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Nth Korean Report on Fuel Rod Nukes Concerns USA

North Korean Report of Fuel Rod Reprocessing Concerns White House

White House Report, July 15 -- North Korea, Liberia, Mideast, deficits, Czech Republic

North Korean officials told the Bush administration the previous week that they had finished the reprocessing of nuclear fuel rods, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters at his early morning and midday briefings July 15.

If this claim turns out to be true, this development moves North Korea closer to being able to create nuclear weapons.

"It is a serious concern, the fact that they would claim that they are reprocessing and now that they claim that they have finished reprocessing -- it is a serious concern," McClellan said.

McClellan said that because North Korea has lied in the past, these new claims are "not something at this time that we can confirm the accuracy of." "North Korea has made a lot of claims in the past, some true; some not true," McClellan said.

"So, we want to evaluate their statements. But the bottom line remains that reprocessing is a serious concern, and it's something that we will work to address. We seek a diplomatic solution, but as we move forward, we will remain in close contact with South Korea, Japan, China and others to address this and find a solution."

McClellan said the United States is working to address the situation in a "multilateral way."

"We have indicated that we are prepared to talk to them [North Korea] in a multilateral form," McClellan said. "It obviously is a matter that a number of countries have noted is a serious concern, including the United States, so we will continue working closely with our friends and allies toward our shared objective of a complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program."

"We'll not submit to blackmail or grant inducements for the North to live up to its obligations," McClellan said.

"North Korea has a clear choice between two paths. The international community has made clear that its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will only lead to further isolation and a deteriorating situation in Pyongyang. The United States and North Korea's neighbors have indicated that we are prepared to talk to the North about a better path based on the elimination of its nuclear weapons program."

McClellan singled out China as being helpful in discouraging North Korea's development of nuclear technology.

"China has been helpful," McClellan said. "China has made it clear that they don't want to see a nuclearized peninsula. I don't think anyone in the region wants to see a nuclearized peninsula, so this is something that we're in close discussions with our friends and allies on."

McClellan said the United States has made it very clear to North Korea "that they must end their pursuit of nuclear weapons, they must end their nuclear weapons program and do so irreversibly and irrevocably."

BUSH MEETS AT WHITE HOUSE WITH PRIME MINISTER OF CZECH REPUBLIC

President Bush met July 15 at the White House with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla of the Czech Republic, McClellan said.

"The president expressed his strong appreciation for Prime Minister Spidla's leadership and support. The Czech Republic is a close friend and NATO ally. The two leaders discussed a number of issues, including Iraq and transatlantic relations," the White House spokesman said.

WHITE HOUSE CONTINUES TO ASSESS LIBERIA SITUATION Asked how close President Bush is to a decision on sending U.S. troops to Liberia as peacekeepers, McClellan said: "We continue to wait on a full assessment and a full outline of the facts from the assessment team. The president has made it clear that if there's a need to help, we want to help, and we want to help by participating with ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States.] So, we are continuing to wait on the facts and assess the situation. And then, we will have more to say at that point."

He said he did not want "to try to put any arbitrary timeline on this. ... [W]e want to see the assessment, we want to evaluate the facts, and then the president will make decisions about how best to proceed; how we can help to make sure that this cease-fire takes hold. One thing is clear, though, that Charles Taylor needs to leave, and the president made that very clear yesterday as well."

BUSH REMAINS PLEASED WITH PROGRESS ON MIDEAST ROAD MAP

Asked to assess the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, McClellan said "it's the President's assessment. We remain pleased with some of the progress that is being made on the road map and to move towards two states living side by side in peace and security. [U.S.] Ambassador Wolf continues to stay on top of this in the region and work with the parties and make sure that we're monitoring things and that the parties are continuing to talk with one another, so that we can keep this process moving forward.

"But there are difficulties that remain, and there will be difficulties ahead. But we are pleased with some of the steps that have been taken recently," the White House spokesman said.

A reporter, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will soon be visiting Washington, asked when Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was coming. No date has been set "at this point" for Abbas to visit Washington, but President Bush has "stated that he would like for him to come visit," McClellan said.

FEDERAL DEFICIT TO REACH $455 BILLION OR 4.2 PERCENT OF U.S. GDP The Bush administration projected July 15 that the federal deficit will climb to $455 billion this year, up from $304 billion estimated in February. The deficit is projected to climb to $475 billion in 2004.

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Joshua Bolten said at a briefing that the increase in the projected deficits is the "result of a number of factors, including weaker than anticipated economic growth and tax receipts, and additional spending for the war on terror."

Bolten added that "after 2004, in response to the president's program to generate strong economic growth and exercise spending restraint, the deficit is projected to decline dramatically. In fact, by 2006, the deficit is projected to be half of this year's level in nominal terms."

McClellan said in his briefing that "We have a deficit that is of concern, but it is a manageable one."

"[A]s a percent of GDP, it -- the deficit's currently at 4.2 percent," McClellan said. "That's well below the 1983 peak modern-day deficit of 6 percent. It's also the same or smaller than deficits following similar recessions. So these deficits right now are not hurting or harming our economy as interest rates remain at 45-year lows."

McClellan called addressing the deficit "a priority" and said the deficit "is an important issue that we are working to address." He said the president's budget limits spending, and he said Congress needs to "hold the line on spending."


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