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The tango with Turkey

By Wolf Blitzer

President Bush gives a speech at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia on Thursday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush may have been in Georgia Thursday but he pointedly spoke of a new Iraq -- one without Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Addressing the crowd at a Kennesaw high school, he said, "For the oppressed people of Iraq, people whose lives we care about, the day of freedom is drawing near."

The president outlined a vision for a post-Saddam region: "A free Iraq can be a source of hope for all of the Middle East. Instead of threatening its neighbors and harboring terrorists, Iraq can be an example of progress and prosperity in a region that needs both. If we liberate the Iraqi people, they can rest assured that we will help them build a country that is disarmed and peaceful and united and free."

The president asserted that the spillover benefits for the United States would be significant. "By defeating this threat, we will show other dictators that the path of aggression will lead to their own ruin. By defeating the threat of Iraq, we will show that the world is able and prepared to meet future dangers wherever they arise," Bush said.

Mr. Bush's words suggest publicly what his aides have insisted for days: the anti-war demonstrations around the world and the deep division among the U.S. allies will not stop him. "Military action is this nation's last option. But let me tell you what's not an option: Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not an option."

His aides also insist Turkey now has one last chance to reconsider its refusal so far to permit 40,000 U.S. troops to stage an incursion into northern Iraq from Turkish bases.

The two allies are haggling over money.

Turkey wants a package of U.S. assistance totaling some $30 billion -- most in the form of various loans but $10 billion in an outright cash grant.

The Bush administration's offer is $26 billion -- $6 billion of which would be in cash.

Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke by phone with Turkey's Prime Minister Abdullah Gul today. After the conversation, he offered this assessment to reporters: "There may be some other creative things we can do, but the level was our ceiling and I know that they are in consultation now within their government, within their counsel of ministers. And I expect to hear back from them before the day is out."

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