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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: United States of America
9 June 2004


Backgrounder: Iraq, Middle East Topics of Bush-Blair Meeting at G8

Background briefing on Bush-Blair meeting at Sea Island G8 summit

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The official said the other main topics during the bilateral meeting were political support for the new Iraqi government, President Bush's broader Middle East initiative, and Israeli-Palestinian issues.

No specific plans resulted from the meeting, the official said. Instead, Bush and Blair were "mapping out the agenda," producing "a checklist of issues" on which their staffs will be working over the next couple of weeks.

While the two leaders did not get into the details of Iraqi economic reforms, they did talk about "the overall prospects for the international community to get more involved," according to the official.

Regarding Israeli-Palestinian issues, the briefer said that if an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza takes place, it is important that the Palestinians "be helped with ... their security responsibilities. And it's important that the international community get behind this effort."

Following is the White House transcript of the briefing:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

(Sea Island, Georgia)

June 9, 2004

BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ON THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH UNITED KINGDOM PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR

Media Center

Sea Island, Georgia

9:04 A.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good morning. The President and Prime Minister Blair just had a bilateral meeting, over breakfast. It ran from about 8:10 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. I think the two of them would have been happy to keep going, but it was time for them to break, as the morning sessions of the G8 summit are about to start.

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The two leaders discussed Iraq and the way forward. They also discussed the broader Middle East initiative. Yesterday's success on Iraq sets the stage for movement and adoption of the broader Middle East initiative by the G8 leaders. I believe the documents are to be issued later today, and today's events also include an outreach session from leaders of the region and also the Prime Minister of Turkey who is here.

The President and Prime Minister discussed the broader Middle East initiative. They also discussed Israel-Palestine issues, and discussed ways in which progress could be made. They grappled with some of the problems, talked about possible ways forward.

/...

QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little bit on the discussions between the two leaders on the Arab-Israeli situation -- I'm sorry, the Israeli-Palestinian situation?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President has said many times that Arafat has become an obstacle to progress, and that's an obstacle we have to deal with for the time-being. On the other hand, the prospect and possibility of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza opens the door to significant progress and unblocking the peace process and getting the peace process not just back on track, but to get it moving in the direction outlined by the road map.

If the Israeli withdrawal takes place, the immediate challenge will be establishment of a competent Palestinian political structure in Gaza to take responsibility for the territory, to take responsibility for actual governance. It's important that the Palestinians, if this takes place, be helped with security -- their security responsibilities. And it's important that the international community get behind this effort, as it gets going. Prime Minister Sharon is obviously pushing this forward as best he can. The President and the Prime Minister discussed next steps on how the Quartet, how the international community can advance this process.

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Q: Three things, one is, did they discuss Saudi Arabia? The second is, as you know, the reports that have emerged this week out of the Pentagon and the DOJ covering efforts to ensure that U.S. officials would not be prosecuted on the torture of detainees, did that come up between the two men? And thirdly, listening to your description, it seems as though they ticked all the boxes this morning, but I can't quite see what the business was that they got done. Can you just clarify for us, if you walk away from this meeting, what did they get done? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, they did go into some greater detail on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and they were discussing options for the way forward. They did go into Iraqi issues. But this was a meeting where they were laying out -- they were really laying out the choices and options that they're going to face over the next couple of weeks, rather than making definite decisions about course A or course B. They were mapping out the agenda, as we proceed from Sea Island and on the basis of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

/...

Q: When you mentioned the Middle East, what details they have discussed, what plans for the future?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The discussion covered the problem of how to move ahead, which both the President and the Prime Minister very much want to do, when you have the problem of Yasser Arafat, which has been discussed by my government and President Bush many times, but you also have a very promising plan for Prime Minister Sharon to pull out of the Gaza and part of the West Bank. This is promising. On the other side you have problems, and how one fits together the promise and the problems without it getting gummed up is what they discussed.

And they were coming at the problem in different ways, and looking at different ways in which to move forward, which they very much want to do. It's a tough problem. If it were easy, it would have been done. But you have a very promising prospect of an Israeli pullout, which, of course, would be -- if it occurs, would be the first time that Israel has pulled out of territory that everyone considers to be territory that will form part of a future Palestinian state. This is hugely significant. All the more the pity that Sharon's announcement was greeted with such skepticism on the part of many people who are now realizing what an opportunity it is. The two leaders were discussing how to make progress, given those two conditions that I outlined.

Q: The resolution yesterday, aside from the multinational force, sets out for a separate force that would be there to protect United Nations operations. Was that discussed this morning between the two leaders? Are they confident that they're going to get enough people to help out on that force?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that wasn't discussed specifically, but we certainly would be pleased if countries were willing to contribute to this force. Look, the absence of a U.N. resolution and the absence of a united international position was cited by many people as one of the reasons that they were reluctant to provide forces. It's not easy to send troops to Iraq; it's a dangerous situation. Soldiers get hurt, soldiers get killed. Nevertheless, the Security Council resolution demonstrates that the international community, having been divided last year, has put that behind them, without prejudice to any government's position, and now is facing the Iraq problem in the same way. You have rapidly converging positions, not on what should have happened last year, but what should happen this year from this moment forward. And we certainly hope that the Security Council resolution will provide enough political impetus for governments who have been hesitating or on the fence to do more. And we'll see.

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Thank you.

END 9:24 A.M. EDT


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