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Bush Touts Blair Support for Action Against Iraq, Downplays Gore's Comments - 2002-09-24

President Bush says British Prime Minister Tony Blair is showing strong leadership with his stand on Iraq. At the same time, Mr. Bush is discounting a warning from former Vice President Al Gore, who contends an attack on Iraq could damage the war on terrorism.

Prime Minister Blair took his case against Iraq to the British parliament, delivering a tough speech and releasing a dossier detailing Iraq's alleged efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush praised his leadership, saying Tony Blair spoke the truth. "He continues to make the case, like we make the case, that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace, that for 11 years he has deceived the world, for eleven years he has ignored the United Nations, and for 11 years he has stockpiled weapons," Mr. Bush said.

The president spoke to reporters at the end of a meeting with his cabinet, a session that included a discussion of Iraq. He was asked if he felt the report released by Britain was short on specifics.

"The reason why it wasn't specific? I understand why. Because he is not going to reveal sources and methods of collection of sensitive information. Those sources and methods will be used later on, I am confident, to gather more information about how this man has deceived the world," Mr. Bush answered.

Once again, the president called on the U.N. to pass a strong resolution demanding compliance with promises Iraq made at the end of the Gulf War to disarm and destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

The White House is also working with the U.S. Congress on legislative language authorizing the use of force, if necessary, against Iraq. Overall, there is bipartisan support for such a measure.

But there has been criticism of the administration's Iraq policy from some Democrats most notably the president's opponent in the 2000 race for the White House, Former Vice President Al Gore.

In a speech Monday, Mr. Gore challenged the president on Iraq, warning military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could destroy support for the war on terrorism. Mr. Bush downplayed the criticism.

"There are a lot of democrats in Washington D.C. who understand that Saddam Hussein is a true threat and we must hold him to account. And I believe you will see as we work to get a strong resolution out of the congress, that a lot of democrats are willing to take the lead when it comes to keeping the peace," Mr. Bush said.

A stronger response to Mr. Gore's comments came from White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer. He attributed the remarks to political maneuvering within the Democratic Party by politicians interested in the 2004 presidential race.