President Bush Welcomes Georgian President Saakashvili to White House
President Bush Welcomes
Georgian President Saakashvili to White House
Remarks by U.S. President George W.
Bush and Georgian President Saakashvili in Photo Opportunity. The
Office of the Press Secretary, February 25, 2004. 11:26 A.M. EST
President Bush: Here's what
we're going to do. I will make a statement. The President will make a statement.
I will then call upon an American correspondent to ask a question. The President
will call upon a Georgian correspondent. We'll have two questions per side.
White House Photo by Paul Morse
Mr. President, welcome. We followed the revolution that took
place in your country very closely. We appreciate your firm commitment to
democracy and freedom. We've had a very interesting discussion. I know firsthand
that the President will do everything he can to earn the confidence of the
people of Georgia by representing their will, by fighting corruption, by working
for a system based upon integrity and decency and human rights.
I'm impressed by this leader. I'm impressed by his vision,
I'm impressed by his courage. I am heartened by the fact that we have such a
strong friend, a friend with whom we share values.
So Mr. President, welcome to the Oval Office. I appreciate
the candid discussion we've had. And I'm proud to call you friend.
President Saakashvili: It's a
great honor for me and for the people of Georgia to be here in this Oval Office.
It's not -- our cooperation is very deep. We consider ourselves as very close
ally and friend of the United States. We are proud to be friend of the United
States. I am speaking on behalf of every Georgian.
I have to say that this cooperation and friendship -- the
U.S. helped us when we needed it most, and would like peoples -- other peoples
in Europe will never forget that. But our cooperation is -- that held friendship
is not only about security, it's not only about economy, primarily it's about
our shared values. And we are part of -- proud part of anti-terrorist coalition.
We have forces in Iraq. We are cooperating on other issues.
We are also working very hard on our improved relations with
Russia. I had a very interesting conversation with President Putin in Moscow,
and I believe Russia should become our reliable partner and we should improve
our relations. But at the same time, we believe that America's help is
absolutely essential. And we are grateful, we will stay grateful, and we want to
be not only close ally, but we want to be strong ally. Georgia will become
stronger, Georgia will become more democratic. Democracy is top priority.
Freedom of speech is top priority. Free enterprise, free market is top priority.
And I think Georgia can become a role model for the whole region. And this is
very important. We need U.S. help in that.
Regarding our revolution, it was the proudest moment of my
own life and of life of the whole generation. And we are so proud that we were
supported in our fight for democracy and for people's right to choose by the
United States, and Washington was the first to come and help us. And I'm sure
we'll never forget that.
Mr. President, I really enjoy being here at the White House.
Thank you very much.
President Bush: Thank you. Hold
on for a second. Deb, we're going to --
Question: What do you think about --
President Bush: Hold on. Will
somebody translate --
President Saakashvili: It's in
President Bush: I understand. I
understand. Hold on for a second. The way this is going to work is this.
Question: I'm from Georgia.
President Bush: I know you are,
excuse me. We're going to start with the American press, and then there will be
a Georgian press, and then there will be an American press, and then there will
be a Georgian press. That's the best way to maintain order, so we don't have
everybody yelling at the same time.
Question: Mr. President,
Chairman Greenspan today suggested trimming Social Security benefits for baby
boomers to deal with the rising budget deficit. Do you think this is a good idea,
a good way to ease the deficit, which is expected to top over $520 billion this
President Bush: First of all,
let me talk about the short-term deficit. The best way to trim the deficit is to
follow the budgetary plan I submitted to the United States Congress. We
presented a plan that will cut the deficit in half over the next five years. I
haven't talked to the Chairman or read his comments. I need to see exactly what
he said. My position on Social Security benefits is this: those benefits should
not be changed for people at or near retirement.
As you know, in the 2000 campaign, I articulated a point of
view that we ought to have personal savings accounts for younger workers that
would make sure those younger workers receive benefits equal to or greater than
that which is expected. I still maintain the same position, but I haven't seen
his comments completely.
Question: What do you think
about Rose revolution in Georgia?
President Bush:The Rose
revolution? It was an historic moment. It was a moment where the people spoke.
It was a moment where a government changed because the people peacefully
exercised their voice and raised their voice. And Georgia transitioned to a new
government in an inspiring way.
The President and I discussed the ramifications of the Rose
revolution around other parts of the world. The possibility of people taking
charge of their own lives and transforming society in a peaceful way is a
powerful example to people around the world who long for freedom and long for
And so the Rose revolution is an inspiring moment of history.
And, again, I want to congratulate the President and his team for insisting that
democracy prevail through peaceful means.
Question: Mr. President, in
Haiti, the rebels are advancing and a power-sharing deal has collapsed. Are you
prepared to let President Aristide be overthrown?
President Bush: Secretary Powell
and I have been in close consultations on this subject. We still hope to be able
to achieve a political settlement between the current government and the rebels.
We are watching the situation very carefully. The Secretary of State has been in
touch with Canadian officials and French officials and Caribbean officials, all
aimed to convince the parties to come to the table and effect a peaceful
In terms of our own planning here, I have made it abundantly
clear to the Coast Guard that we will turn back any refugee that attempts to
reach our shore. And that message needs to be very clear, as well, to the
Haitian people. We will have a robust presence with an effective strategy. And
so we encourage, strongly encourage the Haitian people to stay home as we work
to reach a peaceful solution to this problem.
Question: Do you think it's
possible you'll have to send troops there?
President Bush: What we are --
incident to a political settlement, we will encourage the international
community to provide a security presence. And that is also being discussed right
now. But first things, first, Steve, is to work on a -- is to work on a
Question: Very complicated
problems, with Russian bases problems --
President Bush: Well, I
appreciate you bringing up the Russian bases problem. We expect the Russian
government to honor the Istanbul commitment. The Istanbul commitment made it
very clear that Russia would leave those places. We will continue to work with
the President and President Putin on that commitment.
I also appreciate very much the President's work with the
Russians. It's important that relations between Georgia and Russia be positive.
I found it a very positive move and a very sophisticated move by the President
that his first trip was to Russia, and I encouraged that, I thought it was a
smart thing to do.
And we will work with Vladimir Putin, with whom I've got a
good relationship, to make sure relations are good with Georgia. It's important
for the Georgian people to have good and strong and peaceful relations with
Russia. There's a lot we can work on. We can work together to fight terror.
Hopefully, as the Georgia economy approves -- improves -- and I'm confident it
will -- there will be opportunities for business opportunities.
So the President has got a good vision and this has been a
good trip. I believe in his abilities and I appreciate his vision. And the
people of Georgia will be well-served by his leadership.
Thank you all.
END 11:37 A.M. EST