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Tony Snow: Briefing in Chicago. Added starter---British PM Tony Blair. Calls Prez Tuesday meeting with Israeli PM Olmert a ``getting to know you''

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Just added to the schedule, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said British Prime Minister Tony Blair will visit Washington later this week.

New Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert won't get Bush's blessings for his plan to draw a border between Israel and parts of the West Bank. Snow called it a ``getting-to-know-you meeting.''

Subj: PRESS GAGGLE BY TONY SNOW
Date: 5/22/06 12:23:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Press.Releases@WhiteHouse.Gov


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

(Chicago, Illinois)

For Immediate Release May 22, 2006

PRESS GAGGLE

BY

TONY SNOW

Aboard Air Force One

En route Chicago, Illinois

10:23 A.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: As you know, the President will be traveling to Chicago.
Before the restauranteurs he will be talking about immigration reform
and also making his first extended comments on the formation of a
government in Iraq.

Also, I don't know if you've heard, but Prime Minister Blair's office
has announced the Prime Minister will be making a visit to Washington
later in the week. Details at this point still to be determined. As
soon as we have a schedule we will let you know.

That's about it, a very quick statement, and whatever questions you
have.

Peter.

Q What's the purpose of the Blair-Bush meeting?

MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, the Prime Minister has been in Iraq, so
what I think what they're going to be doing is talking about Iraq and
the next steps forward.

Q Does he want to pull troops out, or what's the -- he said over the
weekend, or there have been reports over the weekend that he's anxious
to pull troops out.

MR. SNOW: Well, I can't speak for what the Prime Minister is going to
do; he may report on his desires. Prime Minister Maliki has also said
that he would like Iraqi forces to be taking -- asserting much more
control by the end of the year.

As we've always said -- and Prime Minister Blair reiterated this
yesterday -- I mean, today, as least as far as the readout I've gotten
-- which is it's all conditions-based. The conditions on the ground
still determine how long troops stay there.

Q Does he look forward to the meeting tomorrow with Olmert? Can you
talk about -- there was an Israeli newspaper report that says the
President was going to present him with some new ideas for advancing the
peace process.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think at this point this is as much a
getting-to-know-you meeting. Obviously, they'll be talking about the
roadmap and the way forward. I don't expect anything formal, but the
two of them obviously are going to be talking about ways to keep moving
forward.

Q What about a response to his comments yesterday on CNN, that he
said Abbas was too weak to advance such a process?

MR. SNOW: Well, on the other hand, there have also been reports that
the two of them have had cordial meetings. So, obviously, again, the
viability of the Palestinian Authority is a key matter. Most
importantly, the administration continues to say, the President
continues to say that we are not going to recognize Hamas until they
renounce violence.

Q With a unified unity government now in place, what are the chances
that American troops will start pulling out before the end of this year?

MR. SNOW: Well, once again, it's all conditions-based. You don't simply
say because you have a government you pull out. The President has been
pretty clear, troops will return when they're no longer needed. And it
is still our desire to see that the Iraqi military and police forces are
trained up and capable of providing for public security in Iraq.

Q But you have seven months ahead, so is the seven months enough time
to just -- my question is, what is your assessment, I guess, of what
Iraq is going to do in the next seven months, if you're not willing to
say that seven months is enough time to begin pulling troops out?

MR. SNOW: Well, if you can tell me exactly what's going to happen in
the next seven months, I'll give you an answer.

Q What does the U.S. government want to accomplish by encouraging
these European banks to limit their dealings with Iran?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, what's been going on is that there has been
attempt to try to get the Iranians to come back to the table, to deal in
good faith, with serious negotiations toward renouncing any nuclear
military ambitions. We don't have any problem with peaceful civilian
use of nuclear power, but it's important to get the Iranians to engage
seriously.

Q Tony, Prime Minister Olmert also said that Iran was months away
from developing a nuclear weapon. What does the U.S. think of that
prediction?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to get into our particular, precise
estimates of Iranian nuclear capabilities.

Q Do you disagree with him them that --

MR. SNOW: To tell you the truth, I don't know.

Q Can we go back to the banks? If the U.S. government and the
Treasury Department are encouraging the European banks to not have
dealings, how does that play into this works with European allies to
stop them from having the nuclear weapon or the nuclear ambitions? Why
are you going about it this way -- encouraging these banks to limit
their dealings --

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what, I'll try to come up with more precise
guidance because, frankly, for me to try to come up with rationales for
this is going to be talking through my hat -- and that would be
irresponsible for me, you and the government.

Q Is he going to take questions today?

MR. SNOW: There is a possibility that he'll take some from the
audience.

Q Thank you.

END 10:28 A.M. EDT


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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