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Bush Reiterates Support for Iraq Strategy in Weekly Radio Address


President Bush says he will bring nearly 6,000 U.S. troops home from Iraq by the end of the year because security there is improving. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats want more troops home sooner.

President Bush used his weekly radio address to recap Thursday's nationwide address in which he announced that 5,700 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.

"The principle that guides my decisions on troop levels is 'return on success,'" he said. "The more successful we are, the more troops can return home. And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy."

The president says he is accepting recommendations to further reduce troop levels. That could leave 130,000 Americans in Iraq by the middle of next year.

Mr. Bush says evidence of improving security in Iraq includes a reduction in sectarian violence in Baghdad and the break-up of Iranian-backed militant groups.

A public opinion poll by the Associated Press this past week says nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the war.

Mr. Bush is again trying to rebuild some support by continuing to link the war in Iraq with security at home.

"The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States," he added. "If we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaida could find new recruits and new sanctuaries. And a failed Iraq could increase the likelihood that our forces would someday have to return and confront extremists even more entrenched and even more deadly."

Opposition Democrats say the war is not making Americans safer. On Thursday, Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed said the conflict is undermining America's interests throughout the world and is stretching the armed forces toward the breaking point.

In the Democrats' Saturday radio address, Congressman Tom Lantos said the president's decision to send more troops to Iraq earlier this year was a mistake, because Iraq's leaders failed to use that opportunity to reconcile political differences.

"The Administration's myopic policies in Iraq are deeply flawed," he said. "So is it any wonder that on the subject of Iraq, more and more Americans have little confidence in this Administration? We can no longer take their assertions on Iraq at face value."

In the coming week, Senate Democrats hope to convince enough members of the president's own political party to join them in legislation that would require that troops spend as much time at home as on their most recent overseas tour.

President Bush has repeatedly said that he will make decisions about the troops based on recommendations from commanders in the field, not politicians in Washington.

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