Rumsfeld will not consider resigning

By The Associated Press

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, coming under renewed fire for his management of the Iraq war, said Sunday he is not considering resigning and said the president had called him personally in recent days to express his continued support.

Speaking to reporters en route to Nicaragua for a meeting of defense ministers, Rumsfeld said he was not surprised by reports in a new book that White House staff had encouraged President Bush to fire him after the 2004 election.

“It’s the task of the chief of staff of the White House–and having been one, I know that to raise all kinds of questions with the president and think through different ways of approaching things,” Rumsfeld said. “So it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if that subject had come up.”

Asked by reporters if he had recently considered resigning, Rumsfeld said, “No.”

In the new book “State of Denial,” Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward writes that former White House chief of staff Andrew Card twice sought to persuade Bush to fire Rumsfeld.

Card on Friday did not dispute that he had talked about a Rumsfeld resignation with the president but said it was his job to discuss a wide range of possible replacements, including his own.

Rumsfeld on Sunday also denied any rift with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and said the ongoing debate doesn’t detract from his work with other international leaders.

He said he had spoken to Bush since the book’s contents were made public. Bush “called me personally,” said Rumsfeld, to voice support.

Rumsfeld has previously acknowledged that he twice offered Bush his resignation, but it was not accepted.

The defense secretary and Bush have faced growing criticism for their handling of the Iraq war as violence there has escalated, U.S. casualties have mounted and public support for the conflict has declined. Fueling the debate in recent days was the release of a classified intelligence report that concluded that the Iraq war has helped fuel a new generation of extremists and increased the overall terrorist threat.

Just back from a five-day trip to the Balkan region, which included a NATO defense ministers meeting in Slovenia, Rumsfeld arrived in Nicaragua Sunday afternoon for two days of meetings with defense officials from more than 30 South and Central American countries. The talks will focus on counter-narcotics.