Excerpts from President Bush's news conference:

Q. How many American troops have you sent to Saudi Arabia? How long are you committed to keeping them there? And why not use them to drive the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait?

A. There will be a military briefing at the Pentagon -- I think it's within an hour. And so I will leave the numbers to them.

Q. The other part, sir: How long will you keep American forces in Saudi Arabia, and why not use them to drive the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait?

A. Well, as you know, from what I said, they're there in a defensive mode right now, and therefore that is not the mission, to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait. We have economic sanctions that I hope will be effective to that end. And I don't know how long they'll be there. They just got there or are just getting there.

Q. Is this an open-ended commitment? I mean, could this drag on for years?

A. Nothing is open-ended, but I'm not worrying about that there at all. I'm worried about getting them there and doing what I indicated in our speech in there as necessary, the defense of the Saudis and trying, through concerted international means, to reverse out this aggression.

Q. Are we in a war? And what other nations have agreed to join our forces in defending Saudi Arabia? And I take it you also have included other Gulf nations in that umbrella.

A. We're not in a war. We have sent forces to defend Saudi Arabia. Other nations -- I will leave announcements about what other nations will be participating to the Saudis. But I believe Margaret Thatcher, after talking to King Fahd, has announced that forces will be going in. And then I think you'll see other such actions. But I'd much prefer to leave that to Saudi Arabia, who is -- indeed, it's their country.

Q. Was Cheney's mission successful in rallying support with Egypt and Morocco?

A. Well, I, having talked to Mubarak a couple of times myself, feel that we are in very close agreement with him. Who is your other country you asked about?

Q. Morocco and Yemen.

A. Morocco: very, very supportive of the Saudis and of our overall position on the Mideast. So I was very pleased with the Cheney mission in that regard.

Q. There are several dozen Americans in Baghdad, apparently not able to leave at this point, and perhaps hundreds more in Kuwait, and perhaps elsewhere in Iraq as well. In view of the extreme political sensitivity of Americans toward this whole question of hostages, why should not Saddam Hussein feel that he holds very high cards now in dealing with the United States?

A. Well, I've been encouraged that there have been, actually announcements, I believe, saying people were free to leave, so I'm not going to speculate or hypothecate beyond that. I want to see them out of there, obviously. But what he does, that's a bit unpredictable. But I'm not going to try to heighten tensions in this regard by responding to hypothetical questions that might go beyond your question.

Q. I just wonder what assurances you might be able to provide so that our policy in this instance will not become, as it has in the past, hostage-driven?

A. I can provide only the assurance that I consider the protection of American life fundamental to my job, and responsibilities as president.

Q. The question of chemical weapons: there are reports that the Iraqis were seen loading airplanes with chemical weapons. How concerned are you that he would use these over our troops that are there?

A. Well, I think any time you deal with somebody who has used chemical weapons on the battlefield, you are concerned about it, and I would think that he'd know that, given the way the world views the use of chemical weapons, that it would be intolerable, and that it would -- it would be dealt with very, very severely. So I would hope that there'd be no use of chemical weapons.

Q. Do you know if the Saudis will follow the Turks' lead in shutting off an Iraqi pipeline -- the one to the south? Have you had any promises from the Saudis or any other oil-producing countries that they will increase production to make up for these shortfalls?

A. Well, I'm convinced -- I believe that the Venezuelans have announced a significant increase, and I expect you'd find others to follow.

Q. The Saudis cutting off the pipeline to the Red Sea?

A. That matter will be discussed, I'm sure, and I know that the Saudis are fully in accord with the action taken by the United Nations in terms of Chapter VII sanctions. But we have no deal with them in that regard.

Q. It's difficult for us to get information from Saudi Arabia, one reason being, the American news media were not permitted to accompany American troops into Saudi Arabia. Was that your decision or {Saudi} King Fahd's?

A. That decision didn't come to me, but there are plenty of reporters in Saudi Arabia right now.

Q. Well, do you think there should be a Pentagon pool, for example as there was --

A. Well, I'd have to discuss that with the secretary of defense. I'm glad that the matter -- that that many forces could be moved with not too much advance warning and with not too much therefore, risk to Saudi Arabia or to these troops.

Q. Was there any one single thing that tipped your hand in deciding to send U.S. troops and aircraft into Saudi Arabia, and secondly, how supportive have the Soviets been of the decision?

