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Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer October 28

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 28, 2002

Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En route Alamogordo, New Mexico

Presidential Schedule
Assassination in Jordan
U.N. Resolution Russian
Hostage Situation
APEC
8:00 A.M. MST

MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. Today is Monday, October 27th, and the President will begin his day in New Mexico, to support the congressional candidate, Steve Pearce; gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez, and the New Mexico Republican ticket.

From there, the President will travel to Colorado to support the campaigns of Colorado congressional candidate Bob Beauprez and Senator Wayne Allard, as well as Colorado's Republican ticket. And will be back in Washington this evening.

Q I'm sorry, the assassination of the Jordanian -- I mean the American diplomat in Jordan?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President deeply regrets the death of AID Officer Larry Foley. The circumstances of his murder are under investigation. Jordanian authorities are extending the fullest possible cooperation and support to the American community and to the American government at this time. Jordan has been very, very helpful and we look forward to getting to the bottom of this to determine who did it.

Q Do you think it's terrorist --

MR. FLEISCHER: The investigation is just underway. We don't rule that out. I cannot go beyond that at this moment.

Q Ari, what's the President going to do this week to help get his vote in the U.N., apart from his campaign speeches? Has he got anything else planned?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the action will take place on two levels, perhaps three. One is at the diplomatic level in New York. Two is at the ministerial level, led by Secretary Powell. And, three, by the President as he sees fit or necessary. And it is coming down to the wire. This is important. The United Nations has debated this now long enough. The time has come for people to raise their hands and cast their vote and either announce that they will return to the ways of the '90s, with a weak, ineffective system of inspection, or recognize that Saddam Hussein has taken advantage of weakness and the world needs to do something different.

Q Has the United States made a formal request to know what type of gas was used on those hostages, including, I think, two Americans?

MR. FLEISCHER: We are working to ascertain all the facts and circumstances. But as that information is developed, the President feels very strongly that the people to blame here are the terrorists; the people who caused this tragedy to take place are terrorists who took hostages and endangered the lives of others. This is a tragedy. The President abhors the loss of all life. But he understands it is the terrorists with whom the blame lies.

Q So taking your point, are you saying that it's not the fault of the Putin government?

MR. FLEISCHER: This is a tragedy the Russian government reacted to. The Russian people will sort out what took place. But the President understands very clearly, and condemns the terrorists who put people in harm's way in the first place.

Q What's the state of the three Americans?

MR. FLEISCHER: They're still working on ascertaining all information. There are still some things that are just not clear.

Q Isn't that extremely frustrating and inexcusable, that we can't find out what the condition is of the Americans is?

MR. FLEISCHER: There have been conflicting reports from the very beginning about how many Americans actually were there, was it two or was it three.

Q That's what I'm saying. It's been several days since the siege ended. Why don't we know how many Americans were there, let alone whether they're okay?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because it's the nature of people traveling around the world. Americans don't have to stop and touch base with American authorities to report where they are or where they go.

Q I guess what I'm asking is, are we do we feel Russia has been -- do we feel Russia has been forthright with us, giving us enough information about the fate of Americans and the operation itself? Have they been

MR. FLEISCHER: The fate of the Americans is not an issue of the Russians providing us or not providing us information. It's just an issue of think about when you travel abroad and hang on and your regular duties. When you travel abroad, you don't stop and inform authorities everywhere you go. So, yes, we wish we could have more information faster about where the Americans are. We're working to do that.

Q Are we satisfied with what Russia has told us about the gas and the operation itself? Are they being forthright?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard from the embassy directly about that status. So I'm not in a position to evaluate what we have heard.

Q Was the President scheduled to meet with President Putin in connection with the Prague his Prague trip the end of November?

MR. FLEISCHER: They may be meeting. We haven't nailed down every detail of the trip yet, so that is a possibility.

Q And how would you describe what was accomplished at APEC in terms of Iraq and North Korea?

MR. FLEISCHER: The focus was on North Korea and the President is satisfied with the accomplishments of the two statements that were made, one by trilats, South Korea, Japan and the United States, and then the broader APEC group statement calling for the immediate dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program.

Q Thank you for coming back.

MR. FLEISCHER: See you, everybody.

END 8:15 A.M. MST

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