Tony Snow: In Russia, on the Mideast Crisis

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Click below for White House press secretary Tony Snow briefing on the growing Mideast crisis.

Summary quotes here from Snow have Bush calling on all sides to step back.

Snow: “ The President also reiterated his support for the democracy in his

conversation with Prime Minister Siniora. They talked about ways to

move ahead not only within the Arab League, but also the President

encouraging his allies to speak out with everybody involved, including

the Syrians and once again made the point that Hezbollah has been

granted shelter in Syria, it is financed by Iran and both parties should

be held responsible for some of the activities that are going on there.

He also reiterated the statement yesterday, that he believes that

the Israelis have a right to protect themselves, and also that we think

it’s important that in doing that they try to limit as much as possible

so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human

lives.

Subj: PRESS GAGGLE BY TONY SNOW

Date:7/14/06

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

(St. Petersburg, Russia)

For Immediate Release July 14, 2006

PRESS GAGGLE

BY

TONY SNOW

TO THE TRAVEL POOL

Strelna, Russia

5:47 P.M. (L)

MR. SNOW: Okay, a couple of things. First, you probably heard

that at 8:15 a.m. eastern time, U.S. time, a bomb went off outside

Karachi. We don’t have a whole lot of details. I think most of it is

on the wires already, but three dead, including a Shia cleric. This was

near a university. No claims of responsibility. And, as you know,

these things take a while to sort themselves out, so we have no comment;

we’re still trying to figure out what the facts are and we’re in

consultation.

Today on the plane, the President made some phone calls to foreign

leaders regarding the situation in the Middle East. He talked to King

Abdullah of Jordan — I think your recorder just went off. Here’s a

quick tape pause. (Laughter.) He called king Abdullah of Jordan, they

talked for, I don’t know, 12 minutes or so. He also talked to —

Q I’m sorry, how long?

MR. SNOW: About 12 — these are all approximate, because I didn’t

look at my watch. But all the calls were between 10 and 12 minutes.

The second one was to Hosni Mubarak, and the third was to Prime Minister

Siniora of Lebanon. The topics were all the same. He thanked

especially King Abdullah and President Mubarak for their help in trying

to resolve the situation in the region.

Also expressed some — he was pleased by a statement — I don’t

know if you’ve seen it — that came out yesterday by the Saudis that,

among other things, pointed out that Hezbollah, acting independent of a

government, had behaved in a manner that I will paraphrase as

irresponsible. I would direct you to the Saudi statement because I’m

sure I don’t have that exactly right — as a matter of fact, we actually

did a print out of it. Let’s see, “uncalculated adventures undertaken

by elements in Lebanon without recourse to legal authority and

consulting and coordinated with Arab nations.”

In other words, what the Saudis were saying is that Hezbollah has

been acting in a manner that’s completely independent of the state of

Lebanon. And we’re looking forward to a foreign ministers meeting —

with Arab League Foreign Ministers tomorrow, and hope that their

comments will reflect the same concern about Hezbollah’s acting

independently and thereby imperiling the democracy in Lebanon, which we

support.

The President also reiterated his support for the democracy in his

conversation with Prime Minister Siniora. They talked about ways to

move ahead not only within the Arab League, but also the President

encouraging his allies to speak out with everybody involved, including

the Syrians and once again made the point that Hezbollah has been

granted shelter in Syria, it is financed by Iran and both parties should

be held responsible for some of the activities that are going on there.

He also reiterated the statement yesterday, that he believes that

the Israelis have a right to protect themselves, and also that we think

it’s important that in doing that they try to limit as much as possible

so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human

lives.

So that is basically it.

Q Now, Siniora is describing the President’s comments as

promising to get Israeli to rein in its attacks. Did the President say

anything like that?

MR. SNOW: No. What the President — or, the President reiterated

his position. Prime Minister Siniora at one point — I think he’s been

public about this — has wanted a ceasefire. It is unlikely that either

or both parties are going to agree to that at this juncture, although we

certainly hope that we get to a ceasefire soon and we hope that all

parties work toward it.

But, again, as the President said, this began because Hezbollah crossed

into Israeli territory, kidnapped two soldiers and, furthermore, has

been engaged in a long series of rocket attacks on people in Northern

Israel, although we have been focusing on it — that is, “we”

collectively, and especially the American press in the last couple of

days — this has been going on for a long time, it just hasn’t reported.

It’s been a much keener and sustained interest in Israel.

The Israelis have decided to try to have targeted attacks against rocket

launch sites, many of which are deliberately placed in civilian

neighborhoods. And they regret the loss — or they’ve expressed regret

for the loss of innocent life, but they also pointed out that military

necessity compels them to hit where the launchers are, but I will let

the Israelis speak for themselves on this.

Q Did the President discuss with these leaders a U.N. delegation

that’s going into the region?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Well, we support the U.N. delegation. It really didn’t

go much further than that. As you recall from Secretary Rice’s comments

last night, she was actively engaged in helping put together the

initiative and she certainly supports it and encourages it.

