President Bush says he will deal with the threat posed by countries that seek weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush stresses he will be patient, and deliberate, and consult with others before taking action.
President Bush did not mention Iraq by name during an address to a rally in the southern state of Mississippi. But his meaning was clear.
"There are countries which harbor and develop weapons of mass destruction. Countries run by people who poison their own people," he said. "Countries whose leadership has got a terrible record when it comes to valuing life, particularly inside their own country. And these are real threats. And we owe it to our children to deal with these threats."
Mr. Bush indicated he has no intention of rushing into action. But he left no doubt he believes that ultimately, something must be done.
"I will promise you that I will be patient and deliberate, that we will continue to consult with Congress and of course we will consult with our friends and allies," he said. "We will discuss these threats in real terms. And I will explore all options and tools at my disposal, diplomacy, international pressure, perhaps the military."
The president's remarks came at a time of heightened speculation regarding Iraq. Mr. Bush has met in recent days with his national security team, and there are numerous reports that he has been presented with a number of scenarios for military action.
While Mr. Bush was in Mississippi, Vice President Dick Cheney, a strong voice within the administration on foreign policy matters, told an audience in California that no decisions have been made.
"Well, let me emphasize that the president has not made a decision at this point to go to war," he said. "We are looking at all of our options. It would be irresponsible for us not to do that."
Mr. Cheney told the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that getting weapons inspectors into Iraq might not be enough to ease concerns about Saddam Hussein's drive to develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction.
"Many of us, I think are skeptical that simply returning the inspectors will solve the problem," he said. "A great deal depends upon what conditions they would operate under. Would they be able to go anywhere at any time without notice on extensive searches? You have got to remember he has had about four years now to hide everything he has been doing and gotten to be very good at that."
All this talk of possible military action has apparently had an impact on the Iraqi government. Saddam Hussein has announced plans to deliver a major speech on Thursday. And Iraq's parliament has renewed its invitation to the U.S. Congress to send a fact-finding team to Baghdad.