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State of Union speech to focus on Iraq

Bush also to discuss economy, health care

Bush prepares for the State of the Union speech.
Bush prepares for the State of the Union speech.

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A year after coining the phrase "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address, President Bush prepared Sunday for a second speech to rally the country for a possible war against one member of that "axis," Iraq.

The speech, to be broadcast nationwide Tuesday, will be delivered a day after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is scheduled to give a 60-day progress report on inspections in Iraq. The annual address will focus on the U.N. team's report, White House officials said.

Blix is in charge of inspectors searching for banned biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq.

Bush has said that if Iraq doesn't disarm voluntarily, the United States will take military action to bring about "regime change." The president is not expected to announce plans to launch an attack Tuesday, officials said.

Instead, Bush will explain why he sees Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a threat to the United States and to the world, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said on ABC's "This Week." The president also will spell out why the United States is dissatisfied about Iraqi cooperation with weapons inspectors.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said on "This Week" that Bush has not made a convincing case for war with Iraq.

"I do think there are some unanswered questions," she said. "The American people have a discomfort level with this war."

The country does not understand why war might be necessary and wants to know how long it would take, the prospect for success and the cost to the economy, Pelosi said.

Domestic concerns

Much of Bush's talk will center on domestic problems, his representatives said.

"We have great challenges," Bartlett said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "He's going to talk about how the American people are equal to the task. He'll talk about the challenges here at home."

Bush will discuss the need to create jobs, improve health care and provide a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare recipients, Bartlett said.

"The State of the Union address is really to talk about the state of the union, the United States of America, and he'll address the concerns that we have here at home," White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said on "Fox News Sunday." "Included in those concerns are concerns about terrorism, are concerns about weapons of mass destruction."

Bush will talk about Saddam's refusal to turn over weapons of mass destruction, Card said. The Iraqi leader has denied he has any such chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.

"The president has an obligation to protect and defend us, the citizens of the United States of America, and our interests, and the president will not shirk from that responsibility," Card said.

Card said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Saddam probably has weapons of mass destruction. Inspectors have found only a handful of the 30,000 banned chemical warheads that remain in Iraq, Card said.

On the domestic front, Card said, Bush will address the "stagnant economy."

Bush also plans to discuss his 10-year, $670 billion tax-cut plan, and plans to assist small businesses and eliminate the personal income tax on stock dividends, Card said.

Speaking on CNN, Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said Bush must let the Iraq inspections continue if he wants to keep the support of other countries.

"When the president speaks to us, I've got to say, the state of the union is anxious about this war, and divided on this war and anxious about this economy," Boxer said. "And now we've managed to get the whole world anxious. And I just think that this foreign policy is not working, to be honest."

She called on Bush to "lay out a path to resolve this peacefully that will lead to disarmament."


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