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Bush Says Saddam Tape Won't Deter Finishing Job in Iraq

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2003 – Saddam Hussein's "same old stuff" and "propaganda" won't keep the United States from completing its mission in Iraq, President Bush said here Nov. 16.

Speaking with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, the president said he didn't yet have all the details of an audiotape broadcast on the Arabic-language news network Al Arabiya. On the tape, purportedly from Saddam, the speaker urges Iraqis to resist and fight the coalition until it leaves the country.

"I haven't seen the specifics," the president said. "I suspect it's the same old stuff. You know, it's propaganda. We're not leaving until the job is done, pure and simple."

Bush said he's sure Saddam would like to see the United States leave. "And I know that elements of the Baathist party -- those who used to torture, maim and kill in order to stay in power -- would like to see us leave," he added. "(But) we will do our job."

The president said that while it had been a "tough week" in Iraq, progress was made toward a sovereign and free Iraq, with a timetable laid out for the transfer of sovereignty in June.

"We're pleased with that timetable; we think it makes sense," Bush said, adding, "We're going to stay tough and deal with the terrorists." He said that while the political progress toward Iraqi sovereignty will move forward, the security situation in Iraq will dictate U.S. troop strength in the country.

Commenting on the crash of two Army Black Hawk helicopters that claimed 17 soldiers' lives and injured five others Nov. 15, the president said, "It's a sad day when we lose life," whether in a helicopter crash or by improvised explosive devices. Bush told reporters he had spent part of the day praying for U.S. and coalition service members and their families.

"The sacrifice that our folks are making in Iraq will serve our nation's interests in the short term and long term," the president said. "It's best to defeat the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to defeat them here.

"As well," he continued, "a free and stable Iraq, in the heart of a part of the world where there is frustration and anger, where the recruiters of hatred are able to find terrorists, will be a transforming event. And I appreciate the families who are making the sacrifices, along with our troops."

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