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Bush vows bright future for Iraqis

Calls on U.N. to lift sanctions

President Bush addresses workers at a Boeing plant in St. Louis, Missouri.
President Bush addresses workers at a Boeing plant in St. Louis, Missouri.

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ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Iraqi citizens will have a future that's "better than anything they have known for generations," President Bush vowed Wednesday, after touring a factory that built fighter jets used in the war that toppled the regime of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

"The Iraqi people are reclaiming their own streets, their own country and their own future," Bush said.

The president declared the military operation in Iraq -- which started just a month ago -- a success, but he also said it was not over. And he called on the United Nations to lift tough economic sanctions against Iraq, to allow the country to rebuild itself.

"Our work is not done, the difficulties have not passed, but the regime of Saddam Hussein has passed into history," Bush told the workers at the Boeing Co. plant here, declaring that organized military resistance in Iraq has "virtually ended."

Bush spoke on the same day that a top Pentagon official estimated that the war in Iraq had cost the United States $20 billion and that number was growing by about $2 billion a month.(Full story)

Before leaving for St. Louis, Bush signed a $79 billion appropriations bill to cover the initial cost of the war in Iraq, reconstruction and humanitarian efforts, and foreign aid to some of Iraq's neighbors.

The president made it clear that the transition in Iraq from a dictatorship to a free society would not come easy or quickly, and he said the U.N. sanctions -- put in place after the 1991 Gulf War -- should be lifted.

"With all the hardships of this transition, the lives of the Iraqi people will be better than anything they have known for generations," Bush said.

Tax cuts

While the president focused the bulk of his speech on the success of the military operation in Iraq and the unfolding reconstruction efforts, he also made another pitch for his package of tax cuts.

The package, scaled back from the president's original proposal of $726 billion in cuts over 10 years, stands at $550 billion in the House and $350 billion in the Senate.

Bush is pushing for the House figure of $550 billion or more, saying the cuts are needed to boost investment and job creation.

"In order for all Americans who are looking for work to find work, the Congress must pass this jobs package as soon as they come back from their recess," he said.

But Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri -- who is running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination -- said the president's visit to St. Louis fell short.

"All that President Bush has to offer those workers and other Americans struggling in this bad economy is more unaffordable, unsustainable and patently unfair tax cuts," Gephardt said in a statement.

In his speech, Bush paid tribute to the Boeing workers, saying their expertise had played a critical role in the success of the war in Iraq.

"The successes of our military begin right here on the factory floors," Bush told workers at the Boeing aircraft plant that produces the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter-jets for the Navy.

After the speech, Bush departed for Crawford, Texas, where he is to spend a long Easter weekend with his family.

--Written by CNN.Com Producer Sean Loughlin in Washington

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