Helen Again

Tony Snow has so much patience with this woman…

Helen.

Q I have two questions. Did the President call for the respect of sovereignty by both sides?

MR. SNOW: Respect of sovereignty?

Q You just mentioned Hezbollah.

MR SNOW: I think what happens here is that — yes, the President has called for everybody to respect the sovereignty of the government of Lebanon. And one of the things that he’s pointed out in the past is that when you’ve had a power vacuum in the South, which has been the case in the past, it has invited Hezbollah to go in and serve as a government within a government or state within a state. The Israelis have agreed to pull out as international forces move in, providing credible security for the people in southern Lebanon, and also, at the same time, providing some assurance that Hezbollah will not try to rearm again.

Q My second question: Why does the President want to modify the Geneva accords, conventions, to prevent inhumane, cruel treatment of detainees?

MR. SNOW: The President has never suggested modifying the Geneva conventions.

Q You mean that all these stories are wrong?

MR. SNOW: Well, the Geneva conventions, as has been construed — there are two things you’ve got to keep in mind. Number one, the Geneva conventions always must be construed especially — you’re talking about Common Article Three?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: — in manners that are consistent with the U.S. law. The second thing is this is a new situation because the Geneva conventions in the past have not been construed as applying to those who do not fight for duly constituted military forces. We will wait to see when we have a final decision on how to implement the Hamdan case. I think, at this point, what you’re reacting to is things that you’ve seen, and I’ll be happy to entertain more specific questions when we have a proffer.

Q Are these all speculative and not true?

MR. SNOW: No, it’s all trying to figure out the proper way also. One of the difficulties in Common Article Three is that there’s a great deal of vague language and rather than, “trying to change the Geneva accords,” what we’re trying to do is to interpret them.

Q Does the President have any concern about how Prime Minister Olmert’s political standing has been affected by all of this? A lot of criticism within his own country and around the world.

MR. SNOW: No, but I think the President does understand what happens when you’re in a period of war, which is that you’re always going to take some political heat if you’re trying to do what you think is right. And he certainly understands and appreciates the fact that there are going to be responses from people in any nation that is affected by war, and he certainly has a keen understanding and appreciation.

Q Prime Minister Olmert today said that Israel will continue to pursue Hezbollah leaders, “everywhere and any time.” I mean, do you view that as in line with the cease-fire?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think what we ought to do is just to see what people do on the ground and we’ll react to things going on on the ground.

Transcript taken from White House website, where a video is also available.

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