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Bush: 'Saddam Hussein is a Menace'

During a nationally broadcast news conference, President Bush said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a menace, and the United States will not let him threaten the world by developing weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush also talked about the Middle East peace process, U.S. nuclear policy, and the war on terrorism.

The president said he is deeply concerned about Iraq. "This is a nation run by a man who is willing to kill his own people by using chemical weapons, a man who won't let [international weapons] inspectors into the country, a man who has obviously got something to hide," he said. And he is a problem and we are going to deal with him."

Mr. Bush was asked if he is willing to take unilateral action against Iraq. He said all options are on the table, but stressed he is consulting with other nations.

He made specific mention of Vice-President Dick Cheney's current trip to the Middle East. "What the Vice-President is doing," he said, "is reminding people about this danger and that we need to work in concert to confront this danger."

The vice-president is also talking to regional leaders about the escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence. President Bush said it is important for all parties to create the right conditions for peace.

He said both the Palestinians and the Israelis must show restraint. And he leveled some of his sharpest criticism to date at the Sharon government, which is waging its biggest operation in years against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. "I understand someone trying to defend themselves and to fight terror, but the recent actions are not helpful," he continued.

President Bush was also asked about the war in Afghanistan. He said he will never tire of the fight against terrorism, and added he is not worried that the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden remain a mystery. Mr. Bush said, "He is a person who has now been marginalized. His host government has been destroyed. He is the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match."

This was the president's first news conference at the White House in about five months, and Mr. Bush fielded questions on more than a dozen topics. The first to come up dealt with U.S. nuclear policy.

The president said although he wants to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal, he believes strongly in the need for a nuclear deterrent. He said the Pentagon is involved in an ongoing review of nuclear policy. And he said the United States will have to adapt to deter the new threats of the 21st century — including those posed by nations that seek weapons of mass destruction. "I view our nuclear arsenal as a deterrent," he said, "as a way to say to people who would harm America, 'Don't do it.'"

President Bush went on to stress that the United States and Russia are now planning deep cuts in nuclear warheads. He predicted a new security agreement would be ready for signing during his visit to Moscow in late May.