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Bush Says No Timetable for Iraq Withdrawal

Ibrahim al-Jafaari left, and George W. Bush hold White House press conference following talks, Friday

President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari say there will be no timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The leaders discussed political and military strategy at a time when U.S. public opinion polls show falling support for the war.

President Bush is rejecting calls by congressional Democrats and some Republicans for a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, saying that could bolster the insurgency.

"Why would you say to the enemy, 'Here's a timetable. Just go ahead and wait us out?' It doesn't make any sense to have a timetable," president Bush said. "You know, if you give a timetable, you are conceding too much to the enemy. And this is an enemy that will be defeated."

President Bush says the best way to honor the more than 1,700 Americans who have been killed in Iraq is to complete the mission.

Prime Minister al-Jaafari met with wounded U.S. troops during his visit to Washington. Taking questions from reporters after his meeting with President Bush, the Iraqi leader thanked Americans for their sacrifice, and said, now is not the time for those troops to start falling back.

"They have suffered side-by-side in the war against a common enemy: terrorism," said Ibrahim al-Jaafari. "They were fighting for the security of Iraq, but also for America. This is not the time to fall back."

The prime minister's visit is part of a White House campaign to sharpen Americans' focus on Iraq, at a time of declining support for the war. A CBS News / New York Times public opinion poll shows only 37 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of the war in Iraq. That's down from 45 percent in February.

Asked about those falling poll numbers, President Bush said it is a critical time of testing for the nation, as terrorists seek to influence public opinion in Iraq and the United States.

"Their whole attempt is to frighten the people of both our countries," he said. "That is what they are trying to do. They figure that, if they can shake our will and affect public opinion, then politicians will give up on the mission. I'm not giving up on the mission. We are doing the right thing."

President Bush says the way ahead in Iraq is not going to be easy, but he will accept nothing less than victory.

"The enemy's goal is to drive us out of Iraq before the Iraqis have established a secure, democratic government," president Bush said. "They will not succeed."

The president continues his push to rally popular support for the war in Iraq with an evening address to the nation next Tuesday, on the first anniversary of the transfer of Iraqi sovereignty.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says it is particularly important for the president to talk about his strategy in Iraq at a time when Americans are seeing disturbing images of continuing violence from the war on television.