By TERENCE HUNT
AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush on Monday called for quick
deployment of an international force to help uphold the fragile
cease-fire in Lebanon. "The need is urgent," Bush said.
At a White House news conference, Bush also conceded that the
war in Iraq, with daily bombings and U.S. casualties now standing
at more than 2,600 was "straining the psyche of our country."
"Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Wars are not a
time of joy," the president said. "These are challenging times,
and difficult times." He conceded that the war had become a major
issue in this year's midterm congressional elections.
Bush opened his news conference - his first full-scale
question-and-answer session since July 7 in Chicago - with a
statement about humanitarian aid and an international peacekeeping
force for southern Lebanon after 34 days of fighting.
"The international community must now designate the leadership
of this new international force, give it robust rules of engagement
and deploy it as quickly as possible to secure the peace," Bush
He said the international force would help keep the militant
Hezbollah organization from acting as a "state within a state."
"The United States will do our part," Bush said. While the
U.S. does not plan to contribute troops, it will provide logistical
support, command and control assistance and intelligence.
He said it was "the most effective contribution we can make at
Bush also said his administration was pledging an additional
$230 million to help the Lebanese rebuild their homes and return to
their towns and communities.
Turning to Iraq, Bush said that if the government there fails,
it could turn the country into a "safe haven for terrorists and
extremists" and give the insurgents revenues from oil sales.
"I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about
that, of course, and I've talked to a lot of people about it. And
what I've found from my talks are that the Iraqis want a unified
country. And that the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the
efforts of the extremists and the radicals," Bush said.
His news conference was held in the White House conference
center, the temporary quarters for White House news reporters
during a renovation of the media briefing room in the West Wing.
"Fancy digs you've got here," Bush quipped.
On Iran, Bush said the United States is getting some inkling of
Tehran's response to international calls for it to abandon its
nuclear ambitions. A U.N. Security Council resolution passed last
month called on Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or
face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
"We are beginning to get some indication, but we'll wait until
they have a formal response," Bush said. "Dates are fine, but
what really matters is will. And one of the things I will continue
to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed
Iran said Sunday that it will offer a "multifaceted response"
Tuesday to a Western package of incentives aimed at persuading
Tehran to rein in its nuclear program, but insisted it won't
suspend uranium enrichment altogether.
Bush said there must be "more than one voice speaking clearly
to the Iranians."
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday that
Tehran will continue to pursue nuclear technology, despite the U.N.
Security Council deadline.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has made its own decision and in
the nuclear case, God willing, with patience and power, will
continue its path," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state
Bush also said he was troubled that so many U.S. House and
Senate candidates were calling for withdrawal U.S. forces from
"There are a lot of good decent people saying `get out now.
Vote for me, I'll do everything I can to cut off money...' It's a
big mistake. It would be wrong, in my judgment, to leave before the
mission is completed in Iraq."
More than 3,500 Iraqis were killed last month, the highest
monthly civilian toll since the war began.
The war was a major issue in the Aug. 8 defeat of war supporter
Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary. He was
defeated by newcomer Ned Lamont, who has called for a speedy
withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"I'm going to stay out of Connecticut," Bush said.
When a reporter reminded him that he was born in Connecticut,
Bush grinned and said, "Shhhhhh."
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)