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Bush to Announce End of Major Combat Operations in Iraq - 2003-04-30

The White House says President Bush will declare that major combat operations in Iraq are over. President Bush will make a nationwide address from an aircraft carrier Thursday, marking the end of most of the fighting.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says this will not be a victory speech, as "pockets of danger" still exist in Iraq, and U.S. troops will continue to return fire when they are attacked.

Mr. Fleischer says the president's declaration that major combat operations have ended will not be "a formal, legalistic ending of the conflict."

The wording of Thursday's speech appears designed to avoid declaring the war over, which, under the Geneva Convention, would compel the United States to release prisoners of war and stop targeting specific leaders.

Instead, Mr. Fleischer says President Bush will use the speech to "mark an important moment" with the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein removing a threat against the United States and freeing the Iraqi people.

"The president is giving the speech now because of the successful operations that have been carried out, the significant accomplishments in achieving the mission and because he wants to explain to the American people, having risked lives and treasure in pursuit of our goals in Iraq, what the present results are," he said.

The White House has asked U.S. television networks to carry the president's speech live from the deck of the aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is returning from more than nine months at sea, part of which was spent participating in the war in Iraq.

Because the ship is still so far off the coast of California, President Bush will fly to the aircraft carrier Thursday morning and visit with the crew before his speech. He will then spend the night on board and leave the carrier by helicopter before it arrives in the port of San Diego so as not to interfere with families' reunions.

The president will make a speech on the economy Friday in California before traveling to his Texas ranch for a meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.