U.S. Committed to Security of Israel, Bush Tells Sharon

 

Tuesday  July 29, 2003

White House Report, July 29: Israel, Saudi Arabia

"America is firmly committed to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and we are firmly committed to the safety of the Israeli people," said President Bush in a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on July 29 in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Bush and Sharon spoke at the conference after their discussions in the Oval Office in Sharon's eighth visit to the White House. Afterwards, they attended a working lunch to continue their dialogue on a variety of issues.

"In our discussions, I encouraged the prime minister to take further steps to improve the daily conditions faced by Palestinians," said Bush.  "Israelis and Palestinians deserve the same chance to live normal lives, free from fear, free from hatred and violence, and free from harassment.  I also urged the prime minister to carefully consider all the consequences of Israel's actions as we move forward on the road to peace."

Bush said that he was very encouraged by the positive steps that Israel has taken since last month's Red Sea summits in Egypt and Jordan to further the cause of peace.

"Prime Minister Sharon is now meeting regularly with Prime Minister Abbas, and that's positive," said Bush. "Israeli and Palestinian cabinet and security officials are meeting, as well."

Bush met at the White House with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas July 25 to discuss ways to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"All parties agree that a fundamental obstacle to peace is terrorism, which can never be justified by any cause.  Last month in Aqaba, Prime Minister Abbas committed to a complete end to violence and terrorism. The Palestinian Authority must undertake sustained, targeted and effective operations to confront those engaged in terror, and to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.  We're determined to help Prime Minister Abbas as he works to end terror, and establish the rule of law that will protect Israelis and Palestinians alike," said Bush.

In the meeting, Bush and Sharon discussed a variety of issues, including Israel's construction of a security fence, the elimination of unauthorized outposts, the freezing of settlements in the occupied territories, and releasing of Palestinian prisoners.

Sharon said that "the security fence will continue to be built, with every effort to minimize the infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population." He assured Bush that Israel would remove all unauthorized outposts.

Describing the security fence as a "sensitive" issue, Bush said he hoped that peace would prevail between the two sides, thereby making the fence "irrelevant."

Bush promised Sharon that as Israel continues its efforts toward peace, "my commitment to the security of Israel is unshakable, as is the enduring friendship of our countries."

BUSH WON'T DECLASSIFY SECTIONS OF 9-11 REPORT

Bush announced July 29 that he would not declassify 28 pages of a congressional report rumored to contain information on possible links between Saudi government officials and some of the September 11 hijackers.

"There's an ongoing investigation into the 9/11 attacks and we don't want to compromise that investigation," said Bush at the news conference with Sharon.

"We have an ongoing war against al Qaeda and terrorists, and the declassification of that part of a 900-page document would reveal sources and methods that will make it harder for us to win the war on terror," he said.

"We worked to make sure that we could declassify as much information as possible because of how important that is," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "But what we will not do is compromise our national security by allowing information relating to sources and methods to be released, or allowing information about ongoing investigations relating to the September 11th terrorist attacks to be released.  It is too important to our continuing war on terrorism and our efforts to go after and dismantle, disrupt, and defeat al Qaeda and its terrorist networks."

McClellan said Saudi Arabia has been very cooperative in the war on terrorism. "I think that the president believes that the Saudis are playing a helpful role in cracking down on terrorist financing and helping in other ways to go after the al Qaeda terrorist network," he said.

"We certainly understand their concerns over the reports that have been made in the media. But because of these ongoing investigations and because of our national security interest, we cannot allow that information to be released at this time," said McClellan.

Bush met with the Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal, on July 25.

After the meeting, al-Faisal said that suggestions of Saudi Arabia's link to the terrorist attacks were "an outrage to any sense of fairness" and said his country had been "wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity in the attacks."

"Twenty-eight blank pages are now considered substantial evidence to proclaim the guilt of a country that has been a true friend and partner of the United States for over 60 years," al-Faisal said.

"We have nothing to hide and we do not seek nor do we need to be shielded," he said.

 

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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