- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

ST. LOUIS, April 16 (UPI) — President George W. Bush on Wednesday called on the United Nations to lift economic sanctions against Iraq since Saddam Hussein's regime was no longer in power and the people there were on the path to forming a democratic government.

"Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country," Bush said.

Bush made his comments during a visit to the Boeing Co. factory in St. Louis, Mo., a plant that manufactured warplanes that flew during the Iraqi conflict. The sanctions against Iraq were imposed in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War when the United States ousted Saddam's invading military from Kuwait.

It was earlier this month that the United Nations authorized the resumption of the oil-for-food program that allowed Iraq to sell some of its oil reserves in exchange for food and medical supplies. In the early days of the conflict the United States pushed to seize a key port in southern Iraq to facilitate the flow of humanitarian relief.

"By swift and effective military action, we avoided the massive flow of refugees that many had expected. By delivering food and water and medicine to the Iraqi people, even as coalition units engaged the enemy, we have helped to avert a humanitarian crisis," Bush said.

Bush stopped in St. Louis on his way to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he will spend the Easter holiday with his family. While in St. Louis, Bush toured the floor of the Boeing facility that makes a portion of the F/A-18 Super Hornet jet.

During his speech Bush turned briefly to his economic growth plan that is under fire from congressional lawmakers. The president on Tuesday lowered his expectation that he would get approval from Congress for his 10-year, $726 billion tax cut, settling instead to seeking at least $550 billion in tax cuts from Capitol Hill.

Boeing last year laid off some 30,000 workers in its commercial aircraft division and announced plans to terminate 5,000 more in 2003. Democrats criticized the president's trip to the plant that they said was to lay off additional workers within the next few days.

Prior to leaving Washington, Bush in an Oval Office ceremony signed a $74.7 billion supplemental appropriations bill that pays for six months of war costs. It provides roughly $3 billion for the ailing airline industry, assistance that the Bush White House initially had opposed.

The war budget includes $63 billion for operational activities such as moving troops into the region, returning them home, and replenishing supplies and munitions.

An additional $8 billion would go toward international operations and aid to countries such as Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Colombia. Of that figure, $3.5 billion would pay for humanitarian relief, reconstruction and repairs to damaged oil fields. The request would also set aside $2 billion for homeland security.

The president said terrorists were learning that the United States and its allies would act in their own defense, protecting security rather than "drifting toward tragedy." He pointed to the capture of terrorist Abu Abbas, the mastermind behind the Palestine Liberation Front's commandeering the luxury cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985.

The Achille Lauro hijacking is remembered for the killing of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, 69, who was vacationing with his wife, Lisa. After separating the Jewish passengers and issuing a demand for the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners, the four PLF militants aboard the ship shot Klinghoffer and pushed him overboard.

Bush said the military's work in Iraq was not complete: "Our work is not done. The difficulties have not passed. But the regime of Saddam Hussein has passed into history."

He pointed to the atrocities that U.S. officials have cited as proof of the regime's brutality.

"Two weeks ago the Iraqi regime operated a gulag for dissidents and, incredibly enough, a prison for young children. Now the gates of that prison have been thrown wide open, and we are putting the dictator's political prisons and torture chambers out of business," Bush said.

The president said that civil order was being restored in communities, caches of weapons were being found and coalition forces along with civilians were forming patrols to enforce order.

"Just days after the fall of the dictator, just days after the people of Iraq realized they were free from the clutches of his terror, the Iraqi people are reclaiming their own streets, their own country and their own future," Bush said.

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