Bush: Hussein's Exit Would Aid Mideast

UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON -- Attempting to win over reluctant UN Security Council members ahead of a key meeting on Thursday, U.S. President George W. Bush said toppling the Iraqi government would be a step toward Middle East peace.

The Security Council was to hold its first meeting on a U.S.-British-Spanish draft resolution that laid the groundwork for war on Iraq by saying President Saddam Hussein had "failed" to disarm.

Despite intense lobbying, the United States has yet to secure the support of nine council members needed for its passage or assurance that none of the five permanent members would veto the resolution.

Critics say a war on Iraq would destabilize a region already beset by years of Israeli-Palestinian violence and that a prolonged military occupation of Iraq would fuel terrorism.

But in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Wednesday Bush sought to ease those concerns, saying success in Iraq could begin a new stage for Middle East peace ending in a democratic Palestinian state.

"America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of peace. And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity," he said. "We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more."

A senior Bush aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president offered his post-Hussein vision because ending the Iraq crisis peacefully "is becoming more remote."

Two close U.S. allies on Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, have pressed Washington to launch a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

An EU delegation led by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou was in Washington on Thursday to press for immediate publication of a "road map" toward creation of a Palestinian state.

 Iraq will respond to a United Nations order to destroy its al-Samoud missiles within the next two days to meet a deadline set by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, an Iraqi official said Thursday.

It was not immediately known what the response would be. Blix last week ordered Iraq to start destroying missiles by March 1.

Destruction of the missiles, which UN experts say exceed the 150-kilometer permitted range, would be a blow to Iraq as it prepares for a possible invasion by U.S. forces.

Germany is sending more soldiers to Kuwait to serve in international anti-terrorism effort, The Associated Press reported.

The 30 soldiers will depart next week, joining nearly 60 already stationed in Kuwait as part of a U.S.-led task force on the lookout for attacks with germs, poison gas or radiation.

The German involvement is one of a growing number of foreign missions the country has taken on in recent years.

Such missions, Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der argues, show that Germany can meet its international responsibilities without having to join in any war against Iraq.