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Bush Promises Unrelenting Military Campaign

Bush Promises Unrelenting Military Campaign

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush, meeting with his war advisers, monitored developments in Iraq on Saturday and promised Americans an unrelenting military campaign regardless of the difficulties ahead.

"Whatever is required of us, we will carry out all the duties we have accepted," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Top Democrats in the House and Senate, earlier critical of the move toward war, offered praise and support for the troops in their party's weekly radio response.

"We are deeply grateful to them and their families for their courage and sacrifice," Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said, who gave the address with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "And we pray that they return home safely and soon."

Bush assembled his war Cabinet for 90 minutes in a conference room at the Camp David presidential retreat. Along with top White House aides -- chief of staff Andrew Card, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney -- others at the meeting were Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Secretary of State Colin Powell; CIA director George Tenet; Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and other top administration and military officials.

Bush spoke for 30 minutes with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has troops in the campaign to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and eliminate his weapons of mass destruction. Bush and Blair talked about the war, as well as humanitarian aid for the Iraqis, White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee said.

As allied forces rolled toward Baghdad and again hit the Iraqi capital with air raids, the White House continued its policy of withholding information on daily developments, referring all questions to the Pentagon or other agencies.

New polls, meanwhile, showed about two-thirds of Americans approve Bush's handling of Iraq.

While Bush was away for the weekend, receiving regular updates, going for runs in the woods and relaxing with first lady Laura Bush, antiwar protesters rallied again in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Police responded with extraordinary security, posting officers in riot gear at intervals along the fences surrounding the White House. A few uniformed Secret Service officers carrying batons were posted on the executive mansion's lawn.

The president's public schedule was open at least through Monday, although aides were preparing a request to be sent to Congress soon for emergency money to finance the war and Iraq's reconstruction.

Democratic congressional leaders promised all the resources U.S. troops need.

"We pledge to our forces and their families: You will have all the support you need to win this war and win the peace," said Pelosi, D-Calif., who voted against a war resolution Congress passed last fall.

She extolled the military personnel who are "focused on their mission, motivated by a profound love of country and prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice."

In his address, Bush also praised the 250,000 U.S. troops he has arrayed around the Persian Gulf and asked friends and neighbors to lend a hand to their families in the absence of the service personnel.

"A campaign on harsh terrain in a vast country could be longer and more difficult than some have predicted. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment," he said, repeating themes he used earlier in the week.

"Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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