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President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to Meet - 2003-03-26


President George W. Bush rallies the troops at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Florida , ahead of a meeting about the Iraq war, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

President Bush said U.S. troops advancing on Baghdad are up against some of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s toughest fighters.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT
“Our military is making good progress against Iraq. Yet this war is far from over. As they approach Baghdad, our fighting units are facing the most desperate elements of a doomed regime. We cannot know the duration of this war, but we are prepared for the battle ahead.” President Bush also said the Iraqi leader’s days in power are drawing to a close.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT
“Day by day, Saddam Hussein is losing his grip on Iraq. Day by day the Iraqi people are closer to freedom.”

APPLAUSE

Not so says Iraq’s Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahaf. At a Baghdad news conference Wednesday he accused the U.S. and Britain of lying about what is going on in the strategic Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr.

He also called U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a “war criminal,” and said American and British forces are now defending themselves inside Iraq.”

MOHAMMED AL-SAHAF, IRAQ’S INFORMATION MINISTER
“They are fighting a self-defense war inside Iraq. Well, congratulations Mr. Villain, you are defending yourself inside our country. We will show you what defense means.”

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair left England – traveling to the U.S. for a meeting on the war -- with President Bush.

Earlier, Mr. Blair told British lawmakers President Bush wants the United Nations to be involved in both humanitarian relief and political administration in post-war Iraq.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER
“And I think he’s absolutely right in saying that it has got to be a government that is broadly representative and that takes account of the diversity of the country that respects human rights and moves Iraq on a path towards democracy.”

Mr. Blair also said both he and President Bush think any post-war Iraqi administration will need the broadest possible support, including a role for the UN.

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