Bush to push Iraq, Middle East policies in State of the Union speech (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) WASHINGTON 02/02/05 2:13 PM ET)
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WASHINGTON (AFP) - President George W. Bush was to use his State of
the Union speech to champion his Iraq policy and push controversial
domestic initiatives, while vowing to make progress on Middle East
Looking to his place in history, Bush was to spend roughly 40 minutes
starting at 9:00 pm (0200 GMT) laying out his second-term priorities
to a joint session of the US Congress and a television audience of
The annual address came two weeks after Bush vowed at his
inauguration to spread democracy across the Islamic world and days
after Iraqis voted in the first competitive elections there in half a
Bush will recommit himself to the Middle East peace process, taking
aim at critics who say he has kept those efforts at arm´s length,
noting the recent Palestinian elections and hailing other steps
towards ending violence there.
A summit planned for next week in Egypt between Palestinian leader
Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is "an
encouraging step," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said
Bush is also sending newly minted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
to the region.
On Iraq, the US leader was to urge even critics of the war to help
Iraqis build democratic institutions, while rejecting calls to set a
specific timetable for pulling the roughly 150,000 US troops out of
Iraq, aides said.
"We´re not talking about an exit strategy. We´re talking about a
strategy for success in Iraq," senior Bush adviser Dan Bartlett told
"That means to help the Iraqi people, help this new elected
government take control of their own destiny, take control of
security forces, build up not only the quantity of the security
forces, but also the quality of the security forces," he said.
Bush was expected to reiterate that he believes that a democracy in
Iraq will set an example for reformers across the Middle East and
strike a blow at terrorists like those who carried out the September
11, 2001 attacks.
In a bid to defuse concerns of possible US military action against
Iran or North Korea, both locked in nuclear disputes with the United
States, Bush was to make clear he seeks a peaceful solution through
During this 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush had branded those
regimes part of an "axis of evil" with Saddam Hussein´s Iraq, and
Washington has toughened its rhetoric against both in recent weeks.
McClellan called North Korea´s nuclear program and "past and
continuing" sales of weapons technology "a threat to global peace,"
adding: "We would urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks
The US leader was also to renew his pledge to provide 15 billion
dollars over five years to battle the spread of HIV (news - web
Bush was also to make his most aggressive push yet on his top
domestic policy goals, chief among them partially privatizing the
huge Social Security pension system and keeping a tight lid on
He was to make a call for fiscal restraint ahead of unveiling his
2006 budget on Monday, when he is expected to propose a virtual
freeze on discretionary spending, excluding defense and homeland
It was unclear how much detail Bush would offer on any of his plans:
Officials have said he will be more specific on issues such as Social
Security, but not offer any concrete legislative proposals.
On Iraq, Bush has spoken to no fewer than 14 world leaders to hail
the elections there and seek to erase trans-Atlantic divisions over
the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam as well as forge a consensus
on helping Iraqis build a new government.
Bush was due to take that message later this month to Europe, where
he will meet with EU and NATO leaders as well as three staunch
critics of the war: French President Jacques Chirac, German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The outreach comes as the mounting human and financial cost of the
Iraq war and the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction at
the core of the case for war has fueled rising US discontent about
the invasion. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/02/05)
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