Rep. Wayne Owens said U.S. troops are in the Persian Gulf with a moral purpose, but that he parted ways with President Bush's treatment of the current crisis when Bush began an offensive buildup.

"With the decline of communism, a new world order process has been set up to control criminals who impose their will on people militarily," Owens told a crowd of about 150 people Saturday afternoon during a town meeting in the Salt Lake County Commission Chambers.The other reason for sending troops to the gulf - to maintain oil supplies - is also in the national interest.

"Our reliance on Middle East oil has become an economic reality and is a result of our own stupidity." Our daily diet of oil hasn't changed since the oil crisis of the 1970s, said Owens, D-Utah.

He said the president's early treatment of the gulf situation was correct and, "I supported what he did until Nov. 8," when the president announced a buildup for offensive capabilities.

"I am in favor of a long-term presence in the gulf as opposed to even a day of war," he said.

Owens made his comments after a 15-day visit to the Middle East on behalf of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. While in the Middle East he visited with the heads of state of Egypt, Israel, Syria and Jordan and visited with U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

"An invasion will cost a lot of American and Arab lives. I would rather wait and give the economic sanctions a chance to work. If we set up an eight-month rotation we would show Saddam that we are there to stay," he said.

Owens cited recent testimony by CIA chief William Webster that the blockades have effectively prevented the exit and entrance of 90 percent of Iraq's trade as evidence that sanctions will work.