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Bush on Iraq: 'The person who is in charge is me'

President Bush:
President Bush: "The person who is in charge is me."

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CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports President Bush is fending off criticism of the handling of post-war Iraq.
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CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports on possible sightings of Saddam Hussein recently north of Baghdad.
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Senate Democrats are attacking President Bush's post-war policy while Republicans say progress is being made in Iraq.
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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rebutting his critics, President Bush said Monday that he is leading his administration's strategy in Iraq, and he said those who say otherwise are "just wrong."

The remarks, made in interviews with five television affiliate services, came a day after two top senators on the Foreign Relations Committee said White House officials were uncoordinated in their public relations campaign on Iraq.

"They're just wrong about our strategy," Bush told Tribune Broadcasting. "We've had a strategy from the beginning. Jerry Bremer [the U.S. administrator in Iraq] is running the strategy, and we are making very good progress about the establishment of a free Iraq."

Bush added, "The person who is in charge is me."

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, said Sunday that he heard four "distinctly different" speeches on Iraq last week from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The president has to be the president," Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told NBC.

Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the committee, echoed that sentiment, saying there's been "no clear articulation" from the administration of its goals in Iraq and how to accomplish them.

The contradictory messages, Biden said, breed a lack of confidence in Iraq, in Congress, and among the U.S. public.

Other Republican senators defended the administration, however, pointing to what they said were successes in the reconstruction effort.

Sen. John Kyl, R-Arizona, said the news media focus on the negative side of stories, like the casualties from Sunday's car bomb at a Baghdad hotel, rather than the positive side, like the fact that security forces stopped the car short of its apparent target.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, told Fox that negative events are just a small percentage of what's actually happening in the country.

In the interviews, which were precisely eight minutes each and held back to back, Bush also defended Cheney and CIA Director George Tenet for doing a good job in post-war Iraq and in gathering intelligence.

Bush also downplayed any disappointment with France, Germany and Russia for not contributing troops to the Iraqi effort, saying each country could contribute in other ways such as intelligence gathering and consulting.

The president said Americans must be patient because Iraq remains a dangerous place, but there is much progress being made.

-- CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.


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