Tuesday, April 29, 2008

President Bush on Syria's and Iran's nefarious role in the Middle East and in Lebanon in particular

The White House, President George W. Bush



For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 29, 2008

Press Conference by the President
Rose Garden

10:31 A.M. EDT

Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. Previously when asked about Israel's September bombing of the Syrian facility, you refused aggressively to discuss it. Then suddenly last week, your administration released classified photos and details of that bombing, intelligence officials claiming that it showed that this facility was a North Korean-designed nuclear facility being actually built with the help of Pyongyang. Why the turnaround, sir? What did you hope that that would accomplish? And what do you say to lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill who are quite concerned that indeed if this was what this facility was, that it took some eight months for you to inform them, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Let me correct the record. We briefed 22 members of Congress on what I'm about to tell you. First, we were concerned that an early disclosure would increase the risk of a confrontation in the Middle East or retaliation in the Middle East. As I mentioned to you early on, we did notify 22 members of Congress, key committee chairmen. And I was -- I'm mindful that there was going to be this kind of reaction, and of course, we wanted to include more members of Congress at a time when we felt the risk of retaliation or confrontation in the Middle East was reduced, and so that moment came upon us, and then extended the briefings.

We also wanted to advance certain policy objectives through the disclosures, and one would be to the North Koreans, to make it abundantly clear that we may know more about you than you think, and therefore, it's essential that you have a complete disclosure on not only your plutonium activities, but proliferation, as well as enrichment activities.

And then we have an interest in sending a message to Iran, and the world for that matter, about just how destabilizing a -- nuclear proliferation would be in the Middle East, and that it's essential that we work together to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at getting Iran to stop their enrichment programs. In other words, one of the things that this example shows is that these programs can exist and people don't know about them -- because the Syrians simply didn't declare the program; they had a hidden program.

And finally, we wanted to make it clear to Syria -- and the world -- that their intransigence in dealing with helping us in Iraq, or destabilizing Lebanon, or dealing with Hamas -- which is a destablizing force in our efforts to have a Palestinian state coexist peacefully with Israel -- that those efforts are -- gives us a chance to remind the world that we need to work together to deal with those issues. So that's why we made the decision we made.

Q Do you feel your foreign policy in the Middle East has been undermined by Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas leaders? What harm does it do for him to have met with Hamas leaders?

THE PRESIDENT: Foreign policy and peace is undermined by Hamas in the Middle East. They're the ones who are undermining peace. They're the ones whose foreign policy objective is the destruction of Israel. They're the ones who are trying to create enough violence to stop the advance of the two-party state solution. They are a significant problem to world peace -- or Middle Eastern peace.

And that's the reason I'm not talking to them. And that's the reason why -- it's just important for people to understand that this is a -- we're in a -- we're witnessing a struggle between those who understand liberty and believe in the advance of liberty, and those who want to stop the advance of liberty. And Hamas has made their position very clear.

Unfortunately, they're getting help; in Syria, they get help. There's rumors about Iranian help. And these countries that I just named are -- take, for example, Lebanon. I talked to Prime Minister Siniora today. Here's a struggling democracy in the heart of the Middle East that is -- whose internal politics are being influenced by Syria, Hezbollah -- as a result of Iranian influence with Hezbollah -- all aiming to destabilize the country, which should be a clear signal about the intents of -- the intentions of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

So when you want to talk about peace being difficult in the Middle East -- it's going to be difficult, but it's even made more difficult by entities like Hamas, who insist upon lobbing rockets into Israel, trying to provoke response and trying to destabilize -- even destabilize the region more.

And anybody can talk to who they want, but I just want the people to understand that the problem is Hamas. And until Hamas changes, or until there's a competing vision in the Middle East for President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad to offer to the Palestinian people, that's all the more reason to try to define a state, and that's why I'm going to the Middle East, besides going to the 60th anniversary of Israel.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

State Department on Al-Zawahiri's comments on Lebanon

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
US Department of State
Washington, DC
April 22, 2008

QUESTION: Al-Zawahiri issued a new tape on the internet and he is bragging that Lebanon will be a central base for al-Qaida's operations in the future. Would -- do you have anything to say on this?

MR. CASEY: Well, we would hope that Lebanon would be a central base for the Lebanese people to have a democratic government that supports them and achieves their political aspirations. Certainly, we're always concerned about any threats from al-Qaida, whether they're directed at the United States or directed at a good friend like Lebanon. I think it's pretty clear, though, that the people of Lebanon don't particularly find attractive the kind of vision that's being offered by Al-Zawahiri or Usama bin Ladin or any of the folks involved in al-Qaida.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Secretary Rice's Remarks on the 25th Anniversary of the Bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut


Commemorative Ceremony on the 25th Anniversary of the Bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 18, 2008

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Pat, for that kind introduction. I'd also like to recognize Ambassador Antoine Chedid, the Charge d'Affaires in -- to the Lebanese Embassy, as well as Ambassador Robert Dillon. Ambassador Dillon, you served bravely in 1983 and we honor your service and we are truly honored by your presence here today. I'm very honored to be here with all of you who remember those that we lost in Beirut on this day 25 years ago. I want to welcome to the State Department both the family members who lost loved ones and the survivors of that tragic day.

I'm pleased, too, that we have here with us a representative of our Beirut Embassy staff, Ms. Marina Chamma. It is only fitting that in Lebanon, friends and family of the victims are also gathered at our Embassy in Beirut in solidarity with all who remember that terrible day. So today, we recall the memory of those we lost, and we reaffirm our partnership with the Lebanese people.

