Contact: White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 202-456-2580
Four Seasons Hotel Amman
9:43 A.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good morning. It's good to be in
Prime Minister Maliki and I just had a very productive meeting. This is the third time we've met since he took office six months ago, and with each meeting I'm coming to know him better. He's a strong leader who wants a free and democratic
I told the Prime Minister we're ready to make changes to better support the unity government of
Secondly, the success of the Iraqi government depends on the success of the Iraqi security forces. During our meetings, the Prime Minister and I heard an update from an important group that our government established last month: the Joint Committee on Accelerating the Transferring of Security Responsibility. We agreed on the importance of speeding up the training of Iraqi security forces. Our goal is to ensure that the Prime Minister has more capable forces under his control so his government can fight the terrorists and the death squads, and provide security and stability in his country.
Third, success in
The Prime Minister and I also discussed the review of our strategy in
Others outside the government are conducting their own review, and I look forward to hearing their recommendations. I want to hear all advice before I make my decisions about adjustments to our strategy and tactics in
My consultations with the Prime Minister and the unity government are a key part of the assessment process. And that's why I appreciate him coming over from
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you again for your time. I appreciate your friendship, and I appreciate the courage you show during these difficult times as you lead your country.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (As translated.) Thank you. In the name of God. In the beginning, I would like to thank King Abdullah for hosting this meeting. And I would also like to thank the President of the
And I would like, during this occasion as we leave this transitional stage, we have won initially when we have accomplished democracy in
We have many visions and many ideas about the transformation process and we are determined to succeed in the face of all the challenges that we believe are probably -- should exist in a situation such as the situation that
We are active with anybody who are working within the framework of the constitution. Because we established the constitution, we'll abide by it, we'll protect it, and we'll be protected by it. We assure everybody that we are in alliance with the international community in facing all the challenges that the world is facing. And foremost of those challenges is terrorism. Terrorism is not a danger only to
We are ready to cooperate with everybody who believe that they need to communicate with the national unity government, especially our neighbors. Our doors are open, and our desire is strong that between us and our neighbors, we will have strong relationships based on mutual respect and staying away from everybody's internal business.
So everybody who is trying to make
PRESIDENT BUSH: We will take a couple of questions. Abramowitz.
Q Mr. President, the memo from your National Security Advisor has raised the possibility the United States should press Prime Minister Maliki to break with Moqtada al-Sadr. Is this, in fact, your strategy? And did you raise this issue with the Prime Minister this morning?
And to the Prime Minister, I'd like to ask, the President's Advisor has said that a central problem in
PRESIDENT BUSH: I will let the Prime Minister talk about his relations with al-Sadr. I will tell you that he and I spent a lot of time talking about the security situation inside of
I was reassured by his commitment to a pluralistic society that is politically united, and a society in which people are held to account if they break the law -- whether those people be criminals, al Qaeda, militia, whoever.
He discussed with me his political situation, and I think it is best that he talk to you about the Sadr group or any other group he wants to talk about inside of
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: Matter of fact, my coalition is not with only one entity. The national unity government is a government formed of all the entities that participated in it. Therefore, that coalition basically represents a national responsibility.
And Mr. Sadr and the Sadrists are just one component that participate in the parliament or in the government. And I think participating in the government is a responsibility and it's a mutual commitment, and those who participate in this government need to bear responsibilities. And foremost upon those responsibilities is the protection of this government, the protection of the constitution, the protection of the law, not breaking the law.
Therefore, I do not talk about one side at the expense of the other. I'm talking about a state; I'm talking about law; I'm talking about commitments. And this should apply to all the partners in the government who have chosen to participate in the political process.
As to the issues that would pertain to violating the law or breaking the law, we would deal with them the same way, because the most important principle is the sovereignty and the power and the establishment of the state that must be borne by the state, but only our partners should participate in that.
Q Hezbollah has denied that his forces trained Moqtada al-Sadr forces, but do you have any information if Hezbollah has actually trained the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr?