But as far as any specific directions, look, we think the United Nations

is trying to helpful here, ad that’s important, because the more

pressure was can bring to bear on Hezbollah — and there’s an important

point to note here: the attacks by Hezbollah, which, again, to

reiterate — I’ll use the Saudi phrase once again, “without recourse to

legal authority and consulting and coordinating with Arab nations” — it

is clear that the Arab nations — that Saudi Arabia, that the

Jordanians, that the Egyptians do not look upon Hezbollah as being a

legitimate government entity, as a matter of fact, they look upon it as

an active threat to the government of Lebanon.

And U.N. Resolution 1559 made it pretty clear that foreign powers ought

to stay out of Lebanon and let the democracy itself take root. And so

the United Nations is going there to work with strengthening the

provisions of 1559. Prime Minister Siniora also wants help, and we

support his aim, in making sure that his government acquires effective

control over all Lebanese territory, including the southern regions

where, in many places Hezbollah holds sway. And the President certainly

offered his support for that goal. And, again, it’s consistent with

1559.

Q Following up on something that came up last night with the Condi

briefing — is the President — is the White House working with the G8

on a draft resolution to address this issue? Because she talked about

how important it was to speak with one voice.

MR. SNOW: There were some draft resolutions underway before everybody

headed over here. But I think it’s safe to say that with the pace of

events — and I did speak to some of the people involved in negotiations

— they’re going to have to redraft them. It is certainly going to be a

topic of much concern and so I expect them to talk about it a lot. I

don’t want to make any promises about draft resolutions, but it is

important for everybody to speak one voice.

And I think the one area of common agreement is that Hezbollah cannot

act independently of the government of Lebanon. What it has done is

deliberately place in peril the people of Lebanon, as well as the

government. And the President has also made it absolutely clear that we

want that government to survive and thrive and we are going to do what

we can to help them do that.

Q So there will be one kind of resolution or another, it’s just that

they have to be reworked?

MR. SNOW: I can’t — look, I don’t have a crystal ball. We’ll just

have to see what happens.

Q Okay. There may be resolutions.

MR. SNOW: Well, you don’t call it “resolution.” I think you have a

statement or whatever. But, again, no promises on that; we’ll just have

to see what happens when the leaders get together.

Q The President didn’t make any promises or anything to the Lebanese

Prime Minister? Did he give him any idea of what he might try to do

with Israel, as far as making them hold back a little bit on attacks?

MR. SNOW: The President is not going to make military decisions for

Israel. What he said is that — look, there have been ongoing

conversations. As a matter of fact, today Secretary Rice — let me pull

out my list. I mentioned the three heads of state the President has

talked with. Secretary Rice has talked to David Walsh, [sic] she’s

talked to Kofi Annan, the Qatari foreign minister, she talked to Mahmoud

Abbas, she talked to Siniora, and she is working on trying to get —

well, I won’t tell you who she’s working on getting through to.

Q Who’s David Walsh?

MR. SNOW: He’s our — Welch, I’m sorry. Welch. Sorry, can’t read my

own writing. David Welch.

Q Who is he?

MR. SNOW: He’s our Assistant Secretary of State. He is traveling with

Eliot Abrams through the region.

Q So the President has not — you know, Condi last night was talking

about Israel should exercise restraint. The President has not called

any Israeli officials to make that point?

MR. SNOW: He has not spoken with Israeli officials. However, Secretary

Rice and National Security Advisor Hadley have had a number of

conversations.

Q Those conversations with the Israelis escalated over the last 24-48

hours or are we talking kind of over this 17-day —

MR. SNOW: Well, of course we’ve been talking through the 17-day period.

But you must understand that what Hezbollah did — look, there were

active negotiations between the Israelis and other partners on the

kidnapping. Hezbollah steps in, what, five days ago, six — whatever.

I mean, that is when you get a real escalation point. And the moment

that happened, obviously, it became a matter of greater concern because

it was pretty obvious that what Hezbollah is trying to do is to

destabilize the situation. It has an interest in renewed violence at a

time when Arab nations have been speaking out more and more about the

importance of a two state solution; they agree with us on that.

And what is heartening to note is that a number of Arab nations are, in

fact, saying to Hezbollah, sorry, you’re on your own. And, in addition,

they’ve been talking with the government of Syria because it is pretty

clear that Syria has considerable influence over what goes on there.

Q Does the President have any plans to talk any Israeli leaders? Or

at this point, no?

MR. SNOW: At this point — look, I think — the Israeli leaders have

been consulted, and they’ve been consulted by the Secretary of State and

the National Security Advisor. And they’ll continue their conversations

and there is no — I don’t want to say there’s no need, I’d just say the

President has not expressed any plans to speak with the Prime Minister,

but should it become necessary, he will.

Q Who is the President riding with here, do we know?

MR. SNOW: I think it’s one of the Secret Service agents.

Q Okay, no —

MR. SNOW: I don’t believe so. No Lance Armstrong.

Q Civil society members? (Laughter.)

