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Public Papers - 1991

Exchange With Reporters at the Grand Canyon, Arizona on the Situation in Iraq

1991-09-18

Q. Mr. President, on Iraq just for a second, are you thinking about a deadline?

The President. On the campaign?

Q. No, for Saddam Hussein.

The President. No, no, there's no deadline, but I'm thinking about seeing the will of the international community complied with. And it's so clear what he has to do. So, we're just doing what's right here. And there's no threats; there's just determination, that's all there is, firm determination that he will comply to the letter of the U.N. resolutions.

And it's not just the United States; a lot of other countries feel this way, too.

Q. Do you foresee a situation where conflict resumes?

The President. I don't think Saddam wants any of that. I don't think he does. I'm confident he doesn't, absolutely confident.

Q. Do you think the international community will be with you, though -- --

The President. Yes.

Q. -- -- if you decided to take action again?

The President. Well, it depends what `action'' is, but yes, I'm confident -- --

Q. Military action?

The President. Well, I'm confident that the international community will be with us in whatever is done. But there's no -- we're not in a threatening mode here. This isn't what this is all about. So -- --

Q. Have you been talking to people, France, Germany, the British?

The President. There have been some contacts. I personally have -- I don't want to say haven't, I have had what I would call limited contact on that with foreign leaders so far. But it's not -- no, but it's not all -- we're not into this kind of emergency mode here.

Brent, did you discuss the statement that the Pentagon is going to be putting out on that?

Mr. Scowcroft. No, I have not. In general, the statement is going to be that there is military planning going along, and it seems to be to our demands that Saddam Hussein permit U.N. helicopters to fly on their inspection trips. And there's been no execute order, and if you will comply with the U.N. resolutions there won't need to be an execute order. But it's an escort mission. And in addition, the Saudi Government has asked for the deployment of -- --

The President. Patriot -- --

Mr. Scowcroft. -- -- of some Patriot, and we're going to accede to that request.

Q. What do you mean by escort mission?

Mr. Scowcroft. Well, you send -- the U.N. helicopters have a right under, I think, U.N. Resolution -- I think it's 707.

The President. It's 688, isn't it?

Mr. Scowcroft. It's 689 and 707, to fly anywhere they want in Iraq. The Iraqis have said originally, no, they couldn't, they had to use Iraqi helicopters. Now they've said, well, they can, but they've put some conditions on it. Now, if the U.N. helicopters fly there in a nonpermissive environment, then they need some kind of protection. And that's what it is we're talking about.

The President. I don't believe it will come to that, and I don't think you do, and I don't think the Defense Department does. So, this is what we would call prudent planning.

Q. So, you're saying that the planes are not necessarily going to begin the escort mission unless needed?

Mr. Scowcroft. No, that's right. This whole thing is precautionary, incident to this dispute over the use of U.N. helicopters.

Q. Well, why would the Saudis ask for military -- --

The President. I think it's a safeguard. I mean, they just don't want to feel threatened.

Mr. Scowcroft. They don't want to be -- --

The President. I don't think they feel threatened now.

Mr. Scowcroft. They feel uneasy, they feel exposed, and they -- --

The President. Their civilian populace was pummeled by this reckless man, and they just don't need to go through it anymore. But that's quite different than the story that came out this morning; I'll say no more about that one, but just take your guidance from what General Scowcroft said and what the Pentagon will be saying or maybe has said by now, and what I've just told you here. That's what it is. If somebody tried to make more out of it they're making a big mistake; they're doing something that is wrong.

Q. It's not an effort to finish the job, Mr. President?

The President. Well, we finished the job in compliance with the United Nations resolutions, which was to set back the aggressor, get him out of Kuwait. That was the job. And that was finished. Now, if there's something starting up again, there's another part of -- I might have to take that back a little, Ellen, [Ellen Warren, Knight-Ridder] because there's another part of the job. The original part of the job was to put an end to the aggression. That was done, and done with total finality, and done beautifully.

Now there's some other United Nations resolutions that have not been complied with. One of them has to do with his trying to go forward with or trying to conceal any weaponry that comes under the resolutions. And so, the job is unfinished in this sense, that we are going to do our part, along with other countries, to see that he does comply with these resolutions.

So, maybe I answered a little too quickly in the beginning.

Q. But no more military action?

The President. Only what General Scowcroft has referred to, and I don't think it will come to that. I think the man will see that we are very serious about this, and he will do what he should have done in the first place, disclose and comply.

Q. Aren't you getting a little fed-up with him? I mean, he -- --

The President. Oh, yes, I'm plenty fed-up. I'm plenty fed-up with him.

Q. Why are the Saudis threatened?

Q. I mean, this isn't the first time -- --

The President. No.

Q. -- -- that you had to remind him that he's not complying with them.

The President. That's right. He's a very difficult fellow, as we've all seen. Very difficult. But we intend to see that these resolutions are complied with. He's not going to question our resolve on this. I mean, he may be testing and probing here and there, but he knows better than to take on the United States of America in this regard.

So, there's no point threatening. We just do a couple of things and then make certain demands, and we think they'll be complied with.

Thank you very much. Now if you'll get off my pet rock here -- [laughter] -- I've got to get on.

Note: The exchange began in the morning while the President was participating in a hike of the Kaibab Trail. In the exchange, the following persons were referred to: President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

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