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Bush to Continue Consultations With Congress, Allies on Saddam Hussein

President Bush says his decision on how to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will be based on intelligence reports and how to best protect the United States.

Speaking to reporters near his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush says he is listening to the debate over possible military action against Iraq.

While Mr. Bush says it is healthy for people to express their opinion, his decision will be made after reviewing intelligence information and determining what is in the best interests of the United States.

"People should be allowed to express their opinion," he said. "Americans need to know I will be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies."

Mr. Bush says he will continue to consult members of the U.S. congress and world leaders before making any final decision on how to topple Saddam Hussein.

News reports say the Bush administration is actively reviewing plans for a war against Iraq.

However, key members of the president's Republican party, including former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, have recently expressed reservations about military action against Saddam Hussein.

President Bush says that while he is aware that "some very intelligent people are expressing their opinions" about Iraq, Saddam Hussein's policies continue to threaten countries in the Middle East.

"There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this man is thumbing his nose at the world, that he has gassed his own people, that he is trouble in his neighborhood, that he desires weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We use all the latest intelligence to make informed decisions about how best to keep the world at peace, how best to defend freedom for the long run."

Top israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, are urging Mr. Bush to take action soon against Iraq.

They argue that the longer a decision is delayed, the more likely Saddam Hussein will obtain weapons of mass destruction.