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Bush to give Iraq address Sunday night

WASHINGTON — President Bush will address the nation Sunday night about Iraq amid growing U.S. casualties and criticism about his handling of the war against terrorism.

The last time Bush made such a speech was on May 1 when he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Bush will speak from the White House at 6:30 p.m. MDT for about 15 minutes, officials said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the address would focus on progress so far and "our needs going forward."

"Iraq is now a central part in the war on terrorism," McClellan said. "And the world has a stake in what is going on, the world has a stake in helping the Iraqi people realize a better future, realize a free and democratic society. The world has a stake in confronting the terrorists that have come into Iraq."

The address will come three days after Democratic candidates for president, at a debate in Albuquerque, said Bush has unnecessarily put U.S. troops in danger and split the United States from its allies.

As of Friday, 287 Americans had died in Iraq, 149 since Bush declared the end to major combat operations.

Some of the harshest criticism has come from Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who said, "This president is a miserable failure."

In his address, Bush is not expected to announce any troop redeployment, a senior administration official said. The administration, in a change of course, has reached out to the United Nations to encourage other nations to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq.

However France and Germany have balked, saying the United States is not offering to give the U.N. a big enough role in Iraq's security and reconstruction.

Another major question is how much the Iraq operation will cost the United States. The administration has been unwilling to pinpoint a figure, though estimates have ranged between $60 billion to $80 billion or higher.

The White House said the address was not a response to criticism about U.S. casualties. McClellan cast the speech as a chance for the president to "talk to the American people about our ongoing war on terrorism with a particular focus on our efforts in Iraq …. The president believes this is a good time to talk to the American people."

The address also comes at time when the United States is trying to have the United Nations take a greater role in postwar military and economic efforts in Iraq.

"Iraq is something the world has a stake in," McClellan said.

He said the address springs from discussions that Bush had with members of his national security team who visited his Texas ranch last month.

McClellan would not say whether Bush would answer rising calls from lawmakers and Democratic presidential candidates for him to specify the likely costs ahead in dollars and lives.