WASHINGTON — President Bush, on a collision course with Congress over Iraq, said Friday “I’m the decision-maker” about sending more troops to the war. He challenged skeptical lawmakers not to prematurely condemn his buildup.
“I’ve picked the plan that I think is most likely to succeed,” Bush said in an Oval Office meeting with senior military advisers.
The president had strong words for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who are lining up to support resolutions opposing his decision to send 21,500 troops to Iraq. He challenged them to put up their own ideas.
“I know there is skepticism and pessimism and that some are condemning a plan before it’s even had a chance to work,” the president said. “They have an obligation and a serious responsibility therefore to put up their own plan as to what would work.”
Despite doubts in Congress and among the public about his strategy, Bush said lawmakers agree that failure in Iraq would be a disaster and that he chose a strategy that he and his advisers thought would help turn the tide in Iraq.
Meeting with Petraeus
The president met with Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, newly confirmed by the Senate to command U.S. troops in Iraq.
“My instruction to him was ‘Get over to the zone as quickly as possible, and implement a plan that will achieve our goals,”’ Bush said.
“You’re going into an important battle in the war on terror,” he told Petraeus.
During a photo opportunity, Bush was asked about stepped-up activities in Iraq against Iranian activities thought to be fueling the violence.
Bush defended the policy, but said it is no indication that the United States intends to expand the confrontation beyond Iraq’s borders.
“That’s a presumption that’s simply not accurate,” Bush said.
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But added: “Our policy is going to be to protect our troops. It makes sense.”
Bush also said he was confident that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved diplomatically.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, said Friday that Iran expects to start installing thousands of centrifuges in an underground facility next month. He said the installation would pave the way to large-scale uranium enrichment, a potential means of making nuclear weapons.
“I understand that they are going to announce that they are going to build up their 3,000-centrifuge facility ... sometime next month,” ElBaradei said.
Meanwhile, Bush also called Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to thank her for her support in the global war on terror. The president commended Arroyo for actions against the al-Qaida-linked group, Abu Sayyaf.
Philippine officials say DNA test results have confirmed that the leader of the group was killed in a clash with Philippine troops in September, officials said.
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