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Bush signals long haul

Camp David (Maryland), March 27 (Reuters): Faced with new fears the Iraq war could go on for months, President George W. Bush said today the conflict will last “however long it takes to win” with the removal of Saddam Hussein as leader.

Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair concluded two days of talks at the President’s Camp David retreat with an appeal to the UN to immediately resume the oil-for-food programme in Iraq to address urgent humanitarian needs triggered by the week-old war.

“This is urgent,” said Blair at a joint news conference with Bush. The two staunch war allies went into their meeting with their forces facing unexpectedly strong resistance from the Iraqis, blinding sandstorms and the need to protect a long and vulnerable supply line. Some military officers are now talking about the conflict lasting months.

Bush shrugged off those issues, and made clear to the Iraqi people that the US is resolved to fight on no matter what.

“It’s a matter of victory and the Iraqi people have got to know that, you see. They have got to know that they will be liberated and Saddam Hussein will be removed no matter how long it takes,” Bush said.

Speaking in Washington, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today the Iraq war would not stop until President Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

“I have no idea what some country might propose, but there isn’t going to be a cease-fire,” the American defence chief said.

Iraqi rebels who rose up against Saddam after the 1991 Gulf War complained the US left them too soon, only to be massacred by the Iraqi leader’s forces.

Divided UN Security Council members have been haggling over restarting the UN oil-for-food programme for Iraq, with the politics of war stalling agreement on a resolution.

“This urgent humanitarian issue must not be politicised. The Security Council should give secretary-general Kofi Annan the authority to start getting food supplies to those most in need of assistance,” Bush said.

The programme uses Iraqi oil revenues to pay for food, medicine and other civilian goods to ease the impact of sanctions imposed in August 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

In a joint news conference, the two leaders also promised a UN role in post-war Iraq’s reconstruction but were vague on the details.

And they repeated that Bush would unveil details of a West Asia peace plan aimed at creating a Palestinian state once the Palestinians’ new Prime Minister forms a government.

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