WASHINGTON – President Bush said Tuesday that he had not yet reached a decision about whether to withdraw four jet fighters from Iceland (search) as part of a global military realignment of American forces.
"He was very eloquent, very determined that the United States keep the troops there," Bush said. "I told him -- I said, I'm open-minded about the subject. I want to make sure I understand the full implications of the decision as to whether or not to leave them there."
Iceland, the only member of NATO (search) with no armed forces of its own, once served as a strategic Cold War base for keeping watch on the Soviet Union's northern submarine fleet.
Last year, the United States announced it was withdrawing its remaining four F-15 fighter jets from Iceland as part of a realignment of military forces and to cut costs. The Clinton administration had reduced the number of F-15s from 16 to four.
The announcement the planes were leaving caused political problems for Oddsson, who supported the United States in the war on Iraq even though 80 percent of the country's population opposed it.
"We had the opportunity to discuss the defense issues in Iceland, which is very important for us," said Oddsson, Europe's longest-serving prime minister. "The president (Bush) is looking on that in a positive way. But, of course, he has to see the issue from both sides. ... He (Bush) is looking into my position and the Iceland position."
Bush said the two nations would exchange additional information about basing the planes there.
"I told the prime minister I appreciate our alliance," Bush said. "I appreciate his friendship. I fully understand the arguments he's made. And we will work together to solve the issue."