Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bush to hold news conference today

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent 7 minutes ago

Questions about Iraq, Iran and Russia await President Bush as he prepares to hold his first news conference since Dec. 20.

The White House announced that Bush would meet with reporters Wednesday in the East Room at 11 a.m. EST.

The news conference came as the House is in the midst of a debate on a nonbinding resolution expressing disapproval of Bush's decision to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

Democrats have assailed Bush's policy in Iraq as a catastrophic failure that has cost more than 3,100 U.S. troops their lives. "No more blank checks," declared Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record).

But Republican allies of the president are battling against the resolution.

"This battle is the most visible part of a global war" against terrorists, countered the Republican leader, Rep. John Boehner (news, bio, voting record). "If we leave, they will follow us home. It's that simple."

Another issue facing Bush is Iran's alleged involvement in the Iraq war. U.S. military officials, at a weekend briefing in Baghdad, said that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had ordered the smuggling into Iraq of high-tech roadside bombs that have been killing American soldiers.

But Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared to question the assertions later. "That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this," Pace said.

Bush also faced questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin's remarks Saturday that the United States "has overstepped its national borders in every way" and is fostering a new global arms race.

Putin told a conference in Germany of the world's top security officials that his reason for his warning about the U.S. was its increased use of military force. Nations "are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations," the Russian leader said.

"This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons," he said.

His remarks were challenged by the White House. "His accusations are wrong," said Gordon Johndroe, Bush's national security spokesman.

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