U.S. not arming Iraqi rebels, Baker says. Story on A2.WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush consulted Monday with Secretary of State James Baker on Baker's mission to the Middle East and Moscow and afterward vowed to press on all fronts for a breakthrough for permanent peace in the region.
Bush also said Iraq must pay war reparations for its "environmental terrorism" against Kuwait as efforts move forward under United Nations auspices to put a permanent end to the war.Bush, just back himself from a five-day trip abroad to consult with leaders of Britain, France and Canada, talked for 45 minutes in the Oval Office with Baker, who returned Sunday night from a 10-day journey to the Middle East and Soviet Union.
Bush returned to the White House Sunday night after stopping in Sumter, S.C., to attend his first homecoming for Desert Storm troops. He told a cheering crowd that as a result of the war, "no one doubts us any more."
But in setting a goal of getting a permanent cease-fire in the gulf, solving the Palestinian question and Arab-Israeli enmity and finding an answer to Lebanon's problems, Bush said:
"I don't think the American people ought to think that youcan wave a wand and solve all three of these difficult problems at once."
Bush said Monday he was determined to move quickly. "The longer one waits to take any initiatives, the danger is things revert to a status quo, and I think that will be unacceptable."
He said there was no date set yet for his own trip to the Middle East, which has been rumored to take place as early as the third week of April.
Bush spoke with reporters after receiving a humanitarian award from Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who lauded Bush's support for Israel during the war. Weisel asked Bush "to listen to Israel's fears, just as Israel should listen to the president's hopes."
Besides world affairs, the president turned his attention to domestic politics Monday, giving an Oval Office welcome to Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, a newly converted Republican, and addressing a luncheon for major GOP donors.
Bush later headed to Capitol Hill for a belated St. Patrick's Day luncheon with House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash.
On Sunday, en route home from a three-day stay in Bermuda, Bush stopped in South Carolina to attend a celebration for 2,000 fliers and support personnel - many still in their desert camouflage fatigues - from Shaw Air Force Base just back from the gulf.
"You not only helped liberate Kuwait, you helped this country liberate itself from old ghosts and doubts," Bush told the troops.
"When you left, it was still fashionable to question America's decency, America's courage, America's resolve," he said. "No one, no one in the whole world, doubts us any more."
Bush also paid tribute to the families on the homefront, "You don't have to wear a uniform to be a war hero."
Asked Monday about the strife in Iraq, Bush said there is some fighting against Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad itself, as well as in the north and south.
"Iraq must pay reparations or pay damages, and the more one looks at the environmental terrorism that they embraced, the more the world understands that they have got to do something about it," said Bush.