For Immediate Release
The White House
July 14, 2003
Remarks by the President and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in Photo Opportunity[Excerpts on Disputed Iraqi Uranium Purchase]
The Oval Office
Q: Mr. President, thank you. On Iraq, what steps are being taken to ensure that questionable information, like the Africa uranium material, doesn't come to your desk and wind up in your speeches?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me first say that -- I think the intelligence I get is darn good intelligence. And the speeches I have given were backed by good intelligence. And I am absolutely convinced today, like I was convinced when I gave the speeches, that Saddam Hussein developed a program of weapons of mass destruction, and that our country made the right decision.
We worked with the United Nations -- as Kofi mentioned, not all nations agreed with the decision, but we worked with the United Nations. And Saddam Hussein did not comply. And it's the same intelligence, by the way, that my predecessor used to make the decision he made in 1998.
We are in the process now of interrogating people inside of Iraq, looking at documents, exploring documents to determine the extent that -- what we can find as quickly as possible. And I believe, firmly believe, that when it's all said and done, the people of the United States and the world will realize that Saddam Hussein had a weapons program.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dana, one last question.
Q: Mr. President, back on the question of Iraq, and that specific line that has been in question --
THE PRESIDENT: Can you cite the line? (Laughter.)
Q: I could, if you gave me some time.
THE PRESIDENT: When I gave the speech, the line was relevant.
Q: So even though there has been some question about the intelligence -- the intelligence community knowing beforehand that perhaps it wasn't, you still believe that when you gave it --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the speech that I gave was cleared by the CIA. And, look, the thing that's important to realize is that we're constantly gathering data. Subsequent to the speech, the CIA had some doubts. But when I gave the -- when they talked about the speech and when they looked at the speech, it was cleared. Otherwise, I wouldn't have put it in the speech. I'm not interested in talking about intelligence unless it's cleared by the CIA. And as Director Tenet said, it was cleared by the CIA.
The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful.