President Bush said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is an enemy until proven otherwise. But the president is downplaying prospects for imminent action against Baghdad.
President Bush said the American people know Iraq poses a danger because of Saddam Hussein's desire to develop and acquire biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
"I described them as the 'axis of evil' once. I describe them as an enemy until proven otherwise," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush spoke to reporters during an early morning golf game near his Texas ranch. As he has in recent speeches, he noted that he has many options under consideration to deal with Saddam Hussein.
"And I have also said I am a deliberate person. And so, we are in the process of consulting, not only with Congress, but with our friends and allies. The consultation process is a positive part of really allowing people to fully understand our deep concerns about this man," Mr. Bush said.
The president was asked if Americans are prepared for war against Iraq and the possibility of casualties. Mr. Bush responded by seeking to play down expectations for an imminent U.S. attack.
"I think that presumes there is some kind of imminent war plan. As I said, I have no timetable. What I do believe the American people understand is that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders such as Saddam Hussein are very dangerous for ourselves and our allies. They understand the concept of blackmail," he said.
Mr. Bush said Americans know that when he talks about making the world safer, he is not only referring to the threat posed by terrorist groups, but also to nations that, in his words, are "bad neighbors and bad actors."
The president spoke as administration officials continued discussions with six Iraqi opposition leaders gathered in Washington. Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to address the group in a private video conference call from his home in the state of Wyoming.