ST. LOUIS -- President Bush urged the United Nations Wednesday to lift sanctions that have choked Iraq's economy for nearly 13 years as he toured a fighter jet factory that he said helped defeat "a ruthless enemy."
Bush was careful not to declare the war over, and he cautioned that coalition forces still face serious risks. But he basked in the success of a military campaign that had stirred such fierce opposition, noting battlefield successes, Iraqi political prisoners freed, statues of Saddam Hussein torn down and a fledgling government being assembled.
"Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country," Bush said. The removal of sanctions, particularly on oil sales, could help finance the reconstruction of Iraq.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush would soon call for a U.N. resolution lifting the sanctions. That could be complicated by a requirement under previous resolutions that U.N. inspectors certify Iraq's banned weapons programs are dead.
The United States has not invited U.N. inspectors to return to Iraq. The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an April 22 briefing by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.
U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Security Council members want a much better idea of what the U.N.'s future role will be before agreeing to any suspension or lifting of sanctions.
After Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the United Nations imposed sanctions that cut off investment and development in the country. Some oil sales were permitted to finance purchases of food and medicine.
War of past
Throughout his speech at a Boeing factory that assembles fighter jets, Bush used the past tense when referring to the Iraq war. "The quality of the workmanship that goes into the aircraft that you build here is one of the main reasons why we were successful in making the world a more peaceful place," he said.
"Just one month ago, the forces of our coalition stood at the borders of Iraq with orders to advance hundreds of miles through hostile territory against a ruthless enemy," Bush told about 1,000 Boeing workers and military personnel on the factory floor. "Today, organized military resistance has virtually ended; the major cities of Iraq have been liberated."
Bush used symbols of America's military might as the backdrop for his speech. The Boeing plant here assembles F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, the newest and most advanced strike fighters in the Navy's inventory. Thirty-six of the fighters are deployed to the Iraq region.
Bush, a former Air National Guard pilot, peered into several of the half-finished machines, their wings not yet attached. Wires and hoses spilled from the forward fuselages, which are fused here to aft fuselages that are manufactured near Los Angeles by Northrop Grumman.
Before leaving for St. Louis and a long weekend on his Texas ranch, Bush signed a $79 billion supplemental budget measure that will finance combat, reconstruction and domestic anti-terror efforts.
Bush signed the measure with no ceremony and no lawmakers present -- the kind of treatment he reserves for bills he does not particularly like. He devoted just two sentences to the spending bill in his speech.
McClellan said Bush was concerned by what he viewed as the lack of latitude the measure gives him and the Pentagon in spending the money.