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Bush vows to stay the course in Iraq, fulfill duty to spread freedom around the world

WASHINGTON (BP)–Citing a historic opportunity to change the world, President Bush said America must stay the course in Iraq because it’s the right thing to do.

“We will succeed in Iraq,” the president said during a nationally televised prime-time news conference April 13. “We’re carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change: Iraq will be a free, independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We serve the cause of liberty, and that is, always and everywhere, a cause worth serving.”

Bush said as long as he is president, he will press for freedom because he believes so strongly in its power.

“I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country’s gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world,” he said from the East Room of the White House. “And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom.”

The president began the hour-long news conference with a 17-minute speech regarding the status of Iraq. He said most of the country is relatively stable, although terrorists from other countries have infiltrated Iraq to incite and organize attacks. He mentioned the illegal militia of a radical cleric named al-Sadr and said the violence that has erupted recently is a power grab by extreme and ruthless elements.

But the majority of Iraqis, Bush said, reject the violence and want to move forward with individual rights, independence and freedom.

“Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror and a threat to America and to the world,” the president said.

Regarding the June 30 deadline to turn over control of the country to Iraqis, Bush said neither Iraqis nor Americans support an indefinite occupation. He said America is not an imperial power but is a liberating power with a limited and firm objective.

“They’re not happy they’re occupied,” Bush said of the Iraqis. “I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either. They do want us there to help with security, and that’s why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and it’s why it’s also important for them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free country.”

Sovereignty, Bush said, involves more than a date and a ceremony. It requires Iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future, which will include holding elections for a national assembly no later than January 2005. That assembly will draft a new, permanent constitution which will be presented to the Iraqi people in a national referendum in October 2005, Bush said. The schedule approved by the Governing Council in Iraq also calls for Iraqis to elect a permanent government by December 2005, marking the completion of Iraq’s transition from dictatorship to freedom.

The president said the recent surge in violence must not cause America to waver because a free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America’s word, once given, can be relied upon even in the toughest times.

“The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar,” Bush said. “The terrorist who takes hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid and murders children on buses in Jerusalem and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew.

“We’ve seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two embassies in Africa, in the attack on the USS Cole and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on September the 11th, 2001,” Bush continued.

America has sent a powerful message to the terrorists as the shelter of the Taliban and training camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed, he said. Terrorists have lost an ally in Baghdad, and Libya has turned its back on terror. But as terrorists see the advance of freedom and reform in the greater Middle East, they will seek new tactics.

“A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy, and our work may become more difficult before it is finished,” the president said. “No one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead or the costs they will bring. Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action.”

The commander in chief said America honors the memory of those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom, and he prays that their families will find God’s comfort in the midst of their grief.

“As I have said to those who have lost loved ones, we will finish the work of the fallen,” he said.

The legacy the troops are leaving behind is a legacy of lasting importance, the president said, one that is based upon the belief that free societies are peaceful societies.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: STAY THE COURSE.

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  • Erin Curry