President Bush. Let me say I am just delighted you're here, and we have a lot to talk about when we're alone. But I'll say before we are that we support you and what you're trying to do and the courageous steps you've taken -- the free election process being part of it, of course -- but what you're trying to do and bring peace there. And I must say you have our respect and full support. And let there be no doubt about that anywhere, in this country, in Salvador, wherever else it may be.
Reporter. Mr. President are you taking questions from us today?
President Bush. No questions today if you don't mind.
Q. Perhaps the President of El Salvador would like to.
President Bush. Well, if he'd like to answer a question, but he knows that he's going to have a press opportunity later on. He knows that seldom do I take them here, but he can do it any way he wants. I'm not trying to slant -- --
Q. Would you talk to us about the status of the investigation into the killings of the Jesuits, sir?
President Cristiani. Afterwards, after we -- there will be a press conference tomorrow.
President Bush. I think that's a better, more fair way to handle it so others can be there. That's the way we like to do it, too.
But I commend you on what you're doing in that and many other cases there, too -- many other moves towards true and open democracy. Let there be no -- this administration for this President, strong.
Q. Happy birthday.
President Bush. It's been a good one so far.
Q. Will you call on me at your next news conference, sir? I was kinder and gentler this time.
President Bush. You were. I noticed that. We're got to have one soon, provided you throw me a slow ball, softball.
[At this point, another group of journalists entered the room.]
President Bush. May I say to the journalists -- I want to repeat what I said in front of the last wave, which is that we strongly support this President and what he is doing carrying his country inexorably down the democratic path. And let there be no doubt about it, he has the full support of this administration. He's taken on tough problems, handled them with dispatch. Some tough problems remain, but there is no question in my mind that this President and his administration merits the full, all-out support of the United States.
And it is not his government that is keeping peace from coming to his country that had open and free certified elections, many more times than one. And it is the opposition; it is people who think they can use the gun to get what they should be willing to fight for at the ballot box.
And so, I'm proud to have President Cristiani at my side. Today we've got lots to talk about, so you guys are almost history here -- [laughter] -- but thank you for coming. And I don't take questions in the Oval Office, as I'm sure most of you know. And I think the President will be having a press conference tomorrow some time. But I wanted to violate a rule that I have of not making comments because I feel so strongly about the need to support the President and the steps he's taking there.
Thank you all, and I hope you feel welcome here in the States.
Q. Thank you. Happy birthday again.
President Bush. Oh, thanks. I thought I'd hate it, but so far it's been very good.
Note: President Bush spoke at 11:07 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.