President Bush said Friday the United States is "not looking for any fight" with Baghdad but will keep military forces in Iraq as long as it takes to help Kurdish refugees.
"I don't think Saddam Hussein is dumb enough to want to have run into the U.S. troops again," Bush said.He also expressed confidence Saddam will be deposed eventually. "His people don't like him and it's only terror that's keeping him in power," Bush said, adding that there will not be normal relations between Baghdad and Washington as long as Saddam is in control.
The president made his comments at an impromptu news conference on the White House South Lawn during a tree-planting ceremony marking Arbor Day. He helped plant a purple leaf beech.
Speaking about developments in Iraq, Bush said he was confident that Baghdad would continue to keep military forces away from the refugee camps in northern Iraq.
"They don't want to tangle with the U.S. again," he said. "They learned that the hard way and the forces are there to be sure" Iraq keeps its own troops away. "We're not looking for any fight. We want to help these Kurds . . . and I might say at considerable cost. We're doing it because it's right."
About 7,000 U.S. troops are positioned in northern Iraq and in nearby Turkey to assist hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled their homes after a failed uprising against Saddam.
"I do not want to intervene and get our troops hauled into some conflict that's been going on for years," Bush said. "But when it comes to helping people, the United States is today doing what it's always done: being out in front on the relief effort."