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Bush Summons Top Advisors to Camp David for  Weekend - 2003-03-21


President Bush is spending the weekend in seclusion at his Camp David retreat where he meets later Saturday with members of his cabinet.

The president's top military and national security advisors have been summoned to the mountaintop retreat.

Those heading to Camp David include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Central Intelligence Director George Tenet and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Before leaving the White House Friday, Mr. Bush briefed congressional leaders on the war effort. He said Operation Iraqi Freedom is proceeding well.

"We are making progress. We will stay on task until we have achieved our objective which is to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and free the Iraqi people so they can live in a society that is hopeful and democratic and at peace in its neighborhood," Mr. Bush said.

So far during this conflict, President Bush has in many ways followed the path set by his father during the first Gulf War more than a decade ago. Former President Bush also spent the first weekend after the start of hostilities at Camp David.

It is a quiet remote location, nestled in the mountains of northern Maryland on the edge of a national forest. But presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer says it is really an adjunct of the White House.

"Camp David, as you can imagine, has every modern communication. It is a Marine facility and has everything that anybody needs," Mr. Fleischer said.

During a brief session with reporters, Mr. Fleischer was questioned about the final analysis of a videotape of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broadcast just hours after the first missile attack on Thursday.

"The tape has been analyzed by the Central Intelligence Agency. And their analysis has led them to believe that the tape is indeed the voice of Saddam Hussein, but no conclusions have been reached about whether it was canned (recorded) ahead of time or not," Mr. Fleischer said.

Mr. Fleischer was also asked about comments made earlier in the day by French President Jacques Chirac. Mr. Chirac said he would oppose any U.N. resolution authorizing the administration of a post-war Iraq by the United States and Britain.

"The president does believe the United Nations has a role in the future of Iraq and reconstruction of Iraq. And I would hope that nobody would stand in the way of the humanitarian reconstruction of Iraq," Mr. Fleischer said.

The White House spokesman said the number of countries supporting the U.S.-led military operation continues to grow. He said 45 countries are now members of the coalition.

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