- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

CRAWFORD, Texas President Bush yesterday stood resolute in his plans for a pre-emptive military strike against Saddam Hussein, saying the Iraqi dictator is a threat to world peace.
"There should be no doubt in anybody's mind this man is thumbing his nose at the world, that he has gassed his own people, that he is trouble in his neighborhood, that he desires weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Bush told reporters traveling with him as he continues a working vacation at his nearby ranch.
"I will use all the latest intelligence to make informed decisions about how best to keep the world at peace, how best to defend freedom for the long run," the president said.
Mr. Bush was asked by a reporter whether he was consulting with Congress, particularly Republicans, who are not solidly behind a plan to topple Saddam from power.
"We'll continue to consult," Mr. Bush said. "Listen, it's a healthy debate for people to express their opinion. People should be allowed to express their opinion. But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country, plus our friends and allies."
Some congressional Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, also have expressed reservations about a U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraq has told the United Nations it wants to continue a dialogue on the return of U.N. weapons inspectors, Iraq's U.N. ambassador said yesterday. Mr. Bush has threatened unspecified consequences if the inspectors are not allowed to return.
Mohammed Al-Douri said his country reiterated its invitation for technical experts from the U.N. inspection agency "to discuss practical arrangements for their work ahead in the future."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has sent a long reply to a letter from Secretary-General Kofi Annan telling the Iraqi government it must accept Security Council terms for the return of U.N. inspectors. His letter, which arrived Thursday night, was being translated from Arabic, said deputy spokeswoman Hua Jiang.
Also, Mr. Bush yesterday said Mexican President Vicente Fox informed him Tuesday of the decision to skip a U.S. visit because of the execution in Texas of confessed murderer Javier Suarez Medina. But the president stressed that the U.S.-Mexican relationship remained strong.
Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush yesterday hosted community volunteers of the Crawford area at a barbecue lunch, where the president was introduced by Mary Keltner, maintenance supervisor at the Crawford Independent School District.
"We love to come to Crawford. We view it as our home," the president told the volunteers.
"I get a lot of work done here in Crawford," Mr. Bush added. "It's a different perspective when I come here, out of Washington, D.C., to a place like Crawford, Texas. I'm reminded of the great values of our beloved Texas and the values of faith and family and friendship that you find in places like Crawford. So I never quit being the president. I just have got a different perspective about things."
Mr. Bush later attended a Republican National Committee fund-raiser.

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