A. There was no one single thing that I can think of. But when King Fahd requested such support we were prompt to respond. But I can't think of an individual specific thing. If there was one it would perhaps be the Saudis moving south when they said they were withdrawing. I mean the Iraqis, thank you very much. It's been a long night. The Iraqis moving down to the Kuwait-Saudi border, when indeed they have given their word that they were withdrawing. That heightened our concern.

Q. How supportive have the Soviets been?

A. Soviets have been very responsible in my view. They have joined the United Nations on that resolution. And Jim Baker as recently as yesterday afternoon or evening was in touch with Shevardnadze again and you know, I can't ask for a more favorable response than he received.

Q. Is it your intention to let economic pressure alone provide the force that drives Iraq out of Kuwait? Are you prepared to wait several months, which is how long it might take for the economic sanctions to really bite?

A. Well, we've taken this first significant step to defend Saudi Arabia. The economic sanctions should begin to bite pretty soon. There will be further steps taken to ensure that they are fully effective. And then we'll wait and see where we go from there. But I have no -- we're not -- I'm not beyond that in my thinking. There obviously is a lot of contingency planning that always goes on and prudently should go on.

Q. I can understand the need for individual countries to announce their own intentions with regard to the multinational force. But it's our understanding that the Saudis wanted an Arab component in that force. Is that in fact the case? And will there be one?

A. They didn't tell us that, but it would not be at all surprising if there was an Arab component in that force -- not at all.

Q. But you do not have one at this point.

A. Well, I'm not going to comment on it, because I think announcement of all outcomes really should come from the participating countries. . .

Q. You told us several times of Saddam Hussein's lies in his dealings with other leaders and with the United States on his intentions. Why do you now believe the Iraqi government's statements that they will let Americans go if there is no evidence of an American being let go?

A. I'm not sure I totally believe them; I hope they're telling the truth.

Q. Do you have assurances from any intelligence source, any other source, that indicates movement by those Americans, or any --

A. Well, I've had a source of movement by some foreigners, so I would hope that this would then apply to Americans.

Q. You said in your speech this morning that the puppet regime in Kuwait is unacceptable, and so is the acquisition of territory. At the same time, though, you said that the deployments are wholly defensive. The question is how do you actually expect to force Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait?

A. Economic sanctions in this instance, if fully enforced, can be very, very effective. It's a rich country in terms of oil resources; they're a poor country, in a sense, because he's squandered much of the resource on military might. And there are some indications that he is already beginning to feel the pinch, and nobody can stand up forever to total economic deprivation. . .

Q. Could you share with us the precise military objective of this mission? Will the American troops remain there only until Saddam Hussein removes his troops from the Saudi border?

A. I can't answer that because we have to -- we have a major objective with those troops, which is the defense of the Soviet Union, so I think it beyond a defense of Saudi Arabia. So I think it's beyond the -- I think it's beyond just the question of tanks along the border. . .

Q. Are you prepared for a long ground war in the Persian Gulf?

A. I'm not preparing for a long ground war in the Persian Gulf. There's not a war going on there right now.

Q. But I'm just saying, could you tell the American people what your specific military objective is?

A. My military objective is to see Saudi Arabia defended. That's the military objective. Our overall objective is to see Saddam Hussein get out and go back and to have the rightful regime of Kuwait back in place.

Q. Can you tell us what U.S. and Saudi forces will be up against? You mentioned surface-to-surface missiles. You've spoken previously of the chemical warfare capability of the Saudis. What are they up against? And the second part of the question is -- second part of the question, did we misread Saddam Hussein? A couple of months ago your people were up on the administration -- were up on the Hill deflecting a move to put sanctions on --

A. Let me ask you to -- I'm not going to take the question on the exact military problem there, because we're going to have a thorough briefing at the Pentagon. I think they're much better equipped to handle that kind of detail.

On Saddam Hussein, look, we've tried very hard to see if there wasn't a way to have somewhat improved relations; there's no question about that. And I have no regret about having tried to have discussions that might have led to a better relationship. But that had to stop the minute you have this kind of aggression. But I don't -- I think having tried tentatively to have a little better relationship with a person over the last couple of years, we've still been very, very wary all along of his intentions.

Q. But did our intelligence let us down, or did you know that what has happened -- when did you get an indication of what we have as far as moving into Kuwait and that sort of thing?

