Remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Howard of Australia in Joint Press Availability

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Mr. President , ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to welcome the media to this news conference. I'll say a couple of words, invite the President to speak briefly...

One area where we are making good progress is on North Korea . As you may remember, I shifted the whole strategic approach to North Korea . I'm convinced that it's more effective to have five countries to say to North Korea the same thing than just one country, so that if North Korea makes the decision not to honor their word, that there's a better chance that there's consequences that they'll feel. And so as a result of getting China to the table on North Korea , the North Koreans are going to realize there is a lot more than one voice. And China has been instrumental in helping move this process forward. Chris Hill , Ambassador Hill, briefed me and Secretary Rice this morning on the fact that North Korea still looks like they're going to honor their agreement to disclose and to shut down their nuclear programs which will be good for peace.

Q: I can assure you it doesn't always look like this, with steel fences and concrete barricades and armed guards on the street. But I wonder, is the --

Let me just say, before you get -- you're trying to maybe get a response. But to the extent I've caused this, I apologize. Look, I don't want to come to a community and say, you know, what a pain it is to have the American President. Unfortunately, however, this is what the authorities thought was necessary to protect people. And you live in a free society. People feel like they want to protest; fine, they can. And unfortunately, evidently, some people may want to try to be violent in their protests. But I apologize to the Australian people if I've caused this inconvenience.

Q: Well, I wasn't going to blame you personally, sir. But anyway --

PRESIDENT BUSH: I guess I must be feeling guilty, you know what I'm saying? (Laughter.)

Q: The point I was going to make is, as leader of the free world, the people of Sydney don't see their city looking all that free at the moment. And how's that going? We thought that we weren't going to allow terrorists to do this to our free society. And so your very positive view on Iraq and progress towards reconciliation there is of interest to us if you're meeting the opposition leader tomorrow, and his view is that there should be a staged withdrawal of troops from Iraq next year. How would that affect the positive view you put today? And what will you say to disavow him of that decision?

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, in terms of whether Sydney is going to return to normal after I leave, or after we leave, I suspect it might, don't you? I don't think this is a permanent condition. I think the great freedom of the city of Sydney is going to return quite rapidly, which is different from other societies in the world.

First of all, I'm looking forward to meeting with the opposition leader -- I believe I did that on my last trip here to Australia , if I'm not mistaken -- and I hope we have an honest exchange of views. You just heard my opinion about Iraq and whether or not, one, we can win, and two, if it's necessary to win. I believe it's necessary, and I believe we can. And I'm looking forward to hearing his opinion.

I'm also wise enough not to prejudge the election results here in Australia . Yours is a slightly loaded question in trying to get me to comment about what it would be like to work with somebody who hasn't even been elected. And therefore, I'm going to let the Australian people express their opinion. My own judgment is I wouldn't count the man out. As I recall, he's kind of like me: We both have run from behind, and won. So that's going to be part of my -- I can tell you relations are great right now. I also, as I told you earlier, and I believe this, that our relationship is bigger than any individual in office. It's a relationship based upon values, common values. It's also a relationship -- it's enforced during tough times. When we fought fascism we learned a lot about each other. And the American people have got great respect for Australians. Anyway, thank you.


Q: Thank you, Mr. President . Yesterday you said that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker -- if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces. There are many who believe that you were suggesting you'd make an announcement to lower American troop levels. White House officials dismissed that. But later you were asked aboard Air Force One why it was that twice you mentioned troop levels that have peaked our interest, to which you said, "Maybe I was intending to do that." You pride yourself on being a straight shooter, not coy or cute, so what it is at this time?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Surely not cute, I agree. (Laughter.) Whatever you do, don't cause me -- call me cute, okay?