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President to address nation on Sunday about Iraq
WASHINGTON -- President Bush will address the nation Sunday night about Iraq amid growing U.S. casualties and criticism about his handling of the war against terrorism.
The last time Bush made such a speech was on May 1 when he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
Since then, the president has not spelled out how much rebuilding Iraq will cost, how long U.S. troops will have to be stationed there or what happened to the alleged weapons of mass destruction that the administration said Saddam Hussein had.
Bush will speak from the White House at 7:30 p.m. Cape Girardeau time for about 15 minutes, officials said. His address will cap an administration media blitz Sunday; Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will appear earlier on Sunday television talk shows.
White House officials said they had requested time from the major networks for the speech and were awaiting responses.
The president, in a speech in Indianapolis on Friday, acknowledged that continuing military operations in Iraq and in the broader war on terrorism were aggravating the federal budget deficit, which is approaching a record $500 billion.
But he said, "This nation will spend what it takes to win the war on terror and to protect the American people."
"My attitude is, anytime we put our troops in harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment," he said.
"We must never forget the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001, a sobering reminder that oceans no longer can protect us from forces of evil who can't stand what America stands for," Bush said.
L. Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator in Baghdad, told Iraqis on Friday that the United States "does not like being an occupying power. Like you, we have wives and husbands and mothers and fathers and children with whom we would prefer to be."
"We want to go home as soon as possible," Bremer said in an address prepared for broadcast in Iraq. But he said the United States had to maintain order until Iraqis can run their own government. In the meantime, he urged Iraqis to help authorities identify and arrest "the saboteurs and terrorists who are trying to disrupt this process.
"These criminals will not succeed, but their campaigns of murder, sabotage and destruction can slow this process."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush would talk to Americans on Sunday about the war on terrorism "and update them on the progress we are making."
"Iraq is now a central part in the war on terrorism," McClellan said. "And the world has a stake in what is going on, the world has a stake in helping the Iraqi people realize a better future, realize a free and democratic society. The world has a stake in confronting the terrorists that have come into Iraq."
The address will come three days after Democratic candidates for president, at a debate in Albuquerque, N.M., said Bush has unnecessarily put U.S. troops in danger and split the United States from its allies.
As of Friday, 287 Americans had died in Iraq, 149 since Bush declared the end to major combat operations.
Some of the harshest criticism has come from Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who said in the debate, "This president is a miserable failure."
In his address, Bush is not expected to announce any troop redeployment, a senior administration official said. The administration, in a change of course, has reached out to the United Nations to encourage other nations to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq.
However, France and Germany have balked, saying the United States is not offering to give the United Nations a big enough role in Iraq's security and reconstruction.
Another major question is how much the Iraq operation will cost the United States. The administration has been unwilling to pinpoint a figure, though estimates have ranged between $60 billion to $80 billion or higher.
The White House said the address was not a response to criticism about U.S. casualties. McClellan cast the speech as a chance for the president to "talk to the American people about our ongoing war on terrorism with a particular focus on our efforts in Iraq. ... The president believes this is a good time to talk to the American people."
The address also comes at time when the United States is trying to have the United Nations take a greater role in postwar military and economic efforts in Iraq.
"Iraq is something the world has a stake in," McClellan said.
He said the address springs from discussions that Bush had with members of his national security team who visited his Texas ranch last month.
McClellan would not say whether Bush would answer rising calls from lawmakers and Democratic presidential candidates for him to specify the likely costs ahead in dollars and lives.