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April 10, 2003

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Bush Speaks to Iraqi People in TV Address
Bush Speaks to Iraqi People in TV Address, Says 'Regime of Saddam Hussein Is Being Removed'

The Associated Press

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President Bush, in remarks for broadcast throughout Iraq, told citizens of the war-torn nation Thursday, "The regime of Saddam Hussein is being removed from power." British ally Tony Blair said coalition forces are "friends and liberators, not your conquerors."

The joint addresses, taped on Tuesday while Bush and Blair wrapped up their war summit in Northern Ireland, was being aired by the U.S. military as part of a news and information program televised to the Iraqi people.

"You will be free free to build a better life instead of building more palaces for Saddam and his sons," Bush said, according to excerpts released by the White House and Blair's office.

Bush said Iraqis will soon be "free to pursue economic prosperity without the hardship of economic sanctions. Free to travel and free to speak your mind. Free to join in the political affairs of Iraq."

"And all the people who make up your country Kurds, Shia, Turkomens, Sunnis and others will be free of the terrible persecution that so many have endured," the president said.

Blair, in his message for the new station called "Towards Freedom," told Iraqis that the United States and Britain had not wanted war.

"But in refusing to give up his weapons of mass destruction, Saddam gave us no choice but to act. Now that the war has begun, it will be seen through to the end," he said.

The station will broadcast from a U.S. C-130 Hercules aircraft circling in the skies over Iraq, beaming five hours of programming to the former Iraqi state TV terrestrial channel, Blair's office said.

The broadcast which was to be aired at 6 p.m. Baghdad time Thursday was part of an administration campaign to convince Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world that U.S. troops are not a hostile invasion force. There is still widespread opposition to the war throughout much of the world.

The remarks came a day after Baghdad fell into coalition hands and much of Iraq was being overtaken by British and U.S. forces.

"The long era of fear and cruelty is ending," the president said. "The government of Iraq and the future of your country will soon belong to you."

While keeping a close eye on progress in Iraq, the president also was turning attention to his economic agenda and hopes for a free-trade pact between the United States and five Central American nations.

The negotiations for yet another tariff-lowering agreement, begun in January and expected to wrap up by the end of the year, were to dominate a session Thursday in which Bush was welcoming the leaders of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to the White House.

Bush advisers have sought to portray the president as engaged on domestic issues particularly the sputtering economy that has Americans concerned about their financial future despite a heavy focus on the war and planning for an interim Iraqi government after hostilities end.

Bush, a staunch believer in free markets, has aggressively pursued deals to lift trade barriers as he seeks to nudge the economy into better shape.

In addition to the pending pact in Central America, the White House wants to complete negotiations with Morocco this year and with Australia and five countries in Southern Africa in 2004. Deals were recently inked with Chile and Singapore. The idea is to push ahead on these several smaller fronts and create momentum for bigger deals.

The administration is currently involved in 34-nation talks to create the world's largest free trade zone, covering the Western Hemisphere, and global trade talks involving the 144 nations that are members of the World Trade Organization.

Negotiators have held three rounds of talks since the beginning of the year, said Claire Buchan, a White House spokeswoman.

Due for the Oval Office meeting were presidents Abel Pacheco of Costa Rico, Francisco Flores of El Salvador, Alfonso Portillo of Guatemala, Ricardo Maduro of Honduras and Enrique Bolanos of Nicaragua.

photo credit and caption:
A Kurdish fighter with a yellow headband tied around his head, symbolising the flag of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), holds a placard reading " Bush and Blair, the champions of peace", as he celebrates with Iraqi Kurds the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Thursday April 10, 2003, in Simel, close to the Iraqi military frontlines, about 12 miles west of the Kurdish- controlled town of Dohuk, northern Iraq. The Iraqi regime's hold over the north appeared to be crumbling Thursday as Kurdish and American forces pushed to the edge of oilfields at the major city of Kirkuk without resistance. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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