. Bush says coalition will not
dissolve despite loss of Italy
The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 17, 2005 - 5A
WASHINGTON (AP) - President
Bush acknowledged yesterday that U.S.
allies are anxious to get out of Iraq but
firmly denied the coalition was crum-
bling. He also said patience was needed
to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's
A day after Italy announced it would
begin withdrawing soldiers from Iraq by
September, Bush refused to discuss the
timing of any U.S. pullout. "Our troops
will come home when Iraq is capable of
defending herself," he said.
With little advance notice, Bush came
to the White House briefing room and
held a 48-minute news conference in
which he defended his Social Security
plan against growing doubts, expressed
concern over high energy prices and reas-
serted his support for the death penalty
and his opposition to gay marriages.
It was Bush's fifth news conference
since his November re-election. White
House advisers are trying to have him
hold the sessions on a monthly basis, far
more frequently than in his first term.
The president used the occasion to
confirm he intends to name Paul Wol-
fowitz, an architect of the Iraq invasion
and a man known for his hawkish views
on national security, to lead the World
Two years after the U.S.-led invasion of
Iraq, the coalition of countries that pro-
vided troops has fallen from 38 nations
to 24, and the United States continues to
shoulder the bulk of the outside respon-
sibility and suffer most of the non-Iraqi
casualties. Bush said allies want to get
out as soon as Iraq can defend itself.
"People want their troops home. But
they don't want their troops home if it
affects the mission," he said, although
few countries have hedged their with-
Asked if the coalition was crumbling,
Bush said, "No, quite to the contrary. I
think the coalition has been buoyed by
the courage of the Iraqi people" in defy-
ing death threats to vote.
On neighboring Iran, Bush refused to
set a deadline for the Iranians to accept
a deal to halt their uranium enrichment
program in return for economic incen-
Believing that Iran is trying to build
a nuclear weapon, Bush said the Unit-
ed States would ask the U.N. Security
Council to seek sanctions against Tehran
if it rejected the offer, but he indicated
that would not happen soon.
"I mean, it takes awhile for things to
happen in the world. ... There's a certain
patience required in order to achieve a
diplomatic objective," the president
Bush opened the news conference say-
ing he was making progress on Social
Security although polls show growing
opposition to his idea to overhaul the
system by allowing younger workers to
put some of their payroll taxes into pri-
vate saving accounts. His formula would
result in a reduction in guaranteed Social
President Bush speaks during a news conference, yesterday, in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the
White House. Bush insisted that despite the recent announcement that Italy would withdraw its soldiers
from Iraq by September, the coalition would not crumble.
Rice: India must not
strike oil deal with Iran
NEW DELHI (AP) - The United States and
India papered over differences on U.S. arms sales
to Pakistan and an Indian oil pipeline deal with
Iran yesterday, ahead of a possible visit to India by
President Bush later this year.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed
future sales of sophisticated F-16 fighter planes to
both India and rival Pakistan with her Indian coun-
terpart, but said no announcement is imminent.
India wants to buy the U.S. weaponry while
denying it to Pakistan. The neighboring rivals have
fought three wars since their 1947 independence
Meanwhile, the United States wants India to
scotch a potential deal to build an oil pipeline from
Iran to serve the expanding economy in India, the
world's largest democracy.
"We did express ... concerns about several
matters on the defense issue," Indian Foreign
Minister Natwar Singh said at a joint press con-
ference with Rice.
"There are one or two items on which we
don't agree, but our relations have now reached
a maturity where we can discuss these things
freely and frankly."
Rice said U.S. objections to the pipeline are
well-known. The United States has no diplomatic
relations with Iran and wants to keep international
pressure on the Tehran regime to give up nuclear
ambitions and institute democratic reforms.
Singh, however, indicated little willingness to
back off pipeline discussions.
"We have no problems of any kind with Iran,"
Rice said F-16 sales will be a topic during talks
in Pakistan, the next stop on her one-week whistle-
stop tour of South Asia and Asia. Pakistan bought
40 F-16s during the 1980s, but Congress put a stop
to sales in 1990.
Renewed sales to Pakistan would reflect U.S.
gratitude for Pakistan's cooperation in the global
hunt for terrorists. The United States also signed
off on a separate $1.3 billion arms package to Paki-
stan last year.
Neither Rice nor Singh mentioned plans for an
upcoming Bush visit to India, but an invitation to
Bush is widely expected for October.
Asked to comment on Italy's plan to reduce its
3,000-member force in Iraq this fall, Rice was
careful to praise Italy's "steadfast" cooperation.
"I am quite certain ... any decisions that the Ital-
ians make about their forces will be fully coordi-
nated in a way that does not put (U.S.) forces at
risk," Rice said.