President Bush is defending his decision to invade Iraq, saying the discovery of a letter attributed to a suspected terrorist there shows that the country is the central front in the fight against terrorism.
Before the war, President Bush says, the White House, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations all looked at intelligence reports and agreed that Iraq was a threat.
At the time, Mr. Bush made the immediacy of the threat from weapons of mass destruction his biggest justification for invading Iraq. Nearly a year later, no such weapons have been found.
"Saddam Hussein doubted our resolve to enforce our word," said President Bush. "Now, he sits in a prison cell, while his country moves toward a democratic future. Today in Iraq, our coalition faces deadly attacks from a remnant of Saddam's supporters, joined by foreign terrorists."
In his weekly radio address, the president said the interception of a letter attributed to suspected terrorist Abu al-Zarqawi shows Iraq is still a threat, as the letter calls for recruiting and training suicide bombers to wage war against U.S. forces and the Iraqi people.
"Zarqawi and men like him have made Iraq the central front in our war on terror," he said. "The terrorists know that the emergence of a free Iraq will be a major blow against a worldwide terrorist movement. In this, they are correct."
Mr. Bush says U.S. officials are working with Iraq's Governing Council and the United Nations to draft a basic law with a bill of rights and prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty.
There continue to be changes in that plan. But Washington remains firm in its resolve to hand over power to some Iraqi authority by the end of June. "The establishment of a free Iraq will be a watershed event in the history of the Middle East, helping to advance the spread of liberty throughout that vital region," he said. "And as freedom takes hold in the greater Middle East, the people of the region will find new hope, and America will be more secure."
In his radio address, Mr. Bush again linked U.S. action in Iraq with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, saying fighting terrorists in Iraq will make America more secure.
"Two and a half-years-ago, on a clear September morning, the enemies of America brought a new kind of war to our shores," he said. "Three days later, I stood in the rubble of the Twin Towers. My resolve today is the same as it was then: I will not relent, until the terrorist threat to America is removed."
Some Democrats have criticized Vice President Dick Cheney for trying to justify the invasion of Iraq by implying that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks. Mr. Bush has said there is no evidence of a direct link, but public opinion polls show many Americans still believe there was.