Bush Takes Aim At Aziz

President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard hold a joint press conference after an overnight stay at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Saturday, May 3, 2003. Bush thanked Howard for the help of Australia's military in the war against Iraq. AP

President Bush expressed unshakable confidence Saturday that banned weapons will be found in Iraq and complained that Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein's closest deputies, is not cooperating with U.S. forces who have him in custody.

In what CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller described as "an especially intriguing comment," Mr. Bush said of the former deputy prime minister, the most visible face of the former Iraqi government other than Saddam's, "He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in office, he doesn't know how to tell the truth when he's been a captive.

The president, at a news conference on his ranch with visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard, predicted the United States will locate the suspected cache of biological and chemical weapons.

"Iraq's the size of the state of California," he said. "It's got tunnels, caves, all kinds of complexes. We'll find them, and it's just going to be a matter of time to do so."

Aziz surrendered to U.S. forces on April 24, after the collapse of Baghdad. U.S. officials had hoped that Aziz, who made Saddam's case before the world when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, could provide information about the deposed president's whereabouts and Iraq's weapons. But Mr. Bush said Aziz was not cooperating.

With a growing number of Iraqi leaders in custody, American intelligence agents are able to check one's claims against others, officials said. They said the United States has a growing body of documents that help verify responses from Aziz and other captured leaders.

Mr. Bush expressed confidence that the United States will learn what it needs from lower-ranking officials and ordinary citizens.

In other developments:

  • The United States and Britain have decided to divide the military and humanitarian relief mission in Iraq into three zones under American, British and Polish command, a senior Bush administration official told The Associated Press. The U.S. and Britain are also preparing a resolution that would limit the U.N. to a role in humanitarian relief but not peacekeeping in Iraq, the said.

  • The U.S. Army is sending its most experienced peacekeeping unit to Iraq, where public resentment at military occupation is running high. The 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden, Germany, will start arriving in Iraq over the next two weeks.

  • The New York Times reports in its Saturday editions that the administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, down from the current total of more than five.

  • After a European Union foreign ministers meeting dominated by debate on the dismal state of trans-Atlantic affairs, France and Germany, America's harshest critics of the Iraq war, Saturday halfheartedly endorsed the U.S.-British peacekeeping plan -- which excludes them.

  • The 15 EU nations and 10 countries joining the group next year agreed to open diplomatic offices in Baghdad. The EU also insisted the United Nations should get a leading role in rebuilding, something Washington has rejected.

  • Iraq's U.S. administrators have called on all Baghdad policemen to return to their jobs on Sunday to help restore order in the capital.

  • U.S.-led forces implored Baghdad's parents Saturday to keep children away from unexploded ordnance and avoid approaching American military vehicles, warning of potential attacks by allies of "the big traitor Saddam Hussein."

  • A videotape showed what was purported to be Saddam's last known wartime speech on April 9, though it was never televised. Saddam appears exhausted, telling Iraqis that God will help them expel the American-British occupiers. U.S. officials couldn't confirm the video was genuine.

  • Amnesty International urged the United States and Britain on Saturday to investigate reports about people who disappeared under Saddam Hussein's regime.

  • A leading Iranian cleric urged Iraqis to use suicide attacks to expel U.S. forces from Iraq and learn from Iran's Islamic revolution to set up a new government.

    At the news conference, Mr. Bush and the Australian prime minister took turns praising the other. Howard supported Mr. Bush in the Iraq war despite sharp opposition at home, and the president was repaying him by playing host at his Texas ranch.

    Howard's decision to send forces to Iraq ignited mass protests across Australia. Eventually, the numbers at antiwar demonstrations dwindled to tens of thousands, and Howard's popularity soared.

    As part of the envisioned peacekeeping plan for Iraq, The AP says, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Denmark, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have committed troops to serve under British or Polish supervision.The United States will commit a division -- about 20,000 troops -- for its sector.

    At least at the start, the new troops will augment and not replace the 135,000 American troops currently in Iraq, who will focus on rooting out remaining forces of the old regime and other
    armed elements. All troops will report to Gen. Tommy Franks, the American
    military commander.
    • Joel Roberts

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