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Bush Continues Campaign for Iraq Plan


President Bush has made his toughest comments to date on the way Iraqi officials handled the execution of Saddam Hussein. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, the president's remarks came in his second nationally broadcast interview in less than a week.

President Bush says Iraq sent a confusing signal to the world. Mr. Bush says after giving Saddam Hussein a fair trial, Iraqi officials mishandled his execution.

"It re-enforced doubts in peoples' minds that the Maliki government - the unity government of Iraq - is a serious government, which makes it harder for me to make the case to the American people that this is a government that does want to unify the country and move forward," said President Bush.

An illicit cell phone video of the execution last month of Saddam Hussein showed the former Iraqi leader being taunted as he stood on the gallows. The graphic images inflamed sectarian passions in Iraq, infuriating members of his Sunni faction. On Monday, the controversy was renewed when an official government video showed the hanging of two of his top aides, including his half brother who was beheaded by the noose.

During an interview broadcast on the Public Broadcast System program The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, President Bush said he has discussed the executions with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and members of his government.

"Basically, I said to people while you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others, but then when it came time to execute him it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing," he said.

The president said he knows that many Americans are war-weary and skeptical about the chances for success in Iraq. He said he too is frustrated, and understands that things have to change. But he stressed a U.S. pullout is not the answer.

"I have made the decision that it is best to try to help this government stop this sectarian violence," continued President Bush. " Because otherwise, the violence in my judgment - and the judgment of others - if we don't help them stop it, it is going to get a lot worse."

President Bush acknowledged that his plan to send more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq faces strong opposition in Congress. But he said his critics on Capitol Hill still have not come up with a viable alternative.

"My only call to Congress is if you have got a better way to succeed, step up and explain it," he said.

Members of Congress may begin debate on the president's revised Iraq strategy as early as next week. They are expected to take up a non-binding resolution that will, in essence, give lawmakers a chance to publicly state their support for or opposition to the plan, without dictating a course of military action.

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