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Bush, Powell Meet With Italian, Canadian Allies; Discuss Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2003 – President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell each met with high-level officials from countries that support America's efforts in the war on terrorism.

Bush had a lunchtime meeting at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, while Powell met with Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham earlier at the State Department.

In a brief press conference before lunch, Bush thanked Berlusconi for the letter of support he and seven other European leaders submitted to the Wall Street Journal and several European newspapers. The president called the letter a "statement of solidarity" between Europe and the United States."

"I am most grateful that the prime minister signed a letter, along with other leaders of European countries, which clarified the issue that we're dealing with, and that is that Saddam Hussein is a clear threat to peace," Bush said. "It was a strong statement."

The president reiterated earlier comments by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that the time left for Iraq to disarm "is a matter of weeks, not months." He once again suggested a peaceful solution could come of the situation if Hussein would leave Iraq, "along with a lot of other henchmen who have tortured the ... Iraqi people."

Berlusconi's comments were full of unabashed support for the United States. He said the Italian people will never forget that they owe their freedom and wealth to the United States.

"So for us, the United States is not only our friend, but they are the guarantee of our democracy and our freedom," the Italian prime minister said. "Every time I see the U.S. flag, I don't see the flag only as a representative of a country, but I see it as a symbol of democracy and of freedom."

He also supported the United States' position on disarming Iraq. "If we are all united -- European Union, the United States, the Federation of Russia (and) all the other states under the United Nations -- then Saddam Hussein will understand that he will have no other option but to reveal the arms and destroy them," Berlusconi said.

Speaking outside the State Department after meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Powell said he gave Graham "a foretaste" of what he intends to tell the Security Council Feb. 5 regarding Iraqi deceptions.

Graham praised the United States for bringing evidence before the United Nations and encouraged Powell to continue working through that world body. He said his prime minister "has made it clear that if there's a United Nations authorization, ... we would be there."

Graham stopped short of offering full support should the United States choose to take action without the Security Council's express approval. "I think Canada is committed to the disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and we all hope it can be done with the full support of the international community," he said. "We'll stay in close touch in the weeks ahead to make sure that we have a complete understanding of each other's views."

Both Italy and Canada have been strong supporters of the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Canada has deployed more than 4,000 service members to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as well as helicopters and sea-based assets. Italy has provided a carrier battle group, two aircraft and an engineering unit, among other assets.

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