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Bush says allied forces are 'steadily advancing'

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2003

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Saturday that coalition forces "serve a great and just cause" as they fight on several fronts in Iraq.

"Free nations will not sit and wait, leaving enemies free to plot another September the 11th -- this time, perhaps, with chemical, biological or nuclear terror," he said in his weekly radio address. "By defending our own security, we are ridding the people of Iraq from one of the cruelest regimes on earth."

As coalition forces entered Baghdad for the first time, Bush monitored the battlefield from his usual weekend perch at Camp David in the Maryland mountains. As he does daily, the president convened his war council, with most members participating in the brief meeting by secure videoconference.

Bush prepared for a two-day summit starting Monday in Northern Ireland with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And he made plans for the postwar rebuilding of Iraq, amid calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

In his radio address, Bush promised Iraqis that their "liberation is coming," combining an upbeat assessment of U.S. military successes with denunciations of the regime that coalition troops aim to overthrow.

"American and coalition forces are steadily advancing against the regime of Saddam Hussein," he said. "With each new village they liberate, our forces are learning more about the atrocities of that regime, and the deep fear the dictator has instilled in the Iraqi people. Yet no crime of this dying regime will divert us from our mission."

Lawmakers say they're in the dark on postwar Iraq

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress say they know few details about what kind of a postwar government is envisioned for Iraq, how long U.S. troops will have to remain there and how much taxpayer money will have to be spent.

Some worry about how frayed relations with allies can be mended and whether anger in Muslim nations can be soothed.

They say they don't know whether the Bush administration has failed to give enough thought to postwar Iraq or if it is simply reluctant to discuss its plans with Congress. Either case is troubling, some say.

"When the troops are safe and when the conflict is over, there are tough questions that need to be asked," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Some lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, say it is unrealistic to expect the administration to provide detailed plans at this point.

Until "the conflict is concluded in terms of the fighting and the borders now existing for Iraq can be secured, and the assessment of the damage of the conflict made, how can you make estimates?" Warner, R-Va., said.

Warner said he has been briefed about plans in private and is satisfied with what he has heard. Still, some lawmakers remain frustrated about the lack of information.

"Our hearings might have been more productive if the administration had been more forthcoming, but that is really water over the dam," said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

GOVERNOR PLEADS FOR DOMESTIC AID: With much attention focused on U.S. troops in Iraq, a Democratic governor urged Congress on Saturday to also provide more money for firefighters, police and other emergency workers who are combating domestic terrorism.

"Whether in the Middle East or in America, the brave and selfless individuals who have pledged to protect us deserve our support," Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

The House and Senate separately agreed to give President Bush nearly $80-billion to carry out the battle against Iraq and meet the threat of terrorism.

Minner urged Bush and Republicans to revisit the bill and do more to provide for homeland security.

Canada clarifies its support for America

Canada expressed regret that some Liberal politicians have showed "disrespect" by criticizing President Bush over the war in Iraq.

"I want it understood with absolute clarity that Canada stands with its friends, even if we cannot engage with them in this conflict," Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said.

He will ask the House of Commons to support a motion expressing the "hope that the U.S.-led coalition accomplishes its mission as quickly as possible."

Thousands of Canadians who oppose the government's policy of not supporting a war not sanctioned by the United Nations rallied in freezing rain Friday in Toronto to praise the United States.

"We're for the disarmament of Saddam and the liberation of the people of Iraq," Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper said to cheers from the audience.

Australian forces so far exempt from injury, death

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australian elite commandos are battling Iraqis in "shoot-and-scoot" missions deep behind enemy lines, air force pilots are pounding enemy positions and navy divers are swimming through murky waters hunting antishipping mines.

Yet, each morning of the 16-day old conflict, Australian military spokesman Brigadier Mike Hannan opens his media briefing in Canberra on Australia's 2,000-strong commitment to the Iraq war with these words: "I'm happy to report there have been no major incidents or casualties in the past 24 hours."

The majority of Australian forces are in noncombat roles. Of 2,000 personnel, 150 are elite special forces troops in Iraq.

Turkey expels 3 of more than 20 Iraqi diplomats

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey ordered three Iraqi diplomats expelled for engaging in what it said were activities unrelated to their missions, Foreign Ministry officials said Saturday.

The diplomats were asked to leave on Thursday and were expected to depart next week, the private NTV television station said. They were among more than 20 that Washington has asked Ankara to expel.

Turkish officials did not explain what the diplomats allegedly had done. Iraq Embassy officials were not available for comment.

The United States has asked all countries with Iraqi embassies to expel their diplomats.

-- Times correspondent Jim Fox contributed to this report.

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