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: I think they expressed itself and expressed its responsibilities. And one -- another time I would like to say that
PRESIDENT BUSH: Our objective is to help the Maliki government succeed. And today we discussed how to further the success of this government. This is a government that is dedicated to pluralism and rule of law. It's a government elected by the Iraqi people under a constitution approved by the Iraqi people, which, in itself, is an unusual event in the
We talked today about accelerating authority to the Prime Minister so he can do what the Iraqi people expect him to do, and that is bring security to parts of his country that require firm action. It's going to -- the presence of the
Al Qaeda wants a safe haven in
So we'll be in
We want the people of
Let's see -- Martha.
Q Mr. President, is there a time limit on meeting any of these goals for Prime Minister Maliki? And you keep mentioning that the
And Prime Minister Maliki, can you tell us why you canceled the meeting last night?
PRESIDENT BUSH: What was the first part of your three-part question? (Laughter.)
Q Time limit on meeting goals. Is there a time limit on meeting goals?
PRESIDENT BUSH: A time limit. As soon as possible. But I'm realistic, because I understand how tough it is inside of
And, yes, I talked about making sure that al Qaeda doesn't take -- doesn't provide -- gets safe haven in
Q Including sectarian violence?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well that's -- killers taking innocent life is, in some cases, sectarian. I happen to view it as criminal, as well as sectarian. I think any time you murder somebody, you're a criminal. And I believe a just society and a society of -- that holds people to account and believes in rule of law protects innocent people from murderers, no matter what their political party is.
And I discussed this with the Prime Minister, and I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I received a satisfactory answer about the need to protect innocent life. And that's exactly what our troops have been doing, along with the Iraqis. My plan, and his plan, is to accelerate the Iraqis' responsibility. See, here's a man who has been elected by the people; the people expect him to respond, and he doesn't have the capacity to respond. And so we want to accelerate that capacity. We want him to be in the lead in taking the fight against the enemies of his own country.
And that's exactly what we discussed today. We had a Joint Committee on Accelerating the Transfer of Security Responsibility Report. And it was a report that General Casey, who is with us today, and our Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, who is with us today, as well as the Prime Minister's team, delivered to both of us about how to accelerate responsibility to the Iraqi government so this person elected by the people can take the fight to those who want to destroy a young democracy.
You had a question --
Q Sir, there are no time limits here?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As quick as possible, Martha. As quick -- I've been asked about timetables ever since we got into this. All timetables mean is that it -- it is a timetable for withdrawal. You keep asking me those questions. All that does is --
Q Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on a second. All that does is set people up for unrealistic expectations. As soon as possible. And today, we made a step toward as soon as possible by transferring a -- accelerating the transfer of authorities, military authorities to the Prime Minister.
Q Did you put any pressure --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on a second. Hold on, please, sir. Please. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: I emphasize what the President has just said, that we have agreed together, and we are very clear together, about the importance of accelerating the transfer of the security responsibility. And be assured that the Iraqi forces and the security forces have reached a good level of competency and efficiency to protect
As far as the other issue related to the meeting, I have met with King Abdullah, then have met again with his Prime Minister, and a group of his ministers, and we've discussed bilateral relations that are of concern to both nations -- Iraq and Jordan -- and that relationship is based on mutual friendship and being a good host and a good neighbor. And there was not part of our agenda a trilateral meeting, so there is no problem.
Q (As translated.) Did you discuss with the President the Iranian influence that is expanding in
PRESIDENT BUSH: Did I -- I didn't understand your first question.
Q To deal with Iranian directly?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Am I going to meet with the Iranians directly, is that the question?
Q The question of
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: As far as the first question that was mentioned by the reporter, I think these are wrong and exaggerated information, and they are being used as one of the propaganda mechanisms to give the impression of sectarian strife so that will reach a point of no return. Because we want to emphasize that we will not allow anybody to exert their control over any part of
PRESIDENT BUSH: I believe the Iranians fear democracy, and that's why they destabilize
I appreciate the Prime Minister's views that the Iraqis are plenty capable of running their own business and they don't need foreign interference from neighbors that will be destabilizing the country. I am very worried, as should the world, about
I told the Prime Minister, we'll continue to work with the world community to insist that
We might as well keep going, Prime Minister.
Richard. Please, sir. Please. Thank you.