A. No, I don't feel let down by the intelligence at all. When you plan a blitzkrieg-like attack that's launched at two o'clock in the morning, that's pretty hard to stop, particularly when you have just been given the word of the people involved that there wouldn't be any such attack.

And I think the intelligence community deserves certain credit for picking up what was a substantial boycott -- a substantial buildup -- and then reporting it to us. So when this information was relayed, properly, to interested parties, that the move was so swift that it was pretty hard for them to stop it. I really can't blame our intelligence in any way, fault them, on this particular go-round.

Q. You said this morning that our troops would also defend our other friends in the gulf. We view the American troops there as peacekeepers throughout the gulf?

A. We view them there to defend Saudi Arabia, and hopefully their presence there will deter adventurism against any of the other gulf countries.

Q. What other countries, sir, are we prepared to defend in the gulf region?

A. Well, I'm not going to give you a list, but we're certainly interested in the freedom and independence of all those countries in the GCC {Gulf Cooperation Council of six Arab nations}, just for openers.

Q. Do you see any domestic impact on the budget talks or deficit from this situation in the Middle East, impact on the gasoline tax possibility, or in any other way?

A. Well, an operation of this nature has considerable expense associated with it. But I've asked for some estimates now as to what that price may be. But whatever it is, we're going to have to pay it. But I don't have the exact figures yet.

Q. National security analysts say that this crisis demonstrates once again the vulnerability, constant vulnerability in the oil fields in the Middle East. Doesn't this suggest that this force that you've sent over there may be there for some time or at least fragments of it will be there to make sure that there is a steady flow?

A. I -- you might interpret it that way. I'm not prepared to say that I think that's what the outcome will be. Because I think if the -- if there is this pull back that the world is calling for and if the sanctions are effective, I think you would reduce the risk of future adventurism.

Q. In your call to the producing countries to pick up the slack, do you expect that to begin immediately?

A. Well, I think it'll start very, very soon. I don't know about today. . . .

Q. Do you think the spike in oil prices, if that occurs significantly at home, as a result of Persian Gulf problems, could edge the economy into a recession?

A. I have not been advised of that. I hope that is not the case. And what I hope to do is see a reduction in oil prices once a -- once it becomes clear that there will not be shortage. There's an overhang now of oil in the marketplace, thank God. We have a strategic petroleum reserve that we can draw from. Other countries have the same -- a couple of other countries have SPRs themselves, and I hope that this rapid spike on oil prices will not be permanent and I think if we -- if the world begins to see assurances that there will not be a dramatic cut off or cut down on oil that then things will return much more to normal in the market.

Q. Assuming that you achieve these goals, the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein is still going to be sitting there on top of a million-man army that he has shown an inclination to use. What happens in the long run after that and can you contain that with -- short of a meeting with Saddam Hussein?

A. I would think that if this international lesson is taught well that Saddam Hussein would behave differently in the future. And that's what has been so very important about this concerted United Nations effort, unprecedented, you might say, or certainly not enacted since -- what was it, 23 years ago? 23 years ago. So I don't think we can see that clearly down the road. But a line has been drawn in the sand. The United States has taken a firm position, and I might say we're getting strong support from around the world for what we've done. I've been very, very pleased about that -- large countries and small countries, the world reaction has been excellent.

And I would hope that all of this would result in Saddam Hussein or some calmer heads in Iraq understanding that this kind of international behavior is simply unacceptable. And we'll see where it will go.

Q. I understand that we provide most of the food for Iraq, and have done so on a long-term and short-term and subsidy payments, credit system for some time. That means we've been letting them have a lot of food and a lot of other products from our farmers at probably low rates, arranged by the Department of Agriculture. Now, would you please discuss the effect of your embargo and how much do you think that the Iraqis already owe us for food?

A. Well, I don't know what they owe us for food, but I know that this embargo, to be successful, has got to encompass everything. And if there are -- you know, if there's a humanitarian concern, pockets of starving children or something of this nature, why, I would take a look. But other than that this embargo is going to be all-encompassing, and it will include food, and I don't know what Iraq owes us now for food. Generally speaking, in normal times, we have felt that food might be separated out from -- you know, grain, wheat, might be separated out from other economic sanctions. But this one is all-encompassing and the language is pretty clear in the United Nations resolution.