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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 19:37 GMT
Bush vows action over troops' kit
US President George W Bush
Bush said troops' mission in Iraq was "vital"
President George W Bush has said the concerns of US soldiers bound for Iraq that they have inadequate armour protection are being addressed.

Mr Bush said he expected "our troops to have the best possible equipment".

He spoke a day after Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced tough questions from US troops in Kuwait over the management of the Iraq war.

One soldier in particular said troops were forced to root through rubbish to reinforce their armoured vehicles.

We do not have proper armoured vehicles
Spc Thomas Wilson

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmour our vehicles?" Army Spc Thomas Wilson asked.

Some critics are saying that Mr Rumsfeld - who appeared to be caught off guard by the complaint - is out of touch, the BBC's Nick Childs at the Pentagon reports.

Mr Rumsfeld found himself the focus of controversy just a few days after he had been asked to stay on as defence secretary in President Bush's second-term cabinet, our correspondent says.

Pentagon staff later said troops regularly quiz senior officers, adding that it was a way of boosting morale.

'Doing everything we can'

"The concerns expressed are being addressed," Mr Bush told reporters at the White House.

US troops in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, listen to Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld faced a sometimes sceptical reception in Kuwait

"If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country I'd want to ask the secretary of defence the same question. And that is, 'Are we getting the best we can get us?' And they deserve the best," he said.

The president added that he had been telling many military families that "we're doing everything we possible can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important".

Mr Rumsfeld on Thursday said that it was good that ordinary soldiers could express their concerns directly to top military commanders.

Pentagon officials, too, have been going out of their way to explain the efforts being made to protect troops in Iraq with increased armour, our correspondent says.

They also said that steps were being taken to deal with roadside bombs and other explosive devices - the main cause of death in Iraq.

Still, troops' complaints - which have received wide coverage in America - have struck a chord, our correspondent adds.

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