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Bush seeks $87 billion for Iraq reconstruction
( 2003-09-08 08:45) (Agencies)

President Bush, in a nationally broadcast speech on Sunday, was to ask Congress for $87 billion for occupying and rebuilding Iraq, a Republican source said.

In advance excerpts of the speech, which was to be delivered on Sunday evening, Bush made his case for the spending request as essential to winning a global war against terrorism, and for a U.N. resolution aimed at encouraging more non-U.S. troops to join the problem-plagued Iraqi occupation.

"Iraq is now the central front" in the battle against terrorism, Bush said. "We will do whatever is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory."

"Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation," Bush said.

The Republican source said a portion of Bush's spending request would also be used for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The money will be an emergency spending request expected to last for about 12 months.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier he expected up to 15,000 new foreign troops to join the occupation of Iraq.

Bush, whose conduct of the U.S. occupation of Iraq has come under fire amid mounting U.S. casualties, a growing price tag, and internal violence, was to make a 15-minute, prime-time televised address at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT Monday).


The problems in Iraq have taken a toll on Bush's poll ratings as the president heads into his 2004 re-election campaign, and fueled criticism from Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail.

"In order for it to be a successful speech, the American people are going to ... have to see a recognition that the policy we have in Iraq has been a failed policy," Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said on ABC's "This Week."

It was Bush's first White House address to the nation on Iraq since he announced the start of hostilities March 19. Speaking from an aircraft carrier on May 1, Bush declared major fighting over following the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

But the troubled nature of the post-war occupation has strayed far from the administration's expectations of short, easy transition to an Iraqi self government.

Instead, persistent attacks on U.S. soldiers and the bombings of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf have raised concerns over a deteriorating security situation as the U.S. military is stretched thin and the reconstruction budget nears exhaustion.

Bush has blamed the violence on Saddam loyalists and an influx of foreign "al Qaeda-type" fighters. However, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on Sunday strong evidence of an al Qaeda presence in Iraq was lacking.

Said Bush in the excerpts, "The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want us to shake the will of the civilized world."

Bush last week dropped long-standing reluctance and asked Powell to negotiate a new U.N. resolution aimed at getting countries including possibly India, Pakistan, and Turkey to contribute troops to the occupation. There are now 21,000 non-American troops in Iraq, supporting a U.S force of about 150,000.

U.S. officials have made clear the United States will retain military authority as well as political dominance over the occupation.

Kennedy said he would seek to put restrictions on any money approved for Iraqi reconstruction. "We need a plan. We shouldn't just be writing a blank check for this administration to continue to squander this money over there."

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