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Saddam Hussein Positioning Troops in Civilian Areas, says Bush - 2003-02-10

President Bush says Saddam Hussein is positioning troops in civilian areas of Iraq. Mr. Bush says, if there is war, the Iraqi leader would blame civilian casualties on coalition forces.

President Bush says Saddam Hussein is already putting troops in civilian areas. He says the plan is to blame a U.S.-led coalition for any casualties that might occur in the event of war.

"Saddam Hussein is positioning his military forces within civilian populations in order to shield his military, and blame coalition forces for civilian casualties that he has caused," he said.

In a speech to a group of religious broadcasters, the president seemed to be sending a message to the Iraqi people. Mr. Bush said their real enemy is their own government, and not America.

"Saddam Hussein regards the Iraqi people as human shields, entirely expendable when their suffering serves his purposes," the president said.

The president vowed that if war does become necessary, U.S. forces will do everything possible to "spare innocent life." He also promised once again that, if the United States does disarm Iraq by force, it will help rebuild the country. He said he is committed to a better future for the nation and its citizens. "If conflict occurs, we will bring Iraq food and medicine and supplies and, most importantly, freedom," he said.

Although most of his remarks dealt with the way government can work with religious institutions to help the poor and needy, his comments on Iraq were closely watched.

Mr. Bush made no direct mention of the dispute within NATO over helping alliance member Turkey should there be an effort to disarm Iraq by force. He also did not refer to tensions with France, Russia, and Germany, which want more weapons inspections and less talk of war. Instead, he focused on the nature of the Iraqi threat, calling it "unacceptable."

"My attitude is that we owe it to future generations of Americans and citizens in freedom loving countries to see to it that Mr. Saddam Hussein is disarmed," he said.

Earlier, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan reminded reporters traveling with the president that a period of intense diplomatic discussions is going on. He noted that before his departure for Nashville, the president talked with Prime Minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Mr. Bush also has a dinner meeting planned after his return with a key ally, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia.