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Bush calls on Iraqi military to overthrow Saddam

By LORI SANTOS

JUPITER, Fla. -- President Bush encouraged the Iraqi military Wednesday to overthrow Saddam Hussein as signs from the Middle East indicated forces loyal to the dictator had crushed insurgents and had massacred civilians.

The president, who for months has urged the Iraqi people to oust their despotic leader, turned to the military as the most potent alternative remaining in a country weakened by defeat in war and a month of civil unrest.

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'I would be be willing to take a new look if the army took matters into their own hands,' said Bush, who noted that the United States would not resume normal relations with Iraq as long as Saddam remains in power. 'If a new regime emerged then I'd like to see what their goals are.'

Despite his claim that Saddam 'has got to go,' Bush said again that it is not his intention to involve the United States in Iraq's internal affairs.

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While urging Saddam's overthrow, the administration has been criticized for not assisting the rebels battling a loyalist army that possess more firepower.

For instance, Iraqi helicopter gunships have been effective against the rebels although their use apparently violates an agreement between the allies and the Iraqi military hammered out after the six-week Persian Gulf War.

Bush said he did not want to exceed the United Nations mandate that authorized allied action to drive Iraq from Kuwait by commiting U.S. troops to efforts to defeat Saddam inside his country.

'I don't want to see us get sucked into the internal civil war inside of Iraq. ... We are not there to intervene,' said Bush, who refused to comment on a report that he authorized covert assistance to the insurgents.

Signs that the rebellion had been crushed heightened administration concerns about alleged violence by government troops against civilians in the Kurdish north and the Shiite Muslim south where the heaviest fighting occurred.

One report quoted an Iraqi refugee as saying that in Basra, Saddam's forces broke down a gate at Muslim shrine and 'martyred a number of people.'

'I want to condemn in the strongest terms continued attacks by Iraqi government forces against defenseless Kurdish and other Iraqi civilians. This sort of behavior will continue to set Iraq apart from the community of civilized nations.'

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Diplomatic sources said the United Nations Security Council was expected to address that issue as well as reports that the violence and supression of the isurgencies has forced 300,000 people to flee to Turkey and another 250,000 to Iran.

Bush blamed Saddam for the violence, saying that America has no argument with the people of Iraq. 'Our argument is with the brutality of Saddam and the order he's given.' Bush said that he would not absolve the military from all blame, but for the most part 'Saddam has been the major villian.'

Nevertheless the strife seemed to bolster the president's belief that the situation in Iraq was desperate despite reports the government had regained control of most of the territory held by rebel forces.

'I don't think he can survive,' said Bush of Saddam's political future. 'I don't think he should survive ... and most people feel the same way.'

Despite the fighting, Bush said prospects for lasting peace took a big step Wednesday when the U.N. Security Council adopted a permanent cease-fire resolution to the Gulf War.

The resolution imposes tough economic and arms sanctions and establishes a peacekeeping military force to relieve U.S. troops in the region. Bush said once that force is in place, troops occupying portions of southern Iraq would withdraw.

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'It is now up to Iraq's government to demonstrate that it is prepared to respect the will of the world community and communicate its formal acceptance of this resolution to the Security Council and the Secretary General,' said Bush.

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