Bush, Blair Cite Progress Against Terror
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2003 The United States and Britain are opposing the ideology of terrorism with a belief in freedom and liberty, President Bush said during a White House press conference today with his British counterpart.
The press conference came after British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed a joint session of Congress.
"The United States and Great Britain have conducted a steady offensive against terrorist networks and terror regimes," Bush said. "We are dismantling the al Qaeda network leader by leader, and we're hunting down the terrorist killers one by one. In Afghanistan, we removed a cruel and oppressive regime that had turned that country into a training camp for al Qaeda, and now we are helping the Afghan people to restore their nation and regain self- government.
"In Iraq, the United States, Britain and other nations confronted a violent regime that armed to threaten the peace, that cultivated ties to terror and defied the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council," he continued. "Saddam Hussein produced and possessed chemical and biological weapons and was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. He used chemical weapons in acts of murder against his own people."
Bush said Hussein's regime "was a grave and growing threat." Given the regime's history of violence against its own people and aggression against its neighbors, "it would have been reckless to place our trust in his sanity or his restraint," he said. "As long as I hold this office, I will never risk the lives of American citizens by assuming the good will of dangerous enemies."
The president said the United States and Great Britain acted together to eliminate the threat Hussein posed to the region. "We ended the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We rid the Middle East of an aggressive, destabilizing regime. We liberated nearly 25 million people from decades of oppression. And we are now helping the Iraqi people to build a free nation."
Speaking about regime holdouts continuing attacks on coalition forces, Bush said the coalition is being tested and the opponents are looking for signs of weakness. "They will find none," he said. "Instead, our forces in Iraq are finding these killers and bringing them to justice. And we will finish the task of helping Iraqis make the challenging transition to democracy."
Blair praised Bush's handling of international matters since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks . He said the president has done his duty "with tremendous conviction, determination and courage."
The events of Sept. 11 showed the world in a new light, Blair said. Terrorism and the nexus of terrorists and rogue nations pose an incredibly dangerous situation. "When you lead countries, as we both do, and you see the potential for this threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to come together, I really don't believe that any responsible leader could ignore the evidence that we see and the threat that we face," Blair said. "And that's why we've taken the action that we have, first in Afghanistan and now in Iraq."
The prime minister said that the most recent estimates of the number of people Hussein had put to death is around 300,000. "So, let us be clear," he said. "We have been dealing with a situation in which the threat was very clear and the person, Saddam Hussein, wielding that threat (was) someone of total brutality and ruthlessness, who had no compunction about killing his own people or those of another nation."
Blair stood by British intelligence that Iraq was trying to get uranium from the African nation of Niger. He said he believes the intelligence is genuine. "In case people should think that the whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention, in the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased around about 270 tons of uranium from Niger," he said. That uranium is stored in the Tawaitha area outside Baghdad, DoD officials have said.
Bush said he has no doubt that the coalition will find proof of Hussein's WMD programs. "I say that because he possessed chemical weapons and biological weapons," Bush said. "I strongly believe he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. And I will remind the skeptics that in 1991 it became clear that Saddam Hussein was much closer to developing a nuclear weapon than anybody ever imagined. He was a threat. I take responsibility for dealing with that threat."
After the press conference, Blair and Bush adjourned to continue meeting. The prime minister will be in the United States for a week.