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Bush Takes Verbal Swipe at Anti-War Protesters
President says he won't meet with Sheehan
By Glen Warchol
DONNELLY, Idaho - President Bush charged today that anti-war protesters such as Cindy Sheehan, who want the troops brought home immediately, are "advocating a policy that would weaken the United States."
In remarks to reporters outside an exclusive resort where he is vacationing, Bush gave no indication that he would change his mind and meet with Sheehan, who lost a son in Iraq and has emerged as a harsh critic of the war there, when he returns to his Texas ranch Wednesday evening.
Sheehan has been maintaining a vigil outside Bush's ranch, a demonstration that has attracted other anti-war protesters.
Bush said that two high-ranking member of his staff have already met with her.
On Iraq, Bush said that a democratic constitution "is going to be an important change in the broader Middle East."
Reaching an accord on a constitution after years of dictatorship is not easy, Bush said.
He spoke after the head of the committee drafting Iraq's constitution said today that three days are not enough to win over the minority Sunni Arabs, and the document they rejected may ultimately have to be approved by parliament as is and submitted to the people in a referendum.
Iraqi leaders completed a draft Monday night and submitted it to parliament, but with only minutes to go before a midnight deadline, they delayed a vote to give them time to convince Sunni Arab negotiators to accept it.
Bush spoke to reporters outside the Tamarack Resort, in the mountains 100 miles north of Boise.
Bush was asked about the possibility that objections to the constitution as it now stands from the Sunnis, the party of deposed leader Saddam Hussein, could trigger a civil war.
"The Sunnis have got to make a choice -- do they want to live in a society that's free?" Bush said.
He said he thought that most mothers, regardless of their religion, would prefer to live in peace rather than violence.
He congratulated Israeli President Ariel Sharon on the completion of the withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip.
And Bush praised Sharon for making "a tough decision" and said the next step would be to establish a working government there.
Bush, spending a day at the resort with Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican, said he was getting updates on the Iraqi constitutional process from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
He said Rice had assured him that the rights of women were being protected. "Democracy is unfolding," the president said. "We cannot tolerate the status quo."
On Sheehan, the grieving mother who has camped near his ranch since Aug. 6, the president said he strongly supports her right to protest. "She expressed her opinion. I disagree with it," Bush said.
He has scheduled more than two hours to meet with family members of slain soldiers Wednesday at the Mountain Home Air Force Base near Boise, Idaho. Bush said most military families have a different viewpoint than Sheehan. "She doesn't represent the view of a lot of families," he said.
Bush said he planned to go on a hike and have dinner later today with Kempthorne and the Idaho congressional delegation. Bush said he also planned to spend "quality time" with first lady Laura Bush, who is traveling with him.