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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 12:42 GMT
Bush sets out Iraq vision
President Bush making his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, 26 Feb 2003
Mr Bush said "dangers" must be confronted
An Iraq free of Saddam Hussein would be a "dramatic and inspiring example to the Middle East", US President George W Bush has said.

Any future the Iraqi people chose for themselves after Saddam was deposed would be better than living in their "nightmare world", he declared in a keynote speech before the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

And addressing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians for the first time in months, Mr Bush said ousting the Iraqi leader would deprive Palestinian militants of support and encourage the people to chose "true leaders who strive for peace".

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says Mr Bush painted an unashamedly optimistic picture of post-war Iraq - a vision which has already been attacked from several directions.

We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more
President Bush

Washington's military planning meanwhile appeared to take a step forward on Thursday after an agreement was finally reached with the Turkish Government on compensation for allowing thousands of US troops onto its soil in the event of war against Iraq.

However, the Turkish parliament still needs to approve the move. While it was due to vote later on Thursday, latest reports say the ruling party is pushing to postpone a decision until Saturday.

Parliament has yet to make a final decision, the reports add.

No blueprint

Some critics, not least in the US Congress, say Mr Bush's vision is too little too late, while others believe Washington has a detailed plan of occupation for oil-rich Iraq once it has got rid of its leader.

I am a bit sceptical as to whether his plans to rebuild Iraq into a shining example of democracy and prosperity will actually happen
Harry, Germany/ ex UK

In a first reaction from the region itself, Saudi's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the Iraqi people would not tolerate external rule, and that anyone who thought otherwise was deluding himself.

He also denied American reports that his country has agreed to let the US military use one of its major air bases in the event of war with Iraq.

Mr Bush, pledged that the US "will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another".

"Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own," Mr Bush said. "We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more."

The BBC's Nick Childs in Washington says it will however be difficult to avoid at least the appearance of occupation to begin with.

UN weapons inspections in Iraq
The US has little interest in weapons inspections
US officials say it is impossible to know when they could allow Iraqis will take responsibility for their own affairs. Some areas like health, they say, will be easier than others, such as the army.

Our correspondent says it is this lack of a clear blueprint, combined with lingering concerns about the unity of the Iraqi opposition, which leaves many critics still concerned.

Blair's woes

The president also delivered a thinly-veiled rebuke to France and Germany, which have opposed the use of military action in Iraq, pointing out that the US had helped rebuild Europe after World War II.

"After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies. We left constitutions and parliaments," he said.

On Wednesday, the French parliament threw its weight behind the anti-war stance of President Jacques Chirac, while Mr Bush's key ally, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, suffered a major rebellion by members of his own Labour Party over his hawkish policy towards Iraq.

More than 120 Labour members of parliament supported an amendment declaring that the case for military action against Iraq was "as yet unproven."

It marked the biggest revolt of Mr Blair's six years in office, although the government - with opposition support - did comfortably win the main vote, insisting that President Saddam Hussein disarms.

In other developments:

  • The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, denies American reports that his country has agreed to let the US military use its air bases in the event of war with Iraq

  • The UN Security Council is due to meet behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss a draft resolution, sponsored by the US, UK and Spain, that declares Iraq has failed to meet UN disarmament demands

  • A US envoy tells Iraqi opposition groups that Washington has no long-term ambitions to rule in the country

  • Russian and Chinese foreign ministers meeting in Beijing say war in Iraq "can and should be avoided"

  • German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin stress the need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, dismissing a new UN resolution as unnecessary.

US President George W Bush
"The dangers of our time must be confronted actively and forcefully"

The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Framing a war against Iraq as a battle of good against evil"

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