President Bush says he is saddened by the loss of 17 American lives in the crash of two helicopters in Iraq. Mr. Bush is also speaking out about a new audiotape that could contain the voice of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
President Bush says he is praying for the crash victims and their families. "[It's] sad," he said. "It's a sad day when we lose life."
The president says no one knows the exact cause of Saturday's crash. But he says it does not matter if it was an accident or a shoot-down, that all loss of life is tragic.
Speaking to reporters as he returned to the White House from Camp David, the presidential mountain retreat, Mr. Bush talked about the sacrifices coalition forces have made in Iraq. He was asked if there is pressure to pull them out when Iraqis resume political control of their country in mid-2004.
"The political process will move on," he said. "And we'll just adjust our troop level according to the security situation in Iraq."
Mr. Bush acknowledged it has been a tough week in Iraq, with casualties to American troops and also to Italian forces serving in the south. But he hailed the agreement on an accelerated timetable for Iraqi self-government as a sign of progress, and vowed the United States will deal with terrorists in that country.
Shortly before he spoke, an Arabic-language television station broadcast a tape purportedly made by ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in which he calls for a stepped up resistance against U.S. forces.
Mr. Bush said he could not speak about the specifics of the tape. But he said once again that such threats will not prompt the U.S. to pull out of Iraq.
"I suspect it is the same old stuff. It's propaganda," the president said. "We're not leaving until the job is done, pure and simple."
The situation in Iraq is sure to be the number one topic on the agenda when Mr. Bush meets this week in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Anti-war protesters have vowed to take to the streets during his state visit.