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Bush Honors US Troops on Christmas


President Bush is spending a quiet holiday weekend with his family at Camp David, the secluded presidential mountain retreat outside Washington. U.S. troops far from home were very much on his mind this Christmas.

The president devoted the bulk of his Saturday radio address to the work of U.S. troops deployed around the globe. On Christmas Eve, he remembered them in a more personal way, with a series of telephone calls to nine service men and women in Iraq.

Appearing Christmas morning on U.S. television, America's top military officer said it is tough for soldiers to be far from their loved ones at this time of the year.

But Marine General Peter Pace, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Fox News Sunday program, his troops have reason to mark this holiday season with a real feeling of accomplishment.

"You take a look at what they have done - tsunami relief, relief in [Hurricane] Katrina, here in the United States, relief in Pakistan, second election for a parliament in Afghanistan, two elections and a referendum on a Constitution in Iraq. When they wake up this Christmas Day, and they are away from home, they also can take enormous pride in being part of a really historical year," said General Pace.

On another Sunday morning news interview program, former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell reflected on the holidays he spent in the U.S. Army. He told ABC's This Week program that Christmas is more difficult for military families at home, facing the holiday with an empty seat at the table, than for Americans serving in harm's way.

"I think it is because there is the uncertainty and the danger," he said. "You are not quite sure where your loved one is, or what the level of danger is at any particular moment, and your loved one tries to not make you not too completely aware of the danger they might be in. They want to comfort those at home, at the same time those at home want to comfort those who are away."

his first extended television interview since leaving the State Department, Mr. Powell referred to the recent Iraqi election as historic, but he predicted it will take six-to-eight months to sort out the composition of a new government. He said it is likely to be a period of uncertainty, and stressed the positions of all the ethnic communities in Iraq must be taken into account.

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