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Bush Promises Iraqis Peace, Freedom in Special TV Message - 2003-04-10

President Bush appeared on television in Baghdad Thursday, telling the Iraqi people that they soon will be free from the government of Saddam Hussein.

The president's pre-recorded message says Saddam Hussein's "nightmare" 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," President Bush said. "American and coalition forces are now operating inside Baghdad, and we will not stop until Saddam's corrupt gang is gone."

The president said 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," Mr. Bush said. "And then our military forces will leave. 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 be five hours of nightly television broadcasts from Baghdad run by the Defense Department.

A senior administration official said the president's message is "an important way to communicate directly with the Iraqi people," and is part of a broader push to counter some Arab media portrayals of coalition troops as an occupying army. The U.S. military information campaign includes 24-hour radio broadcasts and the expected launch of a new newspaper Saturday in southern Iraq.

The president's television message was recorded Tuesday in Northern Ireland, where Mr. Bush was meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who also appears on the Baghdad broadcast, saying Iraq's new government will not be dictated by outside powers.

"This regime will be gone. And then, we will work with you to build the peaceful, prosperous Iraq that you want, and you deserve," said Mr. Blair. "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 said, 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," he promised. "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."

Meanwhile, President Bush said coalition military advances are "a historic victory," but he warned that the war is not yet over.