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Bush Sees Hopeful Signs of Progress in Iraq

President Bush says there are hopeful signs of progress in Iraq as 30,000 additional U.S. troops have been battling al-Qaida terrorists. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports the president's comments come amid accounts of more gruesome violence in Iraq.

President Bush says reinforced U.S. troops in al-Anbar province have reduced sectarian violence there even as al-Qaida is fighting to regain a base of operations.

"It is working to assassinate sheiks and intimidate the local population," he said. "We have got to prepare ourselves for more violence and more setbacks, but a province that had been written off as hopeless now enjoys a level of peace and stability that was unimaginable only a few months ago."

The president spoke at the U.S. Naval War College in the northeast state of Rhode Island. He is under pressure from congressional Democrats and some within his own party to show that the increased U.S. troop levels in Iraq are making progress.

"Right now we are at the beginning stage of the offensive," he added. "We've finally got the troops there. Americans have got to understand that it takes awhile to mobilize additional troops and move them from the United States to Iraq."

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake. A survey by Newsweek magazine last week says 73 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the war.

In his remarks Thursday, the president again sought to link the war in Iraq with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and he again blamed Iran and Syria for helping al-Qaida in Iraq.

"The influx of foreign fighters and foreign support makes this job a lot tougher: tougher on Iraqis, tougher on our troops," he explained. "We can expect more casualties as our forces enter enemy strongholds and push back against foreign interference."

The president says he is encouraged by what he is seeing in Iraq despite what he says is al-Qaida's strategy to use suicide bombers to create grisly images to overwhelm what Mr. Bush calls quiet progress on the ground.

Baghdad police say a car bomb during the Thursday morning rush hour at a bus station killed 21 people and wounded 40 others in a mainly Shi'ite district. Officials say the bodies of 20 beheaded men were found with their hands and legs bound on a riverbank in a Sunni village.