Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Up is Down 

From the gaggle yesterday:

Q Scott, it causes you all no concern that the coalition of the willing is rapidly dwindling? We lost --

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree with that strongly, Jeff. I disagree with that characterization strongly. All you have to do is go and look at some of the comments by countries. You know, we recognize that President Zapatero had made a commitment to withdraw troops previously. Obviously, we've --

Q Honduras today.

Q And Thailand.

MR. McCLELLAN: Honduras was working with some of the Spanish troops in Iraq. But the coalition is more than 30 nations, I would remind you, and the coalition is strong because countries realize that this is about helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.

Q But, Scott, this is a time when you would hope to be winning more coalition partners, hence your efforts to go back to the U.N. -- and, yet, we're losing coalition partners.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, one, the United Nations is playing a vital role in helping the Iraqi people move forward on the transfer of sovereignty; there's a U.N. mission there helping to move forward on the elections that are scheduled to be held, beginning in January of 2005. I think that on Mr. Brahimi's comments today, that he expects another U.N. resolution to be -- to be passed soon, is a welcome development. We already believe that countries have the ability to participate under existing resolutions, but we welcome another resolution that would encourage more countries to participate because this is about helping the Iraqi people realize their aspirations and hopes.

Q Would the other countries come in and participate? Will they be allowed to bid on contracts for the reconstruction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those are questions you can direct to the Pentagon. I think we've addressed that, and many countries are participating in the contract process.

Q Scott, EU President Prodi, I guess, praised Spain's decision to pull out their troops and suggested that others will soon follow suit, almost encouraging them to do so. What do you make of those remarks?

MR. McCLELLAN: Italy, Poland and Japan and others have said otherwise; they recognize that this is about helping the Iraqi people realize a brighter future and we're all working toward a shared goal, which is a free and peaceful Iraq.

Q What do you hear from Thailand?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Have you heard from them directly, that they will pull out, if attacked?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with others on that. I don't have any information on that.

Q Scott, with the Honduras announcement, is the President making any calls? What is the White House doing to ensure support, shore up support among the coalition members in Iraq? Or is there anything?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look at the strong statements of support from the coalition. The coalition in Iraq is strong and their resolve is firm.

The only strong and firm thing in Iraq are the security firms profit margins -- the rest of it is going to hell.

UPDATE: Dominican Republic is out.

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