Bush promises to consult allies

Thursday, August 22, 2002

CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush, confronting skittish allies overseas and naysayers at home, asserted Wednesday that ousting Iraq's Saddam Hussein "is in the interests of the world" but indicated the United States is in no hurry.

"I'm a patient man," Bush said at his Texas ranch.

At nearby Fort Hood, Defense Secretary Donald. H. Rumsfeld, told soldiers that war with Iraq is not inevitable.

"The president has made no such decision that we should go into a war with Iraq. He's thinking about it," along with economic and diplomatic measures for eliminating any threat from Saddam, Rumsfeld said.

Bush interrupted more than three hours of big-picture military planning with top advisers at his ranch to address questions -- the "churning," he called it -- about U.S. intentions toward Iraq and growing opposition to any military strike there.

"The American people know my position, and that is that regime change is in the interests of the world. How we achieve that is a matter of consultation and deliberation," Bush said.

Canada, Germany and other allies have said they would not join any American military campaign against Iraq unless a better case could be made.

"The president has not asked them to," Rumsfeld said tersely as he stood at Bush's side Wednesday.

The president's language stretched to avoid mention of military action even as Gen. Tommy Franks -- head of U.S. Central Command and the man who would lead any military action against Iraq -- told reporters half a world away in Kazakhstan that he is drawing up battle plans.

Military planning for Iraq is necessary, the general explained, to give Bush "credible options."

In Texas, Rumsfeld described Franks' work as standard contingency planning.

Said Bush, "We will consider all technologies available to us and diplomacy and intelligence." By that comment, the president meant nothing but a restatement of his usual "all options are on the table" position, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said afterward.

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