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Bush: Saddam's Legacy Slowing Progress in Iraq


President Bush says one of the reasons for the slow pace of political progress in Baghdad is the continuing legacy of former dictator Saddam Hussein. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

When President Bush announced he was sending reinforcements to Iraq earlier this year, one of his goals was to have Iraqis in charge of security in all 18 provinces by November.

That is not going to happen. And U.S. military officials say it will not until next July, at the earliest.

Acknowledging the slower than expected progress at a White House news conference Thursday, the president said while the timing has changed, his determination has not.

"The goals are the same," said President Bush. "And have we achieved them as fast? No we haven't. But, however, having not achieved them doesn't mean we ought to quit."

Mr. Bush said one of the reasons there is not what he called "instant democracy" in Iraq is that people there are still recovering from the former regime's violence against political opponents. President Bush said the former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein prevented the possible emergence of a unifying figure akin to South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

"Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas," said Mr. Bush. "He was a brutal tyrant who divided people up and split families and people are recovering from this. So there is a psychological recovery that is taking place, and it is hard work for them."

The president is trying to rebuild public support for the war, in part by announcing that progress there now allows him to bring nearly 6,000 U.S. troops home from Iraq by the end of the year.

Iraq is a central issue in the race to succeed President Bush, with most opposition Democrats calling for more troop withdrawals and most Republicans backing the president.

Asked if he is an asset or a liability for his Republican Party, Mr. Bush said he is a strong asset.

"Candidates who go out and say that helping these Iraqis realize the benefits of democracy are going to do well," he said. "Candidates who go out and say that it is very important for the United States to have clear principles when it comes to foreign policy, they will do well."

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