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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK
Bush accused of politicising war
Democratic Senator Thomas Daschle
Daschle's criticism of the president was unusually harsh
US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has demanded an apology from President George Bush for suggesting that the opposition Democrats are not concerned about US security.

In an angry and impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate, the normally measured and softly spoken Mr Daschle said President Bush had insulted Democrats when he said the Democrat-controlled Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people".


We ought not politicise this war. We ought not politicise the rhetoric about war and life and death

Tom Daschle
"You tell those who fought in Vietnam, those who fought in World War II," Mr Daschle said.

As the November congressional elections approach, the Mr Bush's Republican administration is focussing attention on its war on terror and confronting Iraq.

Democrats, who would like to draw attention to the suffering US economy, are concerned that Republicans are politicising national security issues for party political ends.

"That is wrong. We ought not politicise this war. We ought not politicise the rhetoric about war and life and death," Mr Daschle told the Senate.

'Cooler rhetoric'

Republicans in the Senate urged calm.

"I think that Senator Daschle needs to cool the rhetoric. We've got a lot of work to do," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said.

"We need to do it in a non-partisan way. Accusations of that type are not helpful."

Pressed by journalists on Wednesday, President Bush did not respond directly to Mr Daschle's accusation that he was making the possible war against Iraq a political issue.

"Legitimate national security concern is what it is. You may try to politicise it. I view it as my main obligation; that is to protect the American people," the president said.

Earlier this year one of the president's closest political advisors urged Republican candidates to use the war on al-Qaeda as part of their election campaigns.

Mr Daschle's angry comments came as congressional leaders are negotiating with the administration over the terms of a Senate resolution that would authorise the president to use force in some kind of attack on Iraq.

Many Democrats have misgivings about Mr Bush's policy on Iraq.

However, Mr Daschle and House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt have both indicated that they would support such legislation and help get it passed before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections.

On Tuesday, the man Mr Bush defeated in the last presidential race, Al Gore, said the administration's approach to Iraq would detract from the main US task of pursuing those responsible for the 11 September attacks on America.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"A year ago the president and Mr Daschle were absoloutely in step. Not any more"

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24 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Panorama
23 Sep 02 | Middle East
16 Sep 02 | Middle East
22 Sep 02 | Middle East
19 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Americas
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