President Bush appeared on television in Baghdad, telling the Iraqi people that they soon will be free from the government of Saddam Hussein. The president's pre-recorded message says the "nightmare" of Saddam Hussein will soon be over.
"At this moment, the regime of Saddam Hussein is being removed from power, and a long era of fear and cruelty is ending," said president Bush. "American and coalition forces are now operating inside Baghdad, and we will not stop until Saddam's corrupt gang is gone."
The president says coalition troops are respecting Iraq's "great religious traditions," and will help maintain law and order before the creation of an interim authority to organize new elections.
"We will help you build a peaceful and representative government that protects the rights of all citizens. And then our military forces will leave," he said. "Iraq will go forward as a unified, independent, and sovereign nation that has regained a respected place in the world."
The president's message, with Arabic subtitles, opens what will now be five hours of nightly television broadcast on a U.S. Defense Department network, called "Towards Freedom." The speech aired at 6:00 p.m. Baghdad time on the same channels previously used by Iraqi TV, but it is unclear how many people saw the message, as most of the Iraqi capital is without electricity.
The broadcasts are part of a broader push by the Bush administration to counter some Arab media portrayals of coalition troops as an occupying army. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says ground and air-based transmitters will be supplemented with mobile units, as the areas under coalition control expand.
The coalition information campaign includes 24 hour radio broadcasts and a new newspaper in southern Iraq, called The Times, with an expected initial circulation of 10,000.
The president's television message was recorded Tuesday in Northern Ireland, where Mr. Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr. Blair also appeared on the Baghdad broadcast, saying Iraq's new government will not be dictated by outside powers.
"This regime will be gone," Mr. Blair said. "And then, we will work with you to build the peaceful, prosperous Iraq that you want, and you deserve. This Iraq will not be run by Britain, or by the U.S., or by the U.N. It will be run by you, the people of Iraq."
Once the war is finished, President Bush says, Iraq will enter a new era, no longer held captive by what he calls "the will of a cruel dictator."
"You will be free to build a better life, instead of building more palaces for Saddam and his sons, free to pursue economic prosperity, without the hardship of economic sanctions, free to travel and speak your mind, free to join in the political affairs of Iraq," Mr. Bush said. "And all the people who make up your country; Kurds, Shi'a, Turkomans, Sunnis, and others will be free of the terrible persecution that so many have endured."
Coalition television broadcasts will be controlled by the U.S. and British military. Mr. Fleischer says they may include rebroadcasts from independent sources of news in both countries.