THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER TONY BLAIR
The Oval Office
Q Good morning, Mr. President. (inaudible question asked.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, not yet. I may have something to say later today, but I think it's not appropriate for me to comment yet. We're trying to find out all of the facts.
Q Mr. President, on Okinawa could you tell us some of the reasoning that went into that decision --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me? I'm sorry.
Q On the base in Okinawa --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, Secretary Perry has been working very hard on that issue to try to deal with what we think are some very legitimate concerns the people of Okinawa have about the noise levels, access to land. And Japan has been a wonderful security partner for us for a long time, and they still are. They pay the highest percentage of support for American forces of any of our foreign host countries. And we thought we ought to try to work through these issues. And the Secretary has worked very hard at it, and so has the Japanese government. And so I hope we've got a good resolution here that will permit us to defend our own security interests and pursue our interests in the Northern Pacific and fulfill our commitments to our Japanese allies.
Q -- your taxes. Do you have any advice for the American people?
THE PRESIDENT: I always try to pay them. (Laughter.) I've got an accountant and I tell him to resolve all doubt in favor of the government and go on. (Laughter.) That's what I've been saying for 20 years now.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
Q Mr. President, do you think you'll -- the next British Prime Minister?
MR. BLAIR: Well, that is not a diplomatic question. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: If I were in his position that's the question I'd ask. Look, it's all I can do to keep up with American politics. I only hope he's talking to the next American President. (Laughter.)
Q Will you be sharing ideas, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm looking forward to discussing a number of things, including, obviously, the Irish peace process and the process in Northern Ireland, which is very important to the United States. And I want to compliment Mr. Blair and his party. I think that the way they have proceeded in this has been very statesmanlike and very much in the interest of his nation and the cause of peace.
Q And similarities between your two parties as well?
THE PRESIDENT: I'll leave that to you.
MR. BLAIR: I was saying to the President how immensely helpful people have found his visit to Northern Ireland a few months ago and what a boost it gave to the peace process. And I think that is still there and it's still helping. I hope we can get it back on track very much.
Q Mr. Blair, you'll be talking to the President about your own development of --
MR. BLAIR: I think we will be talking about many things, Jeremy.
THE PRESIDENT: If you give us a chance. (Laughter.)
MR. BLAIR: Quite so. And on that point --
THE PRESIDENT: This is a great omen for the peace process. You've got the Americans' greatest Irish reporter here. (Laughter.) How are you?
MR. BLAIR: You're in very good company, Mary.
Q Is there anything that Mr. Blair can practically do to bring about a revival of the peace talks in Ireland, a truce?
THE PRESIDENT: He might have better ideas about that than I do. But the first thing, of course, is that there has to be an election law ratified in the Parliament. But I want to talk to him about it. We'll see what his ideas are.
Q Do you want all of the parties to participate in the elections and to attend --
THE PRESIDENT: Of course. We've always been for all-party talks and all-party participation. That is, all of the parties that are committed to a peaceful democratic future in Northern Ireland.
Q And do you think Sinn Fein -- peaceful democratic future in Northern Ireland?
THE PRESIDENT: We have to get back to the conversation here. I've already answered more questions than I meant to. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.