KENNEBUNKPORT, MAINE, AUG. 11 -- President Bush said today that "some countries around the world" hope the Iraqi people rise up to overthrow President Saddam Hussein and suggested the United States is among them.
Bush spoke briefly to reporters after meeting for 90 minutes with Secretary of State James A. Baker III and other top advisers at his summer home on the coast here. His statements about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein seemed intended to unnerve the Iraqi leader, who Bush said is more isolated than ever after the Arab League summit on Friday, where 12 Arab nations voted to send troops to protect Saudi Arabia.
Asked if he thinks the Iraqi people might rise up against Saddam, Bush said, "That sometimes happens when leaders get so out of touch that they commit their countries to outrageous acts. . . . I know that some countries around the world hope that does happen."
Bush said he is "not prepared to support" the overthrow of Saddam, but also said, "My feeling is that whatever it takes to have our objective met is what should take place." When asked if that meant overthrowing Saddam, he replied, "I'll just leave it sit out there
and everybody can figure it out. . . . "
The Washington Post reported Monday that Bush has secretly instructed U.S. intelligence agencies to begin planning covert operations that could destabilize and eventually topple Saddam.
Bush said he hopes the actions taken in the last week to pressure the Iraqis force a change in Saddam's behavior. "If that means Saddam Hussein changes his spots, so be it," he said. "And if he doesn't, I hope the Iraqi people do something about it so that their leader will live by the norms of international behavior that will be acceptable to other nations."
In his brief news conference on the back porch of his home, the president also said that while no Iraqi shipping is going through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, he believes he has the legal authority to stop Iraqi ships if they attempt to break the economic sanctions ordered by the United Nations. He said he prefers not to use the word "blockade" because it has different meanings in different countries.
"I just am not one who flamboyantly believes in throwing a lot of words around," he said. "I'm more interested in action."
He also said the United States is doing all it can to prevent shortages of oil in world markets or "gouging" by oil companies and gasoline stations.
Baker, who reported to Bush on the results of his meetings with Turkish President Turgut Ozal and the NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, said negotiations with the Iraqi government aimed at freeing Americans now detained in Iraq were continuing. Baker said he does not regard it as a hostage situation because "no demands" have been made by the Iraqi government as conditions for their release.
Baker also said that as far as U.S. authorities know, no Americans have been mistreated by the Iraqis.
Bush hailed the results of the Arab summit in Cairo as a further step in the international effort to isolate Saddam. "He does see today more clearly than he did yesterday at this time that the world is united against him," Bush said.
The president said he had talked by telephone today with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who assured Bush that Egyptian troops soon will join U.S. ground forces in Saudi Arabia. Bush said other countries also will deploy troops there, making it a multinational force with "an Arab component."
He also said the United States will soon take further, unspecified steps to "guarantee the integrity"
of Saudi territory and other threatened nations against an Iraqi
As rain pelted this oceanside resort town, Bush met with Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, deputy national security adviser Robert M. Gates and other officials to review the next steps that the United States will take to try to bring about the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.
The president also talked by telephone with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Emir Isa Bin Sulman Khalifa of Bahrain and Emir Khalifa Bin Hamad of Qatar.
Bush said the United States and other countries are working out details of the command structure for the multinational military force in Saudi Arabia and said there might be a United Nations role in the naval operation that continues to gather strength in the Persian Gulf region. But he said the U.S. activities are "not contingent upon a U.N. flag flying over the effort, as was the case in Korea, for example."
In the wake of the Arab League summit in which Jordan abstained from endorsing the resolution against Saddam, Bush indicated some easing of the tension between the United States and Jordan's King Hussein.
Last Sunday, Bush said he was "very disappointed" in Hussein for supporting Saddam, but today indicated he hopes the friendship between the two countries can be "reinvigorated in the future."
"We all recognize the difficult position King Hussein is in," he said.