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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One en route New York, NY

Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York

2:00 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks for flying with us today.  We'll just do a quick gaggle.  As you know, in addition to the event at the ceremony naming the new USUN Mission building, the President has interviews with three network news anchors, and a couple of other events.  But if you have questions, shoot.

Q    Can you give us just a little bit more about tomorrow, this energy policy speech?

MR. CARNEY:  I think there’s -- I'm not going to get ahead. I think there’s a call that -- with some senior administration officials that will have details on it.  So I would point you to that.

Q    That's going to be later today?

MR. CARNEY:  I believe so.  I think there was an email sent out about it.

Q    One of NATO’s military leaders testified on the Hill today that there had been signs of al Qaeda seen amongst Libyan rebels.  How does that affect the White House thinking on engaging with them?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what I would say is that, as you know, we spend a lot of time looking at the opposition and now meeting with opposition leaders.  And the folks who are in London, the people that -- and the leader that Secretary Clinton met in Paris, have made clear what their principles are and we believe that they’re meritorious -- their principles.  I think they had a statement today that had some very good language in it that we support. 

But that doesn’t mean, obviously, that everyone who opposes Moammar Qaddafi I Libya is someone whose ideals we can support.  But beyond that, I don't have any detail about individual members of the opposition.

Q    Does it concern you about how much you don't know about the opposition?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what I would say is that we have met with opposition leaders and we're working with them, but as the President said, and as the opposition leaders who put out a statement today said, it’s up to them to decide who their leaders are going to be.  And we believe that at least the principles that were outlined today in London were certainly ones that we would support in terms of a democratic government, representative government, tolerance, and free and fair elections.

Q    Can you talk more about the speech last night?  There seemed to be some criticism that the President didn’t spell out enough of an endgame.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think the President was very clear about what our mission was, what we've accomplished in such a short period of time, the number of lives that have been saved, the remarkable effort to build a coalition and take action in just 31 days, and now make that transition from a U.S.-led military mission to a NATO-led mission with the U.S. in a support and assist role.

We understand that there are two parts to this.  There’s the military mission that was designed as requested by the Libyan opposition, as supported by the Arab League and supported by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which is designed to protect Libyan civilians. 

There is also the administration policy that Muammar Qaddafi is no longer fit to lead and should leave power.  And we are obviously pursuing a number of different means, non-lethal means, non-military means, to help bring that about, to pressure Qaddafi, to isolate him, and to create an environment where the Libyan people hopefully will be able to create their own future with the leaders that they deserve and that they pick.  And that's the endgame that we envision.      

Q    As far as the humanitarian mission is concerned, there have been some questions about what the NATO coalition is going to do in the event that civilians become at risk from rebel advances.  Have you guys made some sort of decision about what kind of posture NATO’s coalition would take when it comes to protecting civilians who might be in the line of fire from rebel advances in Libya?

MR. CARNEY:  I'm not going to venture an answer on that because I think the Department of Defense, NATO, and the State Department, USAID may have a better, more complete answer.  Obviously we -- our military mission that we are partnering with our allies on is designed to protect civilians, and we're doing everything we can in order to achieve that goal, and so we wouldn't want to take actions that would be counter to that goal. But in terms of that specific scenario or hypothetical, I think others may be better suited to answer.

Q    So when you talk about civilians and protecting civilians you're also talking about civilians who may be supporters of Qaddafi?

MR. CARNEY:  The mission of -- the military mission is quite clearly to protect the Libyan people from the brutal assault that Qaddafi’s forces have been perpetrating on them.  And so it is everyone except those forces who were carrying out the attacks.

Q    Talk more about the fundraisers tonight -- who they’re for and how much money they’re going to raise.

MR. CARNEY:  I’d refer you to the DNC.  They’re both DNC fundraisers.  They’ll have the details on them.

Q    -- about the budget.  There are some talks today that whatever is going on between Democrats and Republicans is really breaking down recently.  Is the President going to get more involved as the days go on, as we’re approaching this April 8th deadline, to make sure that these talks are back on track and we’re not facing a government shutdown?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we are -- we’ve been involved and engaged at a variety of levels, including the presidential and vice presidential level and the senior staff level, and we continue to do that.  Writing legislation to fund the government through any fiscal year is the work of Congress.  And we have been very much engaged in the process of negotiating with Republicans and Democrats to make that happen.  We have demonstrated with Democrats the fact that we’ve already come halfway and indicated that we’re willing to do more.  And we look forward to all sides being willing to reach common ground and move off their starting position so that we can get this work done for the American people and move on to some of the other big issues that face us.

Q    When you say “do more,” do you mean from the standpoint of actual dollars or on some of the riders that Republicans are looking to include?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we’ve made -- I mean in terms of -- that we will look at other ways to cut more within reason, while protecting the investments the President made are very clear that are essential to the economic growth that we need in the 21st century to create jobs and keep us competitive.  We have also said that this is a funding bill and a budget bill and it’s not the place for extraneous ideological or political policy to be addressed.  We think that the focus should be on funding of the government.

Q    At the event this afternoon at the U.N., do we expect anything Libya-related in the comments, in the remarks?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the President’s expansive speech last night on Libya is really the place to look for his position.  I wouldn’t expect anything new on Libya today from him in those remarks.  Obviously he’s giving interviews today, three of them, and will be asked, I expect, about Libya and he’ll answer those questions.

Q    One more on the budget.  Is it your impression that the budget talks are breaking down or are they going well?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think this is always a complicated process, but that we remain confident that if everybody is willing to roll up their sleeves and work on behalf of the American people towards finding common ground that we can get this done.

It’s important that we’re able to do this and to be willing to, as I said, move off -- everybody has to be willing to move off their starting position in order to find that common ground. I don't think the American people would expect anything less.

Q    Any phone calls to any leaders or anything today?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have anything on that for you.  I don't believe so, but I can check.

Q    Any reaction to the situation in Syria with the government?

MR. CARNEY:  We’re obviously -- we’ve heard reports of the cabinet resigning and other reports about changes that might be happening there.  We have also heard reports of more arrests of human rights activists and others, and we condemn that and urge the government and all sides to refrain from violence and to engage in political dialogue, and to respect -- and for the government to respect the universal values and rights that we apply to this situation in all these countries.

That work for you?

Q    Thank you.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks, guys.

2:10 P.M. EDT