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Bush: Still Time for NATO to Aid Turkey

President Bush says the decision by France, Germany and Belgium to block NATO protection for Turkey in the event of war with Iraq harms the alliance. The president says there is still time for NATO to come to Turkey's aid.

The Bush administration is making an all-out effort to win support for its hard line on Iraq. But on Monday, there was nothing but frustration for the White House.

France, Germany and Russia called for more time for weapons inspectors and less talk of war. Hours earlier, the French, Germans and Belgians blocked a bid by NATO to provided extra help for Turkey the only member of the alliance that borders Iraq.

The president told reporters he was not upset by the setbacks. When asked it he was concerned about the strong stand taken by the French, Mr. Bush focused on its impact on NATO. "I am disappointed that France would block NATO from helping a country like Turkey prepare," he said. "I don't understand that decision. It affects the alliance in a negative way." President Bush spoke during a break in a meeting with a key ally Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Mr. Bush noted there is still time for the alliance to reconsider the matter and come to the aid of Turkey. "I think the decision of NATO is shortsighted in my judgment and hopefully they will reconsider."

The president also talked about the announcement that Baghdad will permit American surveillance planes to fly over Iraq a long-standing demand of U.N. weapons inspectors. He said he is skeptical of any last minute concessions made by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "This is a man who is trying to stall for time. He is trying to play a diplomatic game. He has been successful at it for 12 years." Mr. Bush said the real issue is: will Saddam Hussein disarm and give up his weapons of mass destruction? Earlier in the day, during a speech to religious broadcasters, he accused the Iraqi leader of positioning troops in civilian areas. The president said if there is a war, Baghdad plans to blame civilian casualties on coalition forces. "Saddam Hussein regards the Iraqi people as human shields, entirely expendable when their suffering serves his purposes." said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush told his audience in Nashville, Tennessee that Saddam Hussein is the true enemy of the Iraqi people. Once again, he promised that if war becomes necessary, the United States will help rebuild the country. In his words: we will provide food, medicine and freedom.