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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seeking to maximize support for the war in Iraq, President Bush on Saturday issued a staunchly upbeat picture of the military campaign's progress and intensified his criticism of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The president said in his weekly radio address that the end result of the war is not in doubt, countering questions about unexpectedly intense Iraqi resistance and the pace of the coalition troops' advance.
"The fighting is fierce and we do not know its duration, yet we know the outcome of this battle," said Bush, spending the second weekend of the invasion, like the first, at Camp David. "The Iraqi regime will be disarmed and removed from power."
Bush spoke as U.S. and British troops readied to move on Republican Guard divisions outside Baghdad while continuing to rain bombs on the troops arrayed along the southern edge of the city -- as well some in the city itself -- and to engage in skirmishes in the southern part of the country, particularly along the long supply line from Kuwait.
Even as he put Americans on notice that further sacrifice must be expected -- with U.S.-led troops "now fighting the most desperate units" of the Iraqi army -- a suicide bomber disguised as a taxi driver at a checkpoint killed four U.S. soldiers.
At the wooded Maryland presidential retreat, Bush received an in-person intelligence briefing from Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, followed by an hourlong meeting of his full war council.
Tenet, along with chief of staff Andrew Card and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, gathered around the conference table with Bush while the rest of the council -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell and their top deputies, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers -- were linked via secure video conference.
The president then took to the gym at the compound for some exercise.
The White House also said the long-term U.S. financial commitment to Iraq -- unlike Afghanistan -- would be minimal, citing anew the expectation by U.S. officials that revenue from Iraqi oil fields would pay much of the cost of postwar reconstruction and saying the military campaign is designed to protect infrastructure so it won't have to be rebuilt later. An analysis by the White House's Office of Management and Budget also contrasted the economic conditions in Iraq to those in much-poorer and infrastructure-needy Afghanistan.
"Iraq will not require sustained aid," the analysis said. "Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq is a country rich with an educated populace, abundant and valuable natural resources like oil and natural gas, and a modern infrastructure system."
Critics have said that the administration's estimates of the cost to American taxpayers is overly optimistic. The administration included just $3.6 billion for reconstruction in the $74.7 billion war supplemental budget request that Bush sent to Congress earlier in the week.
Bush's radio address was an almost word-for-word reiteration of his Friday remarks at the White House before veterans groups.
Bush did not mention the still-unfound weapons of mass destruction that were his main reason for going to war against Saddam. Instead, he focused on the "cruel nature of a dying regime," saying Saddam's government is murdering Iraqis who refuse to fight, executing prisoners of war, even hanging an Iraqi woman for waving at coalition troops.
"Every atrocity has confirmed the justice and urgency of our cause," Bush said.
He also issued a warning of war-crimes prosecutions to come: "War criminals will be hunted relentlessly and judged severely."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)