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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Bush Holds First Press Conference Since War

Aired July 30, 2003 - 19:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As we mentioned just a moment ago when we tried to go to John King. In Washington, there was a wide ranging press conference given by President George Bush today, his first since March.
John King filed this report. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president took responsibility for making a now discredited claim that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa but insisted the overall case for war was strong.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence, good, solid, sound intelligence.

KING: And he vigorously defended his national security adviser, who initially blamed the CIA but later acknowledged the White House was warned the claim about trying to buy uranium in Africa was dubious.

BUSH: Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person and America is lucky to have her service. Period.

KING: In answering 17 questions, over 52 minutes, the president acknowledged his tax cuts are a factor in growing budget deficits but said the economy needed a boost.

He said new intelligence suggests al Qaeda might try to hijack international flights heading to the United States, called for a law banning gay marriage but urged Americans to be tolerant of homosexuals.

BUSH: I am mindful that we're all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own.

KING: It was the ninth formal news conference of the Bush presidency and his first since launching the war in Iraq. Mr. Bush took issue with critics who suggest the administration did not have a plan to win the peace.

BUSH: I never expected Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period. And so this is going to take time.

KING: The president says U.S. troops are on the hunt for Saddam Hussein.

Across town, Secretary of State Powell put it this way.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Saddam Hussein is no longer bad news. He's a piece of trash waiting to be collected.

KING: And Mr. Bush held firm in refusing to make public classified documents about possible Saudi involvement in supporting the September 11 hijackers.

BUSH: It is important for us to hold this information close so that those who are being investigated aren't alerted.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: The president also had no apologies about his aggressive political fundraising. Asked how he could raise and spend perhaps more than $170 million next year's primary when he has no Republican opposition, the president smiled and said, "Just watch" -- Anderson.

COOPER: And we will, indeed, just watch that. All right. John King, thanks very much at the White House.

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