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Bush Says U.S. Wants to Prevent Spread of Lethal Weapons in Gulf

President Bush made clear Tuesday night that the United States sees a continuing role in the Persian Gulf area that includes preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Our interest, our involvement in the Gulf is not transitory,” Bush said in a nationally televised speech to a joint session of Congress, in which he outlined U.S. policy aimed at getting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops from Kuwait.

U.S. involvement in the Gulf “predated Saddam Hussein’s aggression and will survive it” even after U.S. troops come home, the president stressed.

He said the United States will continue to seek to deter any future aggression and to “help our friends in their self-defense.”

Bush added that the U.S. role will also be “to curb the proliferation of chemical, biological, ballistic missile and, above all, nuclear technologies.”

The president gave no indication of how he would do this. But there have been arguments made within the administration and in Congress that U.S. forces must somehow remove Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons production plants before the present crisis is over.

Bush repeated the immediate U.S. goals that he has asserted since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. These are Iraq’s unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, assuring the security and stability of the Gulf, and the release of all American hostages now held by Iraq.

The president also declared that the United States will not allow Iraq to annex Kuwait, as Hussein claims to have done already.

“That’s not a threat or a boast,” Bush said. “That’s just the way it’s going to be.”

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