CAMP DAVID, Maryland (AP) – President George W. Bush acknowledged Friday that it could take time for the people of Lebanon and the world to view the war between Israel and Hezbollah as a loss for the militant group.
“The first reaction of course of Hezbollah and its supporters is to declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them,” Bush said after a meeting with his economic advisers.
“Sometimes it takes people awhile to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and what don’t,” he said. “Hezbollah is a force of instability.”
Bush also expressed some disappointment with France’s decision to offer just 400 soliders to a U.N. peacekeeping force being developed to calm the situation in southern Lebanon. France was expected to lead the mission, and its announcement of such a small number led to doubts that the force would deploy quickly.
“France has said they will send some troops,” the president said tersely. «We hope they’ll send more.”
Bush said France has a great stake in the future of Lebanon and has been supporting the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora as has the United States. He said France was an important part of the international scene “and will be a very important player in Lebanon.”
Bush refused to address reports that North Korea may be preparing for an underground test of a nuclear bomb.
“It’s a hypothetical question and you’re asking me to divulge any intelligence information I have and I’m not going to do that, as you know. I’m not going to break tradition,” he said.
Yet, Bush went on to say, “If North Korea were to conduct a test, it’s just a constant reminder for people in the neighborhood in particular that North Korea poses a threat and we expect our friends, those sitting around the table with us, to act in such a manner as to help rid the world of the threat.” He was referring to six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. The participants are Japan, China, Russia, the United States and North and South Korea.
The president also took strong objection to a federal judge’s ruling that the National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program that he approved was unconstitutional. “I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live,” he said. “I strongly disagree with this decision.”
The Justice Department immediately launched an appeal of the ruling.