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Bush Undeterred by Global Anti-War Protests - 2003-02-18


President Bush says he will not be deterred by global anti-war demonstrations or opposition among some allies to using force to disarm Iraq. Mr. Bush says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein must comply with U.N. disarmament demands and will be held to account.

The president says the protesters have the right to speak out. But he says they will not keep him from taking necessary action to disarm Iraq.

"Evidently, some in the world do not view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace," Mr. Bush said. "I respectfully disagree."

Mr. Bush says Saddam Hussein has defied international calls to rid his country of weapons of mass destruction. He says the Iraqi leader must be held to account.

"War is my last choice, but the risk of doing nothing is an even worse option, as far as I am concerned," he said.

He spoke as consultations continued on yet another U.N. resolution on Iraq. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says it could be put forward as soon as this week. He says the text is still under discussion, but predicts it will be "a relatively simple resolution."

Britain is leading the effort to draft the document with the United States, and Prime Minister Tony Blair remains a strong supporter of U.S. policy, despite mass protests in Britain.

When asked by reporters if he is worried about a possible political impact on the Blair government, President Bush said the prime minister is showing courage.

"Tony Blair understands that Saddam Hussein is a risk," he said. "Tony Blair sees that a weakened United Nations is not good for world peace."

There were also questions about U.S. ties with Turkey a U.S. ally that borders Iraq and could play a key role in the event he decides to use force against Baghdad.

President Bush expressed confidence an agreement will be reached on an aid package for Turkey, saying that country has no better friend than the American government. The president also welcomed NATO's decision to help this member nation prepare to defend itself should there be military action against Iraq.

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