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Analysis: President Bush's Remarks Last Night About A Post-Saddam Iraq

Morning Edition: February 27, 2003

Bush: Iraq War Could Aid Mideast Peace Process

BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

Bush administration officials continue to press the case for using military force to disarm Iraq. Intensive lobbying is under way at the United Nations and here in Washington. At a Washington think tank last night, President Bush spoke of his vision for Iraq after Saddam Hussein's removal. He predicted that liberating Iraq would even help create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Competing with the president's speech last night was the CBS television interview with Saddam Hussein, more news about North Korea's nuclear program and the resignation of a key presidential economic adviser. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA reporting:

These were these president's most detailed remarks about what happens in Iraq after the fighting ends, and the president's vision was an optimistic one. He foresaw an Iraqi nation at peace with its neighbors and itself, democratic and free. But the speech was not all devoted to the bright future. Addressing the annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Bush said that if Iraq fails to meet the disarmament demands of the United Nations, then the evils of Saddam Hussein's regime must be confronted.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

GONYEA: The president said that US troops would remain in Iraq after the war but just long enough to restore stability and not a day more. He promised that millions of dollars of medical supplies and emergency food rations would flow into the country for distribution to the public and that Iraq's natural resources, such as oil fields, would be protected from sabotage. He said democracy would take hold, the Iraqi people would finally have a voice in their government and the nation could serve as an example to other countries in the Arab world. And the president said all this would be beneficial to efforts to broker a Middle East peace.

Pres. BUSH: The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers.

GONYEA: During his speech, the president made no mention of comments made by Saddam Hussein in an interview with Dan Rather on the CBS program "60 Minutes II" last night. In that interview, the Iraqi leader denied that he has weapons of mass destruction or that he has violated UN sanctions, and he was defiant in the face of what seems an increasingly attack on Baghdad by the US military.

SOUNDBITE FROM "60 MINUTES II," COURTESY CBS

President SADDAM HUSSEIN (Iraq): (Through Translator) The officials in America are the ones who are talking about the intention of attacking Iraq. Isn't it the responsible thing, the moral thing and the most basic thing to do to warn the aggressor that if they attack us, we will not surrender?

GONYEA: There were also news developments last night that the president did not mention in his speech. One was North Korea, which yesterday elevated tensions still further by reactivating a nuclear reactor. Analysts say the materials produced there could be used in weapons.

Shortly after that announcement and just prior to the president's appearance, the news wires reported the sudden resignation of Glenn Hubbard, who headed the president's Council of Economic Advisers. Hubbard became the third member of Mr. Bush's economic team to leave. These developments may have been coincidental to the timing of the president's speech last night, but they served to illustrate the complexity of the president's challenge at this moment as competing foreign concerns and economic worries at home demand his attention even as he strives to stay focused on the approaching conflict with Iraq and the aftermath. Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.

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