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Bush Determined to Find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq - 2003-06-21


U.S. President George W. Bush says he is determined to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Bush says the military is targeting members of Iraq's former ruling party, who continue to ambush U.S. troops.

Ten weeks after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. troops are still searching for weapons of mass destruction.

The immediacy of the threat from those weapons was the biggest reason President Bush gave for invading Iraq in March. Now, he is facing criticism from some heads of state and Congressional Democrats, as those weapons have not yet been found.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush defended his action against Iraq, citing what he says was widespread evidence that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons.

"The intelligence services of many nations concluded that he had illegal weapons, and the regime refused to provide evidence they had been destroyed," he said. "We are determined to discover the true extent of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, no matter how long it takes."

Mr. Bush says part of the difficulty in finding those weapons is that the Iraqi leader had so long to hide them, and that documents and suspected weapons sites were looted and burned in the regime's last days.

Still, the president says, he is confident that evidence of those illegal weapons will be found, as U.S. military and intelligence officials interview Iraqi scientists and review what Mr. Bush says are hundreds of thousands of documents.

Congressional Democrats, including some of the party's presidential candidates, want a review of U.S. intelligence reports used to justify the war.

The failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction has become a major political issue for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. President Bush has largely avoided much of that controversy, as public opinion polls show most American voters are not concerned about the issue.

A bigger potential political liability for the president is the continuing deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq. Fifty four soldiers have died in the seven weeks since Mr. Bush declared major combat operations over, including nine killed this month in a series of rocket and sniper attacks.

The president says restoring security is "vitally important" for both Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops.

"The men and women of our military face a continuing risk of danger and sacrifice in Iraq," said President Bush. "Dangerous pockets of the old regime remain loyal to it, and they, along with their terrorist allies, are behind deadly attacks designed to kill and intimidate coalition forces and innocent Iraqis."

The president says the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is repairing water treatment plants and restoring electricity, while helping to vaccinate more than four million children under the age of five against polio, measles, and tuberculosis, following what Mr. Bush calls "years of neglect."

He says the coalition has recovered billions of dollars taken by the former government that will now be spent on reconstruction projects in a program that will also be funded by Iraqi oil sales.