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Bush Appeals for Calm in Iraq


President Bush is again appealing for calm in Iraq, amid reprisal killings following the bombing of one of the holiest sites of Shi'ite Islam.

President Bush strongly condemns the terrorist bombing of the Askaryia Mosque in Samarra, which has put Iraqi security forces on high alert, in an effort to try and stop sectarian violence.

"We believe in freedom to worship, and I understand the consternation and concern of Iraqi Shias, when they see this most holy site wantonly destroyed," the president said.

Sunni Muslims have been attacked and killed in reprisal for Wednesday's destruction of the mosque's historic golden dome. Taking questions from reporters at a White House Cabinet meeting, President Bush said he appreciates Iraqi leaders who are urging calm.

"The voices of reason from all aspects of Iraqi life understand that this bombing is intended to create civil strife, that the act was an evil act," he said. "The destruction of a holy site is a political act intending to create strife."

President Bush says Washington will continue to work with those voices of reason to develop a democratic government in Iraq that unites the people, instead of dividing them along religious and ethnic lines.

The violence has complicated efforts to form a new government following last year's elections, and diplomats fear it could bring the country closer to civil war.

President Bush says he understands the importance of the Askariya shrine, and is serious about working side-by-side with Iraqi leaders to restore its golden dome.

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