But let me talk to the present. President Musharraf has assured us there are not any transfers of WMD-related technologies or know-how going on in the present time. And we will continue -- as I mentioned to Goyal, we will continue to work with Pakistan on a number of fronts, including the war on terrorism and taking steps to make sure we're doing everything we can to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction around the world. That is a high priority for the President of the United States, as you heard the other night when he addressed the nation here from this podium.

Q: Okay, for other countries -- North Korea most notoriously -- you're entirely willing to say that's a proliferating country. As far as this administration is concerned, Pakistan right now is not a proliferator?

MR. McCLELLAN: And I just said that what President Musharraf had assured us, that that is not happening now. And that's important.

Q: And we take his assurances as credible and real, and there is no proliferation that he is unaware of?

MR. McCLELLAN: He has assured us that that is not happening, that they're not involved in that kind of activity.

Q: Okay, and then just one follow-up on Israel. Did you mean to say that the United States government has no assessment about whether or not Israel is a nuclear power?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- what I said is what we've said previously, you should direct those questions to the Israeli government.

Q: But doesn't the United States provide an assessment of the nuclear capabilities of all kinds of countries -- India, Pakistan, South Africa when they were --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the government of Israel has already stated publicly that they would not be the first nation in the region to have such weapons.

Go ahead, back here. I'll come to you next, Jacobo.

Q: Thank you, I have a Les-type question today.

MR. McCLELLAN: Should we stop this now?

Q: Yes. (Laughter.)

Q: Thank you. Does the President share the view of millions of Americans who pray for him every day that hard left groups, like the ACLU and Americans for Separation of Church and State, are waging a war on religion, in particular Christianity?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you've heard the President's views when it comes to religion. He's spoken out very forcefully on this issue. The President is someone who believes in the right of all people to freely express their religious views. And he is someone that believes in religious tolerance. The President believes that we should welcome people of all faiths, and that those of faith should not be discriminated against. Those are the President's views, and he's talked about that repeatedly.

Q: In particular, I'm trying to evoke a statement from the President, who is a deeply religious person, to a bewildered and angry majority of Americans who see their freedom of religion being infringed by the courts and a shrill minority.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that specifically you're pointing to, because this President has worked to make sure that we are a society that welcomes people of all faiths. And he is someone who has worked to reach out to faith-based and community organizations to help those in need because they have a proven record of helping those who are in need, and particularly during this holiday season when there are many people who are in need, and people who have suffered. This is all the more reason we need to continue reaching out to faith-based and community organizations. Because the President is focused on results, and they have proven results of helping people in need. And the President does not believe we should be discriminating against those organizations because of their faith.

Go ahead, Jacobo.

Q: Scott, when James Baker is finished with his present trip to Europe, will he come back to report directly to the President before initiating the trip to Japan and South Korea?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that that's been -- that those details have been finalized at this point. The President when he returns will actually be in Texas. But we'll keep you posted on any developments there. It could be just a verbal report back to the President, versus an in-person report back to the President. But we'll keep you posted on those details.

Q: And the second question, we have seen around Washington the heightened state of security in the metro, in the airports, in the train stations, et cetera. Is the White House on a heightened state of alert compared -- I know this is a very secure place normally --

MR. McCLELLAN: All federal departments and agencies are, and you can expect that we are taking additional security measures, as well.

Q: Is the President anticipating any public events while he's in Crawford?

MR. McCLELLAN: There's nothing to announce at this point -- nor any overseas trips, if that's what you're getting at. (Laughter.)

Q: A dinner menu coming out?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll be around, so we'll keep you posted.

Q: When he's been in Israel, has he ever gone to the textile factory?

MR. McCLELLAN: You've had your questions. This is the holiday season. No jumping in and interrupting. (Laughter.)

Q: What did Ambassador Bremer tell the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this was an opportunity, again, for Ambassador Bremer to update the President on the progress that we are making in Iraq. This is not a meeting that we typically read out. Secretary Rumsfeld was in the meeting, as well. So they had a good discussion, which is part of the ongoing meetings that the President has with our people who are over in the region overseeing the military action, as well as the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

All right, thank you very much. You all have a happy holiday season.

END 1:01 P.M. EST


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