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Bush Reiterates US Determination to Remain in Iraq

President Bush says the United States' determination to remain in Iraq has not been weakened by killings of American soldiers.

Mr. Bush says major combat operations have not resumed in Iraq. But he says the United States remains on the hunt for terrorists, and will not retreat.

The comments came during a brief session with reporters in California, where the president was touring areas hard-hit by recent wildfires. He was asked once again about the deadliest attack on U.S. forces to date - the downing of a transport helicopter on Sunday that killed 15 soldiers.

"I am saddened any time that there's a loss of life," he said. "I'm saddened because I know a family hurts. And there's a deep pain in somebody's heart."

His comments were general, and he did not address specifics of the attack on the helicopter. Instead, he talked about all the soldiers killed in the line of duty, saying it is important to remember that they died for a cause greater than themselves. "... and a noble cause, which is the security of the United States," he added. "A free and secure Iraq is in our national security interests."

Mr. Bush stressed that the nation must never forget the lessons of September 11, 2001. He said America learned on that day that it is vulnerable to attack.

"There are people that hate us, and there are people who are willing to take thousands of lives in acts of tremendous violence," he went on to say. "And the United States must understand that and adjust to new realities. And part of that reality is defeating terrorism and defeating the terrorists."

In response to a question, the president said he did not know if Saddam Hussein was behind the latest attacks on U.S. forces, although he said he is sure the ousted Iraqi leader is, in his words, trying to stir up trouble. Mr. Bush quickly added that one thing is certain: Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.