Bush to Visit Troops in Mideast, Hopes Standoff Can End ‘Without Shot’
ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) _ President Bush will fly to the Persian Gulf to spend Thanksgiving with the troops he sent to confront Saddam Hussein, the White House announced Friday.
Bush, meanwhile, hitting hard at Saddam while campaigning for Republican candidates, renewed his pledge to push Iraqi forces out of Kuwait but said he still hopes U.S. forces can eventually return home ″without a shot fired in anger.″
Bush will visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia following a trip to Paris for the Nov. 19-21 multinational Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said in a statement.
Confirmation of the long-rumored gulf trip came as Bush kept up his drumbeat of harsh anti-Saddam rhetoric. Bush’s spokesman said Thursday that the president was preparing the nation ″for any eventuality″ but the president said he was not trying to prepare Americans for war.
While on a political barnstorming trip across the Midwest on Friday, Bush continued his dual message of hoping for a peaceful solution but holding firm to his pledge to rout Saddam from Kuwait.
Referring to the U.S. troops he has sent to the gulf, Bush told a Cincinnati audience:
″I will do my level best to bring every single one of them home without a shot fired in anger, but we will not stop short of our stated objectives. We are the United States of America and we stand for principle. That principle must prevail.″
″Saddam Hussein must get out and he must get out totally,″ Bush said.
Given the volatility of the gulf region - with more than 200,000 U.S. troops deployed, and with Iraq’s 1 million-strong military also on war footing, complete with missiles that can reach Saudi Arabia - all security concerns had been taken into account for Bush’s visit, one administration official said.
″If we didn’t think it was safe, he wouldn’t go,″ said the official, who commented only on condition of anonymity.
While in the gulf region, Bush will consult with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and the exiled emir of Kuwait, Fitzwater said.
In Washington, meanwhile, Secretary of State James A. Baker III scrambled his travel plans to arrange for meetings in Moscow next week on the gulf crisis with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.
Baker leaves Saturday on his own trip to the Persian Gulf.
Bush plans to leave Washington on Nov. 16 for Europe and return from the Middle East on Nov. 23.
He will stop first in Prague for the Nov. 17 first anniversary of the nonviolent ouster of the communist government of Czechoslovakia, and will consult with President Vaclav Havel.
He then will travel on Nov. 18 to Germany to consult with Chancellor Helmut Kohl at his summer home in Ludwigshafen.
Next, in Paris, the president will meet with Gorbachev and other leaders of the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The centerpiece of that summit is to be the signing of a treaty to reduce conventional forces in Europe.
The White House previously had indicated that unless the sweeping Conventional Forces in Europe treaty were completed in time, Bush would not attend the summit. It will set limits on the tanks, anti-aircraft artillery and various other categories of non-nuclear weapons in Europe.
Bush will leave Paris Nov. 20 for Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
A White House advance team left Friday morning to work out details.
White House aides said it was not yet decided whether Barbara Bush would accompany her husband.
Bush wants to go to the Persian Gulf ″to be able to spend Thanksgiving with the troops and to consult with the king and Mubarak and the emir,″ said the administration official.
The president has frequently telephoned them and other world leaders to discuss developments in the gulf.
Bush spent Friday campaigning, from Ohio to Minnesota to Iowa to California, in an effort to help Republicans in Tuesday’s election. He continued to spend much of the time verbally attacking Saddam and saying he wasn’t doing it for political benefit.
″I view my responsibility as president and I view my responsibility as commander in chief as something very sacred,″ he said in a Cincinnati appearance for House candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell.
″We are at a partisan political event, but there is keen interest in what’s happening halfway around the world in this gulf crisis,″ he said.
Before leaving Cincinnati, Bush stopped with Blackwell at a coffee shop, shook hands with patrons and sat down at the counter where he pulled out cash and bought coffee for several people.
Blackwell’s race is a high priority for Republicans. The former Cincinnati mayor is one of three candidates seeking to become the first black Republican in the House since 1935. He is in a tight race against the city’s current mayor, Charles Luken.
Bush flew on to Minnesota, where the Republicans’ gubernatorial candidate, Jon Grunseth, dropped out of the race last week after allegations of an extramarital affair and nude swimming with teenage girls.
The president’s visit was to help the crash-campaign of the replacement Republican candidate, Arne Carlson, and also to aid the campaign of Sen. Rudy Boschwitz. Although entering the race late, Carlson is waging a close battle with Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich.
Bush called Carlson ″the Rocky Balboa of Minnesota,″ a reference to the ″Rocky″ movies.
Bush’s second day of a campaign trip that will last through Election Day also included a stop in Iowa where Republican Tom Tauke is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Bush was to continue on to California to spend the night.