Bush skips stop in Texas

US President George W. Bush canceled a planned stop in San Antonio, Texas, Friday on his way to inspect federal response in the region expected to be hit by Hurricane Rita late Friday or early Saturday.

He would travel directly to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to monitor the progress of Rita at the US Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base.

The White House canceled the visit because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to reposition search- and-rescue teams from San Antonio closer to the storm, said spokesman Scott McClellan.

"We didn't want to slow up that decision in any way. The president made the decision to go straight to Colorado," McClellan said.

Before his departure, Bush inspected the FEMA headquarters, pledged that his administration will help local authorities and people to cope with the looming hurricane.

"We will make sure that my entourage does not get in the way of people doing their job, which will be search and rescue immediately. Rest assured, I understand that we must not and will not interfere with the important work that will be going forward," Bush said.

It is the government's duty to assist state and local governments, he said.

Rita has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 201 kph, down from a fearsome Category 5 hurricane with 282-kph winds Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Bush had paid five visits to the Gulf Coast region hit hard by Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, after the administration was criticized for its sluggish response to the storm, which has killed more than 1,000 people, displaced about 1 million others and inflicted heavy property losses.

Source: Xinhua

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