President Bush said Friday allied and Iraqi commanders will meet Saturday to discuss the return of prisoners of war and other cease-fire matters.
He declined to say exactly where the meeting would be for security reasons.Bush would only say that allied commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and other leaders would meet their Iraqi counterparts "in the theater of operations."
He said this was an "important step in securing the victory" by the U.S.-led allies over Iraqi forces during the six-week war that Bush declared over Wednesday night.
The president said he still would like the Iraqi people to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and bring Iraq "back to the family of peace-loving nations."
But he said there were no plans for the allies themselves to move against Saddam. "We are not targeting Saddam, and we have no claim on Iraqi territory," he said.
But he noted that "nobody can be absolved of responsibility under international law." The United States believes there may be a case for a war crimes trial for Saddam for the treatment of Kuwaiti civilians during seven months of occupation by the Iraqi army.
In an opening statement, Bush thanked the American people for the "affection and support" they have shown for the troops sent to the Persian Gulf to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. He said he looked forward to celebrations breaking out when the troops return, which he only would say would take place soon.
Asked about prospects for improved ties with Jordan and its monarch, King Hussein, Bush said the relations would take time to heal. Jordan sided with Iraq in the gulf war.
"We do not want to see a destabilized Jordan. As you know we've had differences with Jordan," said Bush. "We have no lasting pique with Jordan."
Bush said he wanted to take up the Israeli-Palestinian problem now that Iraq had been driven from Kuwait. Saddam had insisted Israel's treatment of Palestinians be addressed in any settlement over his occupation of Kuwait, but Bush refused, saying he wanted to resolve the Palestinian dispute but not under pressure from Iraq.
"I want to repeat my determination to have the United States play a very useful role in the Middle East now," the president said.
Bush noted that Secretary of State James A. Baker III will be departing shortly for the Middle East for consultations "that I am confident will advance planning for the war's aftermath."
Whether this would be an international peace conference on the Middle East or some other forum, Bush said he did not know.
Bush said he might consider helping fund health-care needs for the Iraqi people, who have suffered under months of economic sanctions, but that he would not allow "one single dime" of U.S. taxpayers' money go to reconstruction of Iraq.
He said he had yet to feel a great sense of euphoria over the victory because Saddam remained in power and "the job is not done."
"I haven't yet felt the wonderful euphoria that many of the American people feel. I'm beginning to," he said.
"I sense there's something noble and majestic about patriotism in this country now. It's proper," he said.
"I still have a little bit of an unfinished agenda," Bush said.
He said he would like to go to Kuwait but had no immediate plans to do so.
Bush said there will be a U.S. presence in any peacekeeping force that stays behind in the gulf, but said he'd prefer to leave the bulk of the work to either an Arab force or a United Nations force.
"I do not want to send out the impression that U.S. troops will be permanently stationed in the gulf. I want them back," he said.
Bush pledged to deal with the Soviet Union "with mutual respect" as he conducts post-war diplomacy.
"They have some good ideas," he said, adding that he never resented President Mikhail Gorbachev's pre-war efforts to head off hostilities.
Noting a strong spirit of cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union, Bush said the newly invigorated United Nations would work on "political aspects of ending the war" while the generals ironed out the military details.
The president said that Algeria had denied a report in the French newspaper Le Monde that Saddam planned to seek asylum in Algeria. "We don't really know about the stability inside (Iraq). There are rumors," he said.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater had said Thursday that the United States had identified no other individuals in Iraq who might pursue a more moderate policy in the event Saddam left.