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Bush To Address Nation On Iraq

President Bush will address the nation Sunday night about Iraq amid growing U.S. casualties and criticism about his handling of the war against terrorism.

The last time Bush made such a speech was on May 1 when he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Bush will speak from the White House at 8:30 p.m. EDT for about 15 minutes, officials said. CBS News will provide live coverage of Mr. Bush's speech.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the address would focus on progress so far and "our needs going forward."

"Iraq is now a central part in the war on terrorism," McClellan said. "And the world has a stake in what is going on, the world has a stake in helping the Iraqi people realize a better future, realize a free and democratic society. — The world has a stake in confronting the terrorists that have come into Iraq."

The address will come three days after Democratic candidates for president, at a debate in Albuquerque, said Bush has unnecessarily put U.S. troops in danger and split the United States from its allies.

As of Friday, 287 Americans had died in Iraq, 149 since Bush declared the end to major combat operations.

In other developments:

  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defended the U.S. military's performance in Iraq in an exclusive interview in Baghdad with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather. Rumsfeld said a 5 1/2-month occumpation could not be called a quagmire, as some critics have said.
  • Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is probably hiding in or around his hometown, said Major Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands 4th Infantry Division troops in Tikrit. Odierno says his men had captured several of Saddam's former bodyguards in the past month. "If he makes a mistake, we'll have him," Odierno said.
  • The Bush administration has told key members of Congress that it will be asking for up to $70 billion to fund the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq — far more than earlier estimates — according to lawmakers who were briefed on the request.
  • Government contractor Halliburton said a civilian employee with its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root was shot and killed in Iraq on Wednesday, the second person connected to the firm to die in an attack in a month.
  • Three gunmen sprayed congregants at the end of dawn prayers Friday, wounding three people, the imam at the Sunni mosque in northeast Baghdad said.
  • Britain is getting ready to ship another 1,000 troops to Iraq, reports the Times of London. That follows the publication of notes by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, which blamed a "lack of political progress" for "undermining the consent of the Iraqi people to the coalition presence."
  • A British inquiry has so far failed to turn up evidence that Prime Minister Tony Blair's government intentionally exaggerated the case for war, but has revealed concerns about the way the case was made and how a weapons expert was treated.
  • The top U.S. commander in Iraq said more international troops are needed to stave off threats ranging from al Qaeda terrorists to brewing ethnic and religious conflicts.
  • Russia gave its first signal Thursday that it could send peacekeepers to Iraq under a new U.S.-backed Security Council resolution. Germany and France, who led opposition to the Iraq war, criticized the U.S. draft, but said it was a good basis for talks.
  • The FBI has identified similarities between the recent U.N. headquarters and Jordanian Embassy bombings but is not yet able to pinpoint whether the attacks were perpetrated by the same people.

    In his address, Bush is not expected to announce any troop redeployment, a senior administration official said. The administration, in a change of course, has reached out to the United Nations to encourage other nations to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq.

    However France and Germany have balked, saying the United States is not offering to give the U.N. a big enough role in Iraq's security and reconstruction.

    Another major question is how much the Iraq operation will cost the United States. The administration has been unwilling to pinpoint a figure, though estimates have ranged between $60 billion to $80 billion or higher.

    The White House said the address was not a response to criticism about U.S. casualties. McClellan cast the speech as a chance for the president to "talk to the American people about our ongoing war on terrorism with a particular focus on our efforts in Iraq. ... The president believes this is a good time to talk to the American people."

    The address also comes at time when the United States is trying to have the United Nations take a greater role in postwar military and economic efforts in Iraq.

    "Iraq is something the world has a stake in," McClellan said.