Tags: Bush | Hoping | for | Peace | Preparing | for | War

Bush Hoping for Peace, Preparing for War

Wednesday, 20 November 2002 12:00 AM

"It's very important for our nations as well as all free nations, to work collectively to see to it that Saddam Hussein disarms," Bush told a news conference with Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle.

"If the collective will of the world is strong," Bush said, "we can achieve disarmament peacefully. However, should he choose not to disarm, the United States will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him."

As he has in the past, Bush said he hopes the Iraqi leader will choose to shed his weapons of mass destruction peacefully: "War is my last choice, my last option. I hope we can [do] this peacefully."

White House sources confirmed that the United States had sent out requests to U.S. ambassadors in 50 countries to find out if the governments in those states wanted to contribute to a war coalition. One source said it took the action after a number of countries had asked the United States what role they might play in military action against Iraq.

Some of the requests might have gone to countries that have disagreed with Bush's policy against Iraq. This source declined to list the countries.

Bush said the United States will consult with all nations, and "all will be able to choose whether they want to participate."

In the brief news conference following a private meeting with Havel, Bush seemed to have shed the United-States-will-go-it-alone challenge that he has often stressed. He said that before the United States would take any steps, "there'll be plenty of consultation with our friends" and that nations like the Czech Republic and the Great Britain will be able to make their own decision as to whether to join in the attack. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said that he opposes military action against Iraq, but at Wednesday's news conference, Bush said the final decision would be up to the German people. The news media at the NATO summit has made great note that Bush has had bilateral meetings with other leaders but not with Schroeder.

The White House was stung by remarks made by Germany's then minister of Justice comparing Bush's Iraq policy to Adolf Hitler's methods. The minister later resigned, but White House sources say the rift is not healed.

Havel, at the morning news conference, spoke warmly of President Bush's father and recalled the support Bush gave him as his country sought its freedom from communism. He said he hoped that final reports of the summit will reflect some collective view of what to do on Iraq and agreed that Saddam Hussein was a threat to world peace.

Both Bush and Havel are behind moves to expand and modernize NATO. The Bush administration has pressed a plan that NATO form a 21,000-person rapid deployment force that could operate outside the traditional boundaries of Europe and be able to contend with the threat of world terrorism.

"We recognize it's a hard task to change military strategy," the president said, "but it is a necessary job ... to meet the true threats we face."

The U.S. president defended a remark he made about NATO supplying "niche" military skills instead of the heavy ground forces now only really maintained by the United States and Great Britain, by noting that the Czech Republic's expertise in defending against biological and chemical warfare attacks is a vital skill. He said they are the "best in the world."

Later, addressing young student leaders meeting in a "summit" sponsored by the Atlantic Council, Bush said NATO forces must be better "able to fight side by side. Those forces must be more mobile and more swiftly deployed. The allies need more special operations forces, better precision-strike capabilities and more modern common structures."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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"It's very important for our nations as well as all free nations, to work collectively to see to it that Saddam Hussein disarms," Bush told a news conference with Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle. "If the collective will of the world is strong," Bush...
Bush,Hoping,for,Peace,,Preparing,for,War
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2002-00-20
Wednesday, 20 November 2002 12:00 AM
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