It was April 18, 1983, when a suicide bomber detonated 2,000 pounds of explosives in front of Embassy Beirut. At the time, it was the deadliest attack ever on a U.S. diplomatic mission. We lost 17 of our own sons and daughters and 35 of our Lebanese colleagues. Many others also perished as they were visiting or just walking by the Embassy. Even more were injured. These were all innocent people, stolen from us in a moment of terror. American families sent their sons and daughters proudly to represent the United States abroad. They should not have had to die as they did. For all of you, the families of the victims and the survivors, you gave America your best and for that sacrifice, the United States of America is eternally grateful.

In that day's attacks, we're reminded that evil is real, but so too is the courage and compassion of ordinary people, when in the face of loss and suffering, summoned what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." Our fellow citizens, many of whom are here today, stepped in to do the work that should never be asked of anyone, but they did it nonetheless, pulling colleagues from the destruction, tending to the wounded, identifying the victims. People made calls to the families of friends that no one is ever prepared to make. And it was all done while remaining vigilantly at post. On a day so filled with heartbreak, all of you and your colleagues gave us cause for hope. You made America proud.

Even when the tragedy of April 18 was followed by further attacks on our Marine barracks later that year, on our Embassy annex in 1984, and still others beyond that, the terrorists never broke our will. It is said by some that America withdrew from Lebanon in the 1980s. But all of us know better. You know that though we may have moved, we never left. And you know this because it was many of you, and your colleagues in our diplomatic corps, who have remained on the frontlines of our presence in Lebanon and who have anchored our friendship with the Lebanese people.

Lebanon has seen too many wars, too many assassinations, and too many innocent lives lost – tragedies that remain all too real today. Indeed, as we speak, several dozen Lebanese patriots, members of the democratic majority bloc in the parliament, have had to take refuge in a Beirut hotel, afraid for their very lives. After watching as one another in recent years, fellow members of parliament, journalists and, of course, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, were gunned down in the streets or claimed by terrorist bombs, who can blame them?

This should be an unacceptable situation to all nations and it is certainly unacceptable to the United States. We remain fully committed to the people of Lebanon. We fully support their desire for sovereign, democratic, and prosperity -- a prosperous nation. The Lebanese people deserve to live in peace. And the United States is dedicated to this task and will continue to champion the peaceful aspirations of the Lebanese people. In fact, it is in continuing to champion the cause of a democratic Lebanon that we pay greatest honor to those who died and those who suffered on that day.

Shortly after the 1983 Embassy attack, President Reagan said, "This criminal attack on a diplomatic establishment will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region. We will do what we know to be right." Twenty-five years later, those words ring true for the thousands of men and women who serve in our posts across the globe and especially in the Middle East.

The men and women who we lost in Lebanon 25 years ago were united in life by a common goal: to make this world safer and better for all Americans and for all freedom-loving people. Working every day for that goal is now the urgent calling that leads us forward, and achieving it is an honor to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose memory we will all hold dearly and forever in our hearts.

Thank you. (Applause.)

Released on April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

President Bush on the anniversary of the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 17, 2008

Statement by the President on the anniversary of the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut

On April 18, 1983, the Islamic Jihad Organization, known today as the terrorist group Hizballah, detonated a massive car bomb at the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 52 people -- 17 Americans and 35 Lebanese citizens. The Beirut Embassy bombing was at the time the most deadly terrorist attack against the United States in our history. On the 25th anniversary of that bombing, we mourn for those who perished, and we honor the sacrifice of their family and friends and of the many who were wounded. This occasion is a timely reminder of the danger our diplomats, military personnel, and locally employed staff bear in their service to the United States.

Since the Beirut attack, we and citizens of many countries have suffered more attacks at the hands of Hizballah and other terrorists, backed by the regimes in Tehran and Damascus, which use terror and violence against innocent civilians. All nations should condemn such brutal attacks and recognize that the purposeful targeting of civilians is immoral and unjustifiable.

The people of Lebanon have spent the better part of three decades living under the threat of violence, assassinations, and other forms of intimidation. Despite this, they and their leaders continue to work for a peaceful and democratic future, even as Syria, Iran, and their Lebanese proxies seek to undermine Lebanese democracy and institutions. The United States will continue to stand with the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people as they struggle to preserve their hard-won sovereignty and independence, endeavor to provide justice for victims of terrorism and political violence, and continue to seek the election of a president committed to these principles.

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Joint Statement of the United States and Holy See mentions support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 16, 2008

Joint Statement of the United States and Holy See


His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush met today in the Oval Office of the White House.

President Bush, on behalf of all Americans, welcomed the Holy Father, wished him a happy birthday, and thanked him for the spiritual and moral guidance, which he offers to the whole human family. The President wished the Pope every success in his Apostolic Journey and in his address at the United Nations, and expressed appreciation for the Pope's upcoming visit to "Ground Zero" in New York.

During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defense and promotion of life, matrimony and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics, especially in Africa. In regard to the latter, the Holy Father welcomed the United States' substantial financial contributions in this area. The two reaffirmed their total rejection of terrorism as well as the manipulation of religion to justify immoral and violent acts against innocents. They further touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.

The Holy Father and the President devoted considerable time in their discussions to the Middle East, in particular resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict in line with the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, their mutual support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and their common concern for the situation in Iraq and particularly the precarious state of Christian communities there and elsewhere in the region. The Holy Father and the President expressed hope for an end to violence and for a prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises which afflict the region.

The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.

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