WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Thursday he is close to an agreement with Congress to "speak with one voice" against Saddam Hussein, even as Democrats accused him of making the nation's security a political issue.
"Democrats and Republicans refuse to live in a future of fear," Bush said in the Rose Garden, flanked by Democratic and Republican lawmakers who support his plans to oust Saddam -- with military force if necessary.
Bush made the remarks amid a backdrop of fingerpointing and name-calling as both the White House and congressional Democrats accused each other playing politics with Iraq.
Bush's remarks -- though far short of an apology sought by Democrats -- were meant to return civility to the debate and erase any doubts Democrats and the general public might have about his motives, White House officials said.
"We're near an agreement soon and we will speak with one voice," Bush said.
As the bitter back and forth threatened negotiations over a resolution giving Bush power to wage war, he said, "We are engaged in a deliberate and civil and thorough discussion. We are moving toward a strong resolution. All of us, and many others in Congress, are united in our determination to confront an urgent threat to America."
His appearance, organized at the last minute by the White House, came at the same time as a news conference that Democratic leaders had planned with live TV coverage.
Bush spoke shortly after House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt said the administration must "take security out of politics," saying a bitter partisan fight complicates efforts to find unity on Iraq.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official said Thursday the Pentagon is preparing to train at least 1,000 Iraqi opponents of Saddam to assist U.S. troops in the event of an Iraqi assault.
Speaking a day after Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle publicly chastised Bush for statements Bush made, Gephardt said Democrats share Republicans' concern about security even if differences arise over the details of the U.S. response to terrorism.
Daschle went to the Senate floor Wednesday to assail Bush's statement earlier in the week which suggested that Democrats were putting politics ahead of the nation's security. That ignited a fierce response from Republicans.
Daschle said Bush should "apologize to every veteran who has fought in every war who is a Democrat in the Senate. He ought to apologize to the American people. We ought not politicize this war."
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