President Bush says he remains committed to a regime change in Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein continues to pose a threat to the world. Mr. Bush spoke after a high-level national security meeting at his Texas ranch.
The president emerged from the meeting along with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and faced a waiting group of reporters. He told them the session centered on long-range military matters such as missile defense and the Pentagon budget. He said Iraq was not discussed.
"I know there is this kind of intense speculation that seems to be going on. I don't know how you would describe it. It is kind of a churning," the president said.
"Frenzy," added Secretary Rumsfeld.
"'Frenzy' is how the secretary would describe it. But the subject did not come up," Mr. Bush said.
All the same, the president stressed he continues to believe that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein must go.
"The American people know my position and that is that regime change is in the interest of the world," he noted.
When asked about doubters abroad, Secretary Rumsfeld referred to the large number of countries already working with the United States to combat terrorism.
"The President of the United States and the Secretary of State and our country have put together a coalition that stretches across the entire globe," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "that is addressing the problem of the global war on terrorism."
But a growing number of foreign leaders say they do not want to carry the war into Iraq. The Secretary of Defense said they have not indicated support because President Bush has not asked for it.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he has asked the commander of U.S. military operations in the region General Tommy Franks - to draft some contingency plans regarding Iraq. However, he stressed that is not unusual, and commanding officers are routinely asked to prepare for all contingencies.
"That's their job. To see that we have the ability to protect the American people and deal effectively on behalf of our friends and allies and our deployed forces," he said.
General Franks did not take part in the meeting at the president's ranch. But the nation's top military officer, General Richard Myers, was there, as was Vice President Dick Cheney and White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.