Transcript of Nov. 7 Remarks By President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following is the transcript of remarks by President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (2/2):
PRESIDENT BUSH: I have reached a decision. And I've spent time thinking about the issue. I've told the American people that the United States will move to reduce our offensive weapons to a level commensurate with being able to keep the peace and, at the same time, much lower levels than have been negotiated in previous arms control agreements. We don't need an arms control agreement to convince us to reduce our nuclear weapons down substantially, and I'm going to do it. And I can't wait to share that information with the President. I will do so.
Listen, the ABM Treaty is outmoded and outdated and we need to move beyond it. It's exactly what I've been telling the President ever since I've been meeting with him, and my position has not changed. And if he's got some interesting suggestions on how to make the ABM Treaty not outdated and not outmoded, I'm more than willing to listen.
But our nation and this terrorist war says to me more than ever that we need to develop defenses to protect ourselves against weapons of mass destruction that might fall in the hands of terrorist nations. If Afghanistan or if the Taliban had a weapon that was able to deliver a weapon of mass destruction, we might be talking a little different tune about our progress against al Qaeda than we are today.
So it's important for us to be able to develop defenses that work. And the ABM Treaty prevents us from doing that.
Q Mr. Prime Minister, I'd like to divert your attention a little bit away from military conflicts toward the economic side of things. I'd like to ask you if you've had a chance at all to ask the President if they would formally launch open skies agreements and, if not, if that means that the UK's position is now that the EU is going to be handling this matter?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: No. I mean, no doubt we will discuss these issues, but we haven't yet.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We haven't had dinner yet.
Q But does that mean that the EU is going to be in charge of it now?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: No, it doesn't mean that at all.
Q Mr. President, could I ask a question of your guest? But feel free to jump in if so desire.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It depends on what the question is.
Q Well, sir, it is a multiple part-question, for which I am famous. But, anyway, Prime Minister, as you know, the air war in Afghanistan is one month old today. There are many experts on both sides of the Atlantic who believe that the air war is limited in its ability to really inflict a decisive blow against the Taliban. Many say the only way you can defeat the Taliban is to put boots on the ground.
One, do you agree? And, two, are you willing to commit large numbers of British troops beyond the SAS and the Royal Marines, to the effort to defeat the Taliban?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, first of all, let me say something to you I often say to our own media when I am asked a question about the precise nature of our military operations. And that is that I have learned in these situations that it is not a sensible thing to discuss in detail the types of military operation that you may undertake for very obvious reasons.
But we are completely committed to seeing this thing through. I think people know that the strategy has to encompass more than air strikes alone, although do not underestimate the enormous damage that is now being done to Taliban front-line troops because that is where the air power is being concentrated.
But, of course, there are other operations that we will mount as well. And there are, obviously, the support and the assistance that we are giving to the Northern Alliance. There are the measures that we are taking of a political and diplomatic nature as well.
And when you said a moment or two ago that the air strikes were just -- and the conflict was a month old, I think it is probably just as well to reflect upon that for a moment. It is simply a month old. And we have begun this action. We have taken it at a number of different levels. I think it is already having a huge impact.
Some of the information that I have seen -- I think sometimes people don't always reflect on maybe enough when we state it to people -- but, literally, we have destroyed virtually all the terrorist training camps of al Qaeda, we have destroyed an enormous amount of the military infrastructure of the Taliban. Their air power, insofar as it exists, is completely taken out. We therefore have a very, very strong situation from which to move forward. And I think what is -- what is different about this conflict is that every part of it has to come together. In other words, not just the military part, but also the support for those parties in opposition to the Taliban, and the political and diplomatic aspects that help build a strong coalition that can secure the objectives we want to see. And I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will achieve the objectives that we want.
And those objectives are very simple. Sometimes people say to me, well, you know, clarify the military objectives. There's no difficulty about doing that at all. It's al Qaeda and the terrorist network shut down, it's the Taliban regime out, it's a new regime in that is broad-based, and it's a decent future for the people of Afghanistan, based on some stability and progress, not based on a regime that oppresses its people, treats its people appallingly, is a threat to regional stability, and basically thrives on the drugs trade.
Now, I think those are pretty clear objectives, and I've absolutely no doubt at all that we will achieve them in full, and we will not let up until we do.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all.
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