President to give Iraq address Sunday night

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wanting to command a rising and contentious debate, President Bush will address the nation Sunday on the war on terrorism and efforts to stabilize Iraq.

Bush will deliver a speech from the White House at 8:30 p.m. EDT, officials said. His address, lasting about 15 minutes, will cap a media blitz the administration is launching Sunday with appearances on television talk shows by Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"During August, the president spent a considerable amount of time talking to his national security team and military leaders about our ongoing efforts on the war on terrorism and making assessments about our needs," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Friday. "The president has been assessing our needs and looking at what's needed going forward."

White House officials said they had requested time from the major broadcast networks for the speech and were awaiting responses.

The last time Bush addressed the nation from the White House was on March 19 when military operations began in Iraq. His last national speech was May 1, when he landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Since then, the postwar U.S. death toll has climbed past the number killed in major combat.

Despite increasing criticism from lawmakers, anti-war protesters and Democratic presidential candidates, Bush has not spelled out how much rebuilding Iraq will cost, how long U.S. troops will be stationed there or what happened to the weapons of mass destruction the administration said Saddam Hussein had.

The address will come three days after Democratic candidates for president, at a debate in Albuquerque, N.M., said Bush has unnecessarily put U.S. troops in danger and split the country from its allies.

As of Friday, 287 Americans had died in Iraq, 149 since Bush declared the end to major combat operations.

The president is not expected to announce any troop redeployment, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The administration, in a change of course, has reached out to the United Nations to encourage other nations to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq. France and Germany have balked, saying the United States is not offering to give the world body a big enough role in Iraq's security and reconstruction.

"Certainly (Bush) will talk about how Iraq is something that the world has a stake in," spokesman McClellan said. "The world has a stake in Iraq because it is central to winning the war on terrorism.

"I expect he will talk about international participation as well as the role that Iraqis are assuming as they take more responsibility for their future."

McClellan would not say whether Bush would answer calls from lawmakers and Democratic presidential candidates to specify the likely costs ahead in dollars and lives.

The administration is considering asking Congress -- as early as next week -- for $60 billion to $70 billion to pay for U.S. military operations in Iraq and reconstruction. The postwar operation is costing the United States about $3.9 billion a month.

At a Bush fund-raiser in Indianapolis on Friday night, Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the president will give "an extraordinarily important speech to the nation on Sunday night about Iraq, sketching out the dimensions of our possibilities and our leadership. It will be an extraordinary event and he is ready to do it."

In brief remarks at the fund-raiser, Bush didn't mention his upcoming address, only vowed to continue the war on terrorism.

"This country will not rest. We will not tire. We will not stop until this danger to civilization is removed," he said.

Earlier Friday, Bush said continuing military operations in Iraq and in the broader war on terrorism were aggravating the federal budget deficit, which is approaching a record $500 billion.

But, he said, "This nation will spend what it takes to win the war on terror and to protect the American people."

"My attitude is, anytime we put our troops in harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment," he said.

A Washington Post poll out Saturday said 69 percent of Americans believe it likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by the al-Qaida. The belief in the connection persists even though there has been no proof of a link between the two.


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