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President Bush Prepares for State of the Union


President Bush is preparing to deliver the annual State of the Union Address in Washington. Mr. Bush is expected to discuss efforts to convince Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush will again warn Iran that the international community will not allow it to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes, including generating electricity. President Bush says he believes the country is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program.

A Thursday meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. While that could ultimately lead to economic sanctions, McClellan says the action will make clear to Iran what it must do to come into compliance with international nuclear obligations.

Mr. Bush is also expected to discuss the recent Palestinian elections and again warn the winning party, Hamas, that Washington will not deal with the new government politically or financially unless it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.

The State of the Union is traditionally the president's biggest stage from which to launch new initiatives. Mr. Bush has been unable to deliver on last year's big push to change the federal retirement program known as Social Security. McClellan says this year's speech will be more thematic and less a laundry list of new programs.

But there is expected to be renewed attention on alternative energy sources, including hydrogen fuel cells and corn- and waste-based ethanol to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil at a time of record high prices.

The address is also expected to focus on American competitiveness including new investments in job training and science and math instruction. Mr. Bush will call on Congress to renew anti-terrorism rules for law enforcement and allow small businesses to pool health care costs to earn the volume discounts available to larger firms.

President Bush goes into the State of the Union with a job approval rating of 43 percent, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll. That is up from an all-time low late last year. It has been 10 months since the president's approval ratings were above 50 percent.

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