President Bush said Friday there will be no normal relations with Iraq as long as Saddam Hussein is in power, and the new Iraqi-Kurdish agreement isn't a big enough change.
Bush made the remarks at an impromptu news conference on the south lawn after he planted a purple leaf beech tree in honor of Arbor Day.The president told reporters he is confident the Iraqi leader will not stay in power and there will not be "normal relationships with the United States or many other countries while he is."
He said he based his view on the fact that Saddam "has been whipped militarily, his people do not like him and it's only terror that keeps him in power."
Bush said the economic sanctions against Iraq will remain "until there is a change in the Iraqi regime. Undoing the evil is not" enough, he said, adding "by that I mean working out something with the Kurds. That is only part of the problem."
He referred to Saddam's reported agreement with Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in which the Iraqi president agreed to revive a 1970 agreement to permit Kurdish autonomy and free elections. The agreement has not yet been signed and details have to be worked out.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Thursday that while the United States welcomes any tangible step to guarantee the safe return and well-being of the Kurds, Saddam "has a long record of broken promises," referring to the 1970 accord.
Bush said, "There will not be normal relations with this man as long as I am president of the United States, I'll guarantee that."