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"I Do Believe There Is an Axis of Evil"

"I Do Believe There Is an Axis of Evil"

On the eve of his departure for a six-day trip to Europe, President George W. Bush granted an exclusive interview to Christian Malard, Editor-in-Chief of France 3 Television. In addition to signing an arms agreement with Russia and later meeting with French President Jacques Chirac. President Bush also plans to visit the Normandy beaches and memorials to the heroes of the Allied invasion. In his interview with Christian Malard, the President discusses the ever-present threat of terrorism, reaffirms his belief in an Axis of Evil, underscores the need for peace in the Middle East, and seeks to mitigate misguided concerns in Europe regarding U.S. unilateralism. White House Transcript of the Interview in the Map Room at the White House, Washington D.C., May 21, 2001, 1:24 P.M. EDT.

Christian Malard: Mr. President, thank you very much. Could you be more specific regarding the prospects of new attack against the United States? It's a source of concern for all of us, of course. And do you think it's a concerns also, for instance, of the French, who have been severely targeted -- struck recently by the terrorist networks in Pakistan?

The President: Yes, it's a good question. First, I'm concerned about all people who love freedom.

The French love freedom, Americans love freedom, and al Qaeda hates freedom. And they can't stand people who embrace freedom.

I have no specific threat to America and Americans or to the French. If I had a specific threat, something that would hurt the French, I can assure you we would have shared that information immediately with our friends in the French government.

If I have a specific threat relating to America, we would deal with that specific threat. We would use our assets to harden whatever the target might be. You probably wouldn't know about it.

What you're hearing is -- you're hearing -- the people of my administration are concerned about a group of people who continue to plot and plan on ways to hurt us. And the best way to prevent further attacks is to find them and hunt them down, to chase them one by one, and to bring them to justice. And that's what my country and our coalition will continue to do.

Christian Malard: Mr. President, you spoke a lot about the evil axis. Are you still planning to attack Iraq? And what about Iran, which according to our understanding of various sources, might have been harboring bin Laden for the last few months?

The President: Oh, really? Well, I certainly hope that's not the case, for Iran's sake, that they be harboring bin Laden. We don't know about Mr. bin Laden. He might be dead, he might be alive. All I can tell you is, I heard -- I haven't heard much from him in a long period of time.

I do believe there is an axis of evil. These are countries that are not transparent, they're dictatorial, they've got designs for weapons of mass destruction, if they don't have them already.

They hate, they preach a gospel of hate. And we'll deal with each of them differently. Obviously the military is an option. I have no plans on my desk right now, but whatever I decide, and whatever we decide, of course, we'll consult closely with the French, our allies and our friends.

But we must deal with this threat, the threat of countries such as Iraq using weapons of mass destruction to affect a balance of power or to affect our willingness and ability to go defend ourselves. And this is a dangerous problem that we've got to deal with.

Christian Malard: Mr. President, concerning the peace process in the Middle East, it seems there is no peace solution in sight right now. Arafat doesn't want, cannot control the Islamic terrorist act against Israel. Mr. Sharon doesn't want him anymore as a partner for peace. What can you do? The United States is the only country to be able to impose a solution. What can you do concretely, Mr. President, to put peace back on track for good?

The President: Yes, thank you. I'm not so sure you can ever impose a solution on people. In other words, the first job is to convince people the need for peace, to give people a chance to work toward a vision. And I've laid out a vision. And the vision is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. That's something we will work toward.

I believe we're making some progress. It starts with convincing all parties in the region they have a responsibility toward peace. The Israelis have got a responsibility; I've made that clear to Prime Minister Sharon. The Palestinians have a responsibility, particularly to denounce and to fight against terror, to stop these killers from derailing peace. And the Arab world has the responsibility to be a party to not only discussions, but a party to providing hope for the Palestinians.

And we are -- we've got a dialogue going on. One of the first things we need to do is put the institutions in place that will help provide a stable society in the Palestinian territory. That means a security force that actually works, one that functions properly, one in which authority and responsibility is aligned.

You need to know I'm an optimistic man. I believe we can achieve peace. It's going to take a lot of hard work. I have started this the first day of my administration, and I will continue during the last day of my administration.

Christian Malard: Two quick last questions.

The President: Sure.

Christian Malard: Mr. President, what do you answer to the Europeans, and especially the French, who are very fussy sometimes and consider -- the resurgence of America's unilateralism? What do you answer to them? They even fear today, among Europeans, that the new American-Russian axis which would prevail over the rest of Europe.

The President: Well, listen; my trip into Europe will let people know me a little better. I'm a person who knows that -- first of all, I know what I believe. And the thing I believe -- I believe strongly in the common values that we share. And I believe strongly in freedom. I mean, I believe we ought to do everything in our power to encourage freedom all around the world.

And that's important. I also know, we can't win a war on terror alone, that we've got to work with our allies and friends. I'll confirm the importance of the NATO alliance for all of us.

So I look forward to the trip. I'm confident there are some there that have got an opinion about me that I might not like, but that's the good thing about democracy. I welcome people -- people's opinions. And I'll be honored to represent our country overseas, and to reconfirm our friendship.

I'm going to Normandy, and –

Christian Malard: You are going to Normandy, so I imagine you are going to spend Memorial Day on the beaches of Normandy. And I'm sure, Mr. President, it means a lot to you when we are in the world where a lot of people try to fight for freedom and security.

The President: Yes. Well, it's going to be an emotional moment, to think of all the sacrifice that went so that you and I can speak here in freedom. I'm the son of a World War II veteran. I'm a product of what they call the Greatest Generation. And I just -- my friends who have been there tell me that it's an amazingly emotional place. Memorial Day is a great holiday here in America, where we honor those who have sacrificed. And so I'll give a speech that will talk about sacrifice and will call people to the memory of those who have come before us, and lay out the sacrifices that we're going to need to do in the future, if we expect the world to be free.

And I can't wait to go. It's going to be one of the best parts of the trip. It's going to be a memorable trip, and I'm confident that the trip to Normandy will be one of the great highlights of the trip.

Christian Malard: Mr. President, I want to thank you very much. I wish you all the best.

The President: Thank you, sir.

Christian Malard: And God bless you --

The President: Thank you, sir.

END 1:32 P.M. EDT


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).