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Bush Optimistic About Iraq


President Bush says there is more fighting ahead in Iraq, but he is confident U.S. troops will be victorious. Mr. Bush held a White House news conference as American forces begin their fourth year in Iraq.

Despite continuing violence, President Bush says he is confident about Iraq's future.

"We can see the outlines of a free and secure Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for," said Mr. Bush.

With nearly two-thirds of Americans disapproving of how he is handling that war, President Bush is on a public outreach campaign to reassure people about his strategy for success in Iraq.

Between a Monday speech in Ohio and another scheduled for West Virginia on Wednesday, the president kept that campaign going, telling White House reporters that it is important for Americans to understand how much progress is being made.

"Terrorists have not given up," said Mr. Bush. "They are tough minded. They like to kill. There is going to be more tough fighting ahead. [There is] no question that sectarian violence must be confronted by the Iraqi government and a better-trained police force. Yet we are making progress, and that is important for the American people to understand."

The president says he is encouraged by Iraqi politicians working toward a government of national unity and rejects suggestions that the nation is slipping into civil war.

With 50 to 60 Iraqis dying everyday, Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told the British Broadcasting Corporation that, "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

President Bush says there are certainly challenges ahead.

"But I see progress," he explained. "You know, I have heard people say, 'Oh you know he is just optimistic for the sake of optimism.' Well look, I believe we are going to succeed. And I understand how tough it is. Do not get me wrong. You make it abundantly clear how tough it is. I hear it from our troops. I read the reports every night. But I believe this is a moment when the Iraqis had the chance to fall apart and they did not."

The president says he bases that optimism on the fact that Iraq's army has not split into sectarian factions and religious leaders have worked to calm tensions following last month's bombing of a sacred Shi'ite shrine in Samarra.

Mr. Bush says part of the terrorist strategy is to create what he calls horrific images of reprisal killings, car bombings and kidnappings that Americans see on television.

"It creates a sense of concern amongst our people," he said. "And that makes sense and I know that. And it is one of the reasons why it is important for me to continue to speak out and explain why we have a strategy for victory, why we can succeed. And I am going to say it again. If I did not believe we could succeed, I would not be there. I would not put those kids there. I meet with too many families who have lost a loved one to not be able to look them in the eye and say we are doing the right thing."

President Bush says he is doing the right thing because democracy in Iraq will inspire a part of the world that he says is desperate for reform.

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