Bush Urges Patience on Iraq, Speed in Lebanon

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President Bush holds a White House press conference Monday, describing calls for a pullout of Iraq "absolutely wrong." He also urged the rapid deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to help maintain the cease-fire in Southern Lebanon.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Shortly before that terror announcement, President Bush held a news conference today and it included this declaration.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm a thoughtful guy. I listen to people. I'm open-minded. I'm all the things that you know I am.

INSKEEP: It was a quick aside on his way to a larger point, but the remark touches on a subject of some concern to the White House. NPR's Don Gonyea was at the briefing. What's the president been doing, Don?

DON GONYEA reporting:

Well, the president has been meeting with advisors, foreign policy advisors. He's been meeting with Republican leaders, and what they are really trying to do is get a handle on how to present what's going on in Iraq, what's going on in Lebanon, as part of a big picture to the American public to really justify where the administration has been - has been going in both cases.

INSKEEP: Now, the President made that remark on the way to saying that he's taking the advice of fellow Republicans, which leads to another story. What was the advice?

GONYEA: Well, the advice was that, in the case of the Connecticut Senate race, where Joe Lieberman, a Democrat but a backer of the president in the war, is running as an independent. The president said he is going to stay out of Connecticut. He won't be up there campaigning for Lieberman.

INSKEEP: And then there's Israel and Lebanon, another subject covered today. A reporter noted that Israel violated the cease-fire over the weekend after their more than a month-long war. And the reporter asked, why do you always give Israel a pass?

GONYEA: Right. The president had also noted that it was, you know, Hezbollah rockets that have destroyed, you know, much of the infrastructure in northern Israel. He also talked about destruction in southern Lebanon but didn't mention that - that - Israeli rockets, and the Israeli bombings that have been responsible for that. So that's where the why give them a pass. But let's listen to the president's response on that.

President BUSH: The world must understand that now is the time to come together to address the root cause of the problem, and the problem is you have a state within a state, you had people launch attacks on a sovereign nation without the consent of the government.

GONYEA: And again, Steve, the president said that the international peacekeeping force needs to get in there. It needs to have a very robust mission.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks very much.

GONYEAH: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea speaking after President Bush gave a news conference this morning.

And the other story we're following this morning, terror suspects in London have been charged. Eleven of about two dozen original suspects have now been charged with a variety of crimes. And we'll bring you more on both stories as we learn more.

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Bush: Iraq War 'Straining the Psyche' of Americans

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush on Monday conceded that the war in Iraq, with daily bombings and U.S. casualties now standing at more than 2,600, was "straining the psyche of our country."

"Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Wars are not a time of joy," the president said. "These are challenging times, and difficult times."

At a White House news conference, President Bush conceded that the war had become a major issue in this year's midterm congressional elections. He also called for quick deployment of an international force to help uphold the fragile cease-fire in Lebanon.

"The need is urgent," the president said.

The president opened his news conference — his first full-scale question-and-answer session since July 7 in Chicago — with a statement about humanitarian aid and an international peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon after 34 days of fighting.

"The international community must now designate the leadership of this new international force, give it robust rules of engagement and deploy it as quickly as possible to secure the peace," the president said.

He said the international force would help keep the militant Hezbollah organization from acting as a "state within a state."

"The United States will do our part," Bush said. While the U.S. does not plan to contribute troops, it will provide logistical support, command-and-control assistance and intelligence.

He said it was "the most effective contribution we can make at this time."

Bush also said his administration was pledging an additional $230 million to help the Lebanese rebuild their homes and return to their towns and communities.

Turning to Iraq, Bush said that if the government there fails, it could turn the country into a "safe haven for terrorists and extremists" and give the insurgents revenues from oil sales.

"I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course, and I've talked to a lot of people about it. And what I've found from my talks are that the Iraqis want a unified country. And that the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals," Bush said.

On Iran, Bush said the United States is getting some inkling of Tehran's response to international calls for it to abandon its nuclear ambitions. A U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month called on Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

"We are beginning to get some indication, but we'll wait until they have a formal response," Bush said. "Dates are fine, but what really matters is will. And one of the things I will continue to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran."

Iran said Sunday that it will offer a "multifaceted response" Tuesday to a Western package of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to rein in its nuclear program, but insisted it won't suspend uranium enrichment altogether.

Bush said there must be "more than one voice speaking clearly to the Iranians."

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday that Tehran will continue to pursue nuclear technology, despite the U.N. Security Council deadline.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has made its own decision and in the nuclear case, God willing, with patience and power, will continue its path," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television.

Bush also said he was troubled that so many U.S. House and Senate candidates were calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

"There are a lot of good decent people saying 'Get out now. Vote for me, I'll do everything I can to cut off money...' It's a big mistake. It would be wrong, in my judgment, to leave before the mission is completed in Iraq."

More than 3,500 Iraqis were killed last month, the highest monthly civilian toll since the war began.

The war was a major issue in the Aug. 8 defeat of war supporter Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary. He was defeated by newcomer Ned Lamont, who has called for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"I'm going to stay out of Connecticut," Bush said.

When a reporter reminded him that he was born in Connecticut, Bush grinned and said, "Shhhhhh."

Bush also:

- Said he talked Monday morning with Chinese President Hu Jintao about trying to revive six-party negotiations aimed getting North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

- Bemoaned high gasoline prices, calling them a tax taking money out of Americans' pockets. He said that's all the more reason to diversify away from foreign oil and fossil fuels in general.

-Said the federal government has committed $110 billion to Katrina relief nearly a year after the huge storm hit the Gulf Coast area, and that the money was taking longer to get to those who deserved it in Louisiana than in Mississippi.

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