Bush: Validity of Ukraine Vote in Doubt
CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush declared Friday that charges of voter fraud have cast doubt on the Ukrainian election, and warned that any European-negotiated pact on Iran’s nuclear program must ensure the world can verify Tehran’s compliance.
“The only good deal is one that’s verifiable,” the president told reporters as he emerged from his Texas ranch for a brief visit to a coffee shop.
Bush issued a new appeal for the power to delete specific items that he deems excessive from budget plans. He spoke a week after Congress approved a $388 billion spending package that lawmakers loaded up with special items for their home-state industries and communities.
The president said he was not troubled by the total cost of the measure, which he said conformed to the outlines of spending requests he had made to lawmakers.
But, he said, “there’s going to be things in these big bills that I don’t particularly care for.”
“The only way a president can affect that which is inside the bill, other than vetoing the entire bill, is to be able to pick out parts of a bill and express displeasure about it through a line-item veto. I hope the Congress will give me a line-item veto.”
In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that line-item veto power gave the president unconstitutionally broad latitude to change laws enacted by Congress. Bush has said he wants a new law that would pass constitutional muster.
World affairs dominated Bush’s remarks here. He said he had lent his voice earlier in the day to new efforts to achieve a stable, joint Catholic-Protestant government in Northern Ireland.
Bush called Ian Paisley, whose Democratic Unionist Party represents most of Northern Ireland’s British Protestant majority, to try to nudge the process forward.
The president waded in ahead of what is expected to be a week of high-stakes negotiations on the details, and Bush aides said they expected him to call Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as early as Saturday.
“Hopefully it will help,” Bush said of his telephone diplomacy. “Anything I can do to help keep the process moving forward, I’m more than willing to do so.”
The United States and other Western nations contend that massive fraud marred the presidential runoff election Sunday in Ukraine, and the country’s highest court has ordered election officials not to publish the results until an appeal is heard next week. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell cited reports of fraud in the election in saying the United States cannot accept the results of presidential elections in Ukraine.
“There’s just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that placed their election, the validity of their elections, in doubt,” Bush said. “The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this, and hopefully it will be resolved in a way that brings credit and confidence to the Ukrainian government.”
Bush did not directly answer a question about what consequences Ukraine might face if the dispute is not resolved to his satisfaction. Powell said there would be consequences for U.S.-Ukraine relations if the government there did not act “immediately and responsibly” to find a solution that respected the will of its people.
As Bush spoke, several dozen Ukrainian protesters stood across the street, waving their country’s flag and calling on Bush to press for a fair election result. “Will President George W. Bush now stand up to Russia’s blatant imperial overreach in Ukraine?” wrote Michael Balahutrak of Houston in literature distributed at the gathering.
Bush also applauded efforts by Britain, Germany and France to get Iran to honor its international treaty obligations to refrain from developing nuclear weapons. But he said he was wary about whether Tehran could be trusted to honor its obligations.
“The only good deal is one that’s verifiable,” Bush said, adding that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had assured him he would seek such a pact.
The United States has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Iran and European negotiators reached a tentative compromise on a deal committing Tehran to freeze all uranium enrichment activities, diplomats said Friday, but the Iranian government still must approve the agreement.
On Iraq, Bush said he remained hopeful that the country would conduct elections scheduled for Jan. 30, despite a demand Friday by 17 political parties in Iraq that the interim government postpone them for at least six months. Those groups want security at polling places to be ensured.
“The Iraq election commission has scheduled elections in January, and I would hope they would go forward in January,” Bush said.
Late Friday, the White House announced Bush would visit Halifax, Nova Scotia, during a trip to Canada next week.
On Sept. 11, 2001, more than 200 jetliners heading for the United States were diverted to Canada after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. About 7,000 people on 44 planes went to Halifax.