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Bush: Saddam Hussein Posed Risk World 'Could Not Afford to Take'

U.S. President George Bush says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein posed a risk the international community "could not afford to take" following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In prepared remarks to be delivered later Friday, Mr. Bush says even though Saddam was not involved in the 2001 attacks, the U.S. had to decide whether it could tolerate a "sworn enemy" that supported terrorism and was believed by intelligence agencies around the world to have weapons of mass destruction.

He is to tell the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy that after the September 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, it was clear to him and other world leaders that the threat of Iraq was too great a risk to take.

Iraq went from enemy to friend of US

He says the war in Iraq has been "longer and more costly than expected," but that the country has gone from an enemy of the U.S. to a friend. He says the decision to remove Saddam Hussein following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion cannot be viewed in isolation from the September 11 attacks.

Mr. Bush says there are still "serious challenges" facing the Middle East. He says Iran and Syria continue to sponsor terror, and Iran's uranium enrichment remains what he calls a "major threat to peace."

Iranian nuclear threat is worrisome

He says the United States, for the safety of its people and the peace of the world, will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Bush, who leaves office next month, says the U.S. approach to the Middle East during his eight years in office has been ambitious in vision, bold in action and firm in purpose.

He says he was the first U.S. president to call for a Palestinian state and that building support for a two-state solution has been one of the highest priorities of his presidency.