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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush, updating congressional leaders on the war, said Friday the United States is "making progress" in its mission to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime and liberate Iraq.
"We will stay on task until we've achieved our objective, which is rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and free the Iraqi people so they can live in a society that is hopeful, democratic and at peace with its neighbors," Bush said as Democratic and Republican leaders gathered in the Oval Office.
Vice President Dick Cheney, the ceremonial head of the Senate, sat at the president's side while Bush thanked Congress for passing a resolution supporting U.S. troops. He called it a "message of unity," not mentioning that Democrats were angered by the measure because some felt pressured to back Bush's decision to go to war.
For the second straight day, Bush summoned reporters and photographers into a White House meeting but did not field questions. He did not offer details about Saddam's whereabouts or the status of the Iraqi regime, but said, "We are making progress."
Before the meeting, Bush was informed that a U.S. Marine had been killed in Iraq, the first reported American combat death of the war to disarm Saddam Hussein.
A senior administration official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the president expressed regret for the death and called it a reminder to Americans that war comes with great sacrifice.
Bush began his work day at the Oval Office, arriving as usual at 7 a.m. EST. He talked by telephone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and met with chief of staff Andrew Card.
Besides the war, at least one domestic issue was on the agenda for his meeting with legislative leaders. Bush wanted to talk about the federal budget one day after the House passed a $2.2 trillion measure that endorses his plan to cut taxes by $726 billion over the coming decade.
Bush hoped for another victory Friday in the Republican-led Senate, where Democrats and moderate GOP lawmakers were trying to cut the package in half. Democrats say the tax-cut plan is too expensive in a time of war and spiraling deficits.
Bush planned to spend the first weekend of the war at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland, the administration official said.
Much of his war Cabinet will travel with him. The Marine-run facility is equipped with advanced communications allowing Bush to keep tabs on the war.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)