Bush Makes Quick Dash to Washington for Budget Meeting
NEW YORK (AP) _ President Bush interrupted a diplomatic blitz on the Persian Gulf and raced through a summit on children’s problems Sunday to dash back to the White House for the climax of talks on a $500 billion deficit-reduction agreement.
The hurried trip scrambled plans for Bush to meet in New York with nine world leaders to bolster international resolve against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait.
Bush completed his quick round trip to the White House and back in less than five hours, and quickly stepped into an extended round of diplomatic one- on-ones with visiting foreign leaders. He planned a working dinner with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Sunday night.
Bush missed five bilaterals while in Washington. He rescheduled two Sunday evening with Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and two more on Monday evening with Bangladesh President Hussain Mohammad Ershad and El Salvador President Alfredo Christiani.
Before going to Washington, Bush briefly joined more than 70 world leaders at the United Nations for the first World Summit for Children, focusing on problems such as malnutrition and disease which claim the lives of 40,000 infants around the world each day.
The president, eager to fly to Washington to announce the budget accord, cut out large chunks of his prepared speech and spoke for only eight minutes. He did not pledge any new money to meet the summit’s goals to improve life for poor children but recited U.S. efforts to improve education, eradicate measles and reduce infant mortality and low-weight births.
″All children must be given the chance to lead happy, healthy and productive lives,″ Bush said. He acknowledged that the United States, which ranks 19th among nations in preventing infant mortality, could take lessons from some other countries.
″Programs can best enhance the welfare of children by strengthening the mutual responsibilities of public institutions and individual families,″ the president said. ″We should also look to the private sector as an essential partner.″
He said ″When it comes to improving the welfare of children, empowerment should begin first with their parents.″
In his haste, Bush omitted remarks that less bureaucracy and a free-market system will bring prosperity, which he said is ″the surest antidote to disease and starvation for any society.″
Bush mentioned the Persian Gulf crisis only in passing, saying the world had ″acted decisively in defense of a principle - that small states shall not become souvenirs of conquest.″
On top of meetings Sunday with the presidents of Brazil, Venezuela and Czechoslovakia and dinner with Thatcher, Bush added King Baudoin of Belgium. The presidents of Italy and Yugoslavia were penciled in for Monday afternoon.
That left Bush with 10 bilateral meetings set for Monday and 22 during his three days in New York. The only leader scratched from Bush’s schedule was NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner.
On Monday, Bush will address the U.N. General Assembly. U.S. officials said the United States and the Soviet Union have begun drafting resolutions to authorize the use of military force against Iraq if economic sanctions do not force a retreat from Kuwait.
Brent Scowcroft, the president’s national security adviser, has suggested that Iraq’s destruction of Kuwait was bringing the United States and its allies closer to military action.
Bush arrived in New York on Saturday with a plan to consult with more than two-dozen leaders over three days. He talked with six heads of state Saturday in a quick series of meetings lasting no longer than 45 minutes each.
Before returning to Washington on Monday, Bush will hold talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.