Q Putin? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: No, no injured members of the Tour de France, none of that.

(Laughter.)

Q Is it true that Putin wouldn’t him bike on the grounds because they

thought he might run into somebody.

MR. SNOW: Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. (Laughter.) The President

is a guy who likes to go on trails. He’s on a trail. There aren’t a

whole lot of trails on the compound.

Q When he met with the democracy advocates, was there anything — he

said he would convey some messages to President Putin. Was there any

one, in particular, or several that you could —

MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so. If he didn’t feel compelled to share

with you, I don’t think I will, either. But it was —

Q Oh, go ahead.

MR. SNOW: Yes, just between you and me. (Laughter.) It was an

interesting meeting because most of these civil society representatives

are fairly young. They represent everything from the World Wildlife

Fund to lawyers to, you know, people working on human rights and so on.

Obviously, they agreed to —

(Interruption to gaggle — loud dog-barking)

Q Looks like they found something.

MR. SNOW: I don’t think so. They found out you’re here.

Q They’re hungry.

MR. SNOW: It’s too bad we smeared meat sauce on the carpet of your bus.

(Laughter.)

Q For the transcript, there are dogs barking.

Q Does the White House perceive that any of these civil society

people incurred any risk by meeting with the President?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know. But they decided to meet with the President.

I would rather not judge it. But the President believes it’s important

in building a democracy to have vigorous civil institutions that allow

the people to express themselves. Democracy becomes strong when people

feel free to express their views and also to pursue causes that are

important to them. And a government also experiences the rough and

tumble of the kind of exchange that we often see in American democracy.

Q Are we going to get any kind of readout of the dinner tonight?

MR. SNOW: I honestly — I doubt it, because I think the dinner is going

to be largely a personal affair. I really don’t expect there to be any

substantive discussions. I think the President and Mrs. Bush and

President and Mrs. Putin I think are going to have a friendly dinner.

And it really is all going to be about just talking and getting caught

up.

Q And tomorrow, is the President having a news conference with Putin?

Or what do you know about the plans for that?

MR. SNOW: Yes, we’re probably going to have a news conference with a

three and three at the back end.

Q Three — with who? Between the President and Putin, or just the

President?

MR. SNOW: The President and Putin. And the good thing is —

Q That’s Monday?

MR. SNOW: No, that’s tomorrow. That’s tomorrow.

Q Any progress on WTO? Where’s that?

MR. SNOW: Nothing to announce on WTO. They continue to work through

it. I spoke with Ambassador Schwab and she said they’re still grinding

through the issues. She’s on the ground here.

Hang on a second, I’m going to try to get some updates for you. Stop

the tape.

(Pause in gaggle.)

MR. SNOW: All right, just a couple of extra notes. Secretary Rice,

since I last had contact with her office, has spoken with the Emir of

Qatar and also I think even as we speak, or about as we speak is going

to be speaking with Prime Minister Olmert.

Let me re-emphasize something that’s important about what’s going on.

What Hezbollah has done is force people to make choices. And quite

often in protracted situations like this you have forcing event, and in

many ways this is a forcing event. And what you’re beginning to see is

the Arab nations coming to the realization that independent actors and

terrorist organizations like Hezbollah are an act of threat to

everybody, because they can — a small number of people can work to

destabilize not only a nation, but to aim at destabilizing a region.

And that has been a focus of a lot of the talks.

In any event, again, Secretary Rice has spoken with the Emir of Qatar

and also with — I think is going to speaking with Ehud Olmert.

An additional point, too, you know, when you’re thinking about choices.

Again, the Iranians and Syrians also have a choice to make, which is

whether they continue provoking and supporting terrorist organizations

within the region. The President intends to work with allies, including

France — remember, France was instrumental in helping write U.N.

Resolution 1559, which led to the removal of Syrian forces from Lebanon,

the official Syrian government presence. And the French were very

helpful on that. And I think we look forward to their help on dealing

with Hezbollah, too.

All right, anything else?

Q Anything else out there?

MR. SNOW: You know, again, we’ll see what happens on trade.

Q Sounds like you’re close?

MR. SNOW: No, I wouldn’t say that. I think there’s a lot of work to be

done, and I wouldn’t —

Q Okay. You’re not trying to give us a hint?

MR. SNOW: No, definitely not trying to give you a hint?

Q You’re talking about the Russian deal, not Doha?

MR. SNOW: Also, Doha — look, Doha has enough lengthy and technical

issues that they’re not going to be resolved — I’ll tell you right now,

the President is not going to sit around and talk about amber boxes with

his colleagues. (Laughter.) That is why you hire trade ministers. And

if and when there is resolution on the Doha round, it will be with the

people who deal in those minutiae. The President has given marching

orders to Susan Schwab and she knows what they are and she has been

carrying them out faithfully and well.

That’s about it. Not much new out of Iraq — I asked specifically, and

not much new out of there today to report. And we’ll let your domestic

correspondents handle the rest.

Q Thank you.

END 6:07 P.M. (L)

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