Q When you were in
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, as you mentioned, he's been in power for six months, and I've been able to watch a leader emerge. The first thing that gives me confidence is that he wants responsibility. A sign of leadership is for somebody to say, I want to be able to have the tools necessary to protect my people. One of his frustrations with me is that he believes we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people. And today we had a meeting that will accelerate the capacity for the Prime Minister to do the hard work necessary to help stop this violence. No question it's a violent society right now. He knows that better than anybody. He was explaining to me that occasionally the house in which he lives gets shelled by terrorists who are trying to frighten him.
And so the second point I make to you is that I appreciate his courage. You can't lead unless you have courage. And he's got courage, and he's shown courage over the last six months. Thirdly, he has expressed a deep desire to unify his country. You hear all kinds of rumors about the politics inside of
No question it's been tough. It would have been a lot easier had people not tried to destabilize the young democracy. His job would have been more simple had there not been terrorists trying to create sectarian violence.
Now, I want everybody to remember that it was Mr. Zarqawi of al Qaeda who said, let us bomb Shia in order to create the
conditions necessary for sectarian violence. The Samara bombing started off this new phase of violence. The Prime Minister comes in about halfway through that phase in order to -- he'd been selected and now he's dealing with a serious situation on the ground. And what I appreciate is his attitude. As opposed to saying,
And the meeting today was to accelerate his capacity to do so. It's not easy for a military to evolve from ground zero, and I appreciate our forces, and I appreciate General Casey, who have worked very hard to train the Iraqis so they become a capable fighting force, as well as a unifying element for
And one of the reasons I appreciate the Prime Minister is that he, on the one hand, sees that it's a sophisticated operation to get a military up from zero, but on the other hand, is frustrated by the pace. And the reason why he's frustrated is because he wants to show the people who elected him that he is willing to take the hard tasks on necessary to provide security for the Iraqi people, such as hunting down those who are killing the innocent. And the reason I came today to be able to sit down with him is to hear the joint plans developed between the Iraqi government, the sovereign government of
Anyway, he's the right guy for
Q Mr. President -- what is your -- Prime Minister Olmert and President Abu Mazen to keep this cease-fire agreement? And what should be done --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, there's no question that if we were able to settle the Palestinian-Israeli issue, it would help bring more peace to the
Look, there are extremists who want to stop the development of a Palestinian state, just like there are extremists who want to destabilize
And therefore, Condoleezza Rice will be going to talk to Abu Mazen tomorrow, as well as Prime Minister Olmert, working with both parties together to see how we can advance the vision that the Prime Minister himself talked about earlier this week.
Q And your advice to both of them?
PRESIDENT BUSH: My advice is, support reasonable people and reject extremists. Understand that most people want to live in peace and harmony and security. It's very important for the American people to understand that most Muslim mothers want their children to grow up in peace, and they're interested in peace. And it's in our interest to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with
And that's why this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all. We're going to help this government. And I'm able to say that it is -- that we have a government that wants our help and is becoming more capable about taking the lead in the fight to protect their own country. The only way that Iraq is going to be able to succeed is when the Iraqis, led by a capable person, says, we're tired of it, we don't want violence, we want the peace that our 12 million people voted for. And it's in the world's interest that
Mr. Prime Minister, you want to answer some more questions? (Laughter.) Go ahead. Hold on for a minute. Wait, wait, wait.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: We said six question, now this is the seventh -- this is the eighth -- eight questions.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, this guy?
Q (As translated.) Mr. President, in light of the war that the
Another question -- other people are accusing the
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's an interesting analysis: the biggest loser for a free society is the Iraqi citizen when this society was just liberated from the grips of a brutal tyrant that killed thousands and thousands of the Iraqi citizens.
What has been accomplished is the liberation of a country from a tyrant who is now sitting in jail getting a trial that he was unwilling to give thousands of people he murdered himself, or had murdered.
Secondly, this country has a constitution, which is one of the most modern constitutions ever written in the
It didn't take but 19 people who were trained in
And so, you bet it's worth it in
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good to see you, thank you.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: Thank you.
RESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all.
END 10:20 A.M. (Local)