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Bush: 'We are going to deal with' Saddam

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In some of his toughest comments against Iraq, President Bush Wednesday called Saddam Hussein a "problem" that will be dealt with in due time and that freedom-loving people should be concerned about his regime.

"He is a problem, and we are going to deal with him," Bush said in his first White House press conference of the year.

"All options are on the table, but one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction."

Asked if the United States would strike Iraq without the support of U.S. allies, Bush said, "I am deeply concerned about Iraq, and so should the American people be concerned about Iraq, and so should people who love freedom be concerned about Iraq."

In his State of the Union address, Bush labeled Iraq an "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea.

Bush said he has expressed his concerns about Iraq to "every world leader" who has visited him in Washington.

Highlights of President Bush's first formal press conference of 2002 (March 13)

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He said Vice President Dick Cheney, now on a tour visiting Britain, Israel, Turkey and nine Arab states, is reminding leaders in those countries about the danger Iraq poses and "that we need to work in concert to confront this danger."

"This is a nation run by a man who is willing to kill his own people by using chemical weapons, a man who won't let inspectors into the country, a man who obviously has something to hide," Bush said.

He emphasized the United States is consulting with its allies before deciding what to do: "The first stage is to consult with our allies and friends, and that's exactly what we're doing."

In Egypt, Cheney met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who said he is optimistic Hussein would allow United Nations weapons inspectors back into Iraq. He said Egypt plans to meet with Iraqi special envoys in coming days and will them the resumption of inspections "is a must."

And if inspectors aren't allowed back in?

"After that, if there is nothing happening, we'll find out what could be done," the Egyptian president said.

Mubarak, who met with Bush last week in Washington, said all diplomatic avenues need to be exhausted before taking such an action, but he did not completely slam the door on U.S. military action.

"Egypt believes that every possible effort should be exerted to implement the relevant U.N. Security Council resolution without inflicting more suffering on the Iraqi people," he said.

Cheney and other top U.S. officials are skeptical Iraq would agree to meaningful inspections. In a visit with U.S. peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula, Cheney said confronting unfriendly nations with weapons of mass destruction would be the next objective in the war on terrorism.

"The United States will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide," he said.

Cheney's trip to Egypt came a day after his visit to Jordan, where King Abdullah said a U.S. military confrontation with Iraq would be a "catastrophe."

U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq near the end of 1998 ahead of joint U.S. and British airstrikes. They have not been allowed into the country since.




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