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No Basis for Washington Post Report on Powell

No Basis for Washington Post Report on Powell, Armitage

White House Report, August 4: Iran, Liberia, North Korea, Iraq, al Qaeda

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan discredited an August 4 report in the Washington Post that said Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage have told the White House they will not serve in a second Bush administration.

The article said that Armitage had spoken with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice about the decision.

There is "no basis" for the story, McClellan said.

"Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage are outstanding members of the president's team, and they are highly valued members of the president's team, and they're doing an outstanding job," he added.

"The State Department has already issued a statement in which they said that the purported conversation between Dr. Rice and Deputy Secretary Armitage did not take place, and I can confirm that from our end. They also went on to say that there is no basis for the story," the White House press secretary said.

"Secretary Powell has made it very clear that he and Deputy Secretary Armitage serve at the pleasure of the president and they are enjoying the job that they are doing," McClellan said.

Powell and Armitage are scheduled to visit Bush at his ranch in Texas on August 5, have dinner with him, and on August 6 hold talks with Bush to continue ongoing discussions on policy priorities, McClellan said.

"This is something that has been in the works for the last couple of weeks and is a continuation of discussions the secretary has had with the president on a regular basis. So the president looks forward to visiting with Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage tomorrow night and the following day," McClellan said.

The agenda, he said, will focus on a range of foreign policy priorities including the Middle East, Iraq, Liberia and North Korea.

U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT IRANIAN WEAPONS PROGRAM

The U.S. remains concerned about weapons development in Iran, said McClellan.

"We have continued to work with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the international community to make sure that there are more intensive inspections of Iran and its nuclear weapons program," he said. "It is a matter that remains a serious concern. We're working with the international community, we're working with the IAEA to make sure that they do not continue on this course, which is unacceptable."

The IAEA began talks in Iran August 4 aimed at convincing Tehran to allow unrestricted inspections of the country's nuclear weapons facilities.

"We have expressed a lot of concerns," McClellan said. "IAEA is continuing to work with Iran on the next steps, and we are working with the international community to keep pressure on Iran to open up to more intensive inspections, and we will continue doing that. But we have a lot of concerns about their pursuit of nuclear weapons."

PEACEKEEPERS ARRIVE IN LIBERIA

While the United States is "encouraged" by the initial deployment of West Africa peacekeepers to Liberia, it may take days to get forces in place, said McClellan.

West African troops arrived in Monrovia August 4 to begin a peace process in the nation.

"The United States continues to be actively involved in the planning and execution of this initial deployment of West African peacekeepers," McClellan said.

Bush's position remains that Liberia's President Charles Taylor must leave Liberia and the cease-fire must be reinforced in order to pave the way for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) humanitarian assistance.

"(W)e continue to participate in all military and political planning taking place in the region," said McClellan. "We will also continue to provide support to the ECOWAS troops, both financial and logistic."

BOLTON REMARKS ON NORTH KOREA CONSISTENT WITH U.S. POLICY

Asked if there is any administration response to North Korea's saying that U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton would not be welcome at upcoming multilateral talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, McClellan made clear that the president makes the decisions about who participates in the delegation of the United States.

North Korea and the United States said on August 1 that they had agreed to hold six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear programs. China, Japan, Russia and South Korea will also attend.

On August 3, North Korea said it still was ready for the talks but it would have no dialogue with Bolton who in recent remarks referred to life in the communist country as a "hellish nightmare," where he said its leader Kim Jong-il lived like royalty while keeping hundreds of thousands of his people in prison camps and millions more mired in poverty.

McClellan told reporters that Bolton was speaking for the Bush administration: "(H)is remarks last week reiterated things that we had previously said. But the president of the United States, in consultation with the secretary of state and others, makes the decision about who represents the United States in our delegation. We are continuing to work out the details and the timing of the next round of multilateral talks. It was a positive development that North Korea agreed to those talks. And we'll continue working with our friends and allies to make sure that those multilateral talks come about sooner (rather) than later."

U.S. TROOPS CONTINUE PURSUING SADDAM HUSSEIN

U.S.troops in Iraq continue to pursue Saddam Hussein and "will find him," McClellan said. They "are doing an outstanding job, going on the offensive, pursuing remnants of the former regime, loyalists to the former regime, foreign terrorists and other killers who are in Iraq, and they are going to continue to go on the offensive and defeat these people," the press secretary added.

Asked if the Bush administration was working with the British on a new draft U.N. resolution on stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq, McClellan said "there have been some discussions with some countries that have expressed a concern that they feel they need more authority than the current resolution provides.

"We believe that (resolution) 1483 does provide sufficient authority for nations to participate. A number of nations are already participating in Iraq under 1483. We will, obviously, continue to listen to concerns other nations may have. But our view is that we believe 1483 provides sufficient authorities for nations to participate. And we appreciate the ones that already are participating in reconstruction in Iraq under resolution 1483."

U.S. CONTINUES TO TAKE AL QAEDA THREAT SERIOUSLY

Asked about a tape recording broadcast over the weekend by Dubai-based television al-Arabiya believed to be al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, who vowed to take revenge if any prisoners held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were sentenced to death, McClellan said, "(W)e take all threats seriously, let me be very clear on that. But I think that the CIA continues to analyze that tape. It's a reminder that we continue to be engaged in a global war on terrorism. It's a reminder that al Qaeda continues to want to harm America and our friends and allies.

"(I)t's a reminder that we need to continue going after these terrorists, where they are, and disrupting and dismantling their networks and bringing them to justice. And that's why we are going after them."

"Since September 2001," he said, "more than 3,000 al Qaeda suspects have been detained in over 90 countries. Almost all of those directly involved in orchestrating the September 11th terrorist attacks are now in custody or confirmed dead. Of the senior al Qaeda leaders, operational managers, and key facilitators we have been tracking, 65 percent have been captured or killed.

"So the United States and our allies, the global coalition, have denied al Qaeda its sanctuary in Afghanistan. We've removed the Taliban regime, which supported and provided sanctuary to al Qaeda. We're disrupting their finances. We've dismantled entire al Qaeda cells throughout the world. And we have captured or killed many of their top leaders since 9/11, including the September 11th mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and key plotters, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah and Muhammad Atef, among others."


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