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Bush Reaffirms US Resolve on Iraq - 2004-04-10

President Bush says U.S. troops in Iraq will stay on the offensive, following one of the deadliest weeks since Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat operations nearly one year ago. Democrats say the president's plan to hand over power to Iraqis in less than 90 days might spark a civil war.

President Bush says U.S. forces in Iraq will not be defeated by "a small faction" that is trying to derail democracy and seize power.

"Our coalition's quick reaction forces are finding and engaging the enemy," said president Bush. "Prisoners are being taken, and intelligence is being gathered. Our decisive actions will continue, until these enemies of democracy are dealt with."

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said he will not back off his deadline for handing over power in Iraq, because, he says, that is precisely what the enemy wants.

"They want to dictate the course of events in Iraq and to prevent the Iraqi people from having a true voice in their future," he said. "They want America and our coalition to falter in our commitments before a watching world. In these ambitions, the enemies of freedom will fail. Iraqi sovereignty will arrive on June 30."

In the Democrat response, Michigan Senator Carl Levin criticized the president for setting that date, without involving the United Nations.

"If we restore sovereignty to an entity created by the United States that doesn't have the support of the Iraqi people and the international community, there could be even greater violence against our forces, including the possibility of civil war," said senator Levin.

Senator Levin said U.S. operations in Iraq have been hurt by intelligence failures, inadequate planning and the decision to disband Iraq's army, which the senator said left tens of thousands of young, armed and angry Iraqi men with no means of support.

He said ultimate success in Iraq rests on Washington reaching out the international community.

"Embracing the U.N. as a full partner in deciding the make-up of an interim Iraqi government and the timing of the turnover of sovereignty would help distribute the burdens of stabilizing Iraq more equitably," he said.

President Bush meets Monday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Friday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. White House officials say both meetings are part of regular consultations over Iraq and the Middle East.

Mr. Bush looked to the future in his radio address, saying U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is consulting on the structure of the interim government. Elections for a permanent government are scheduled for late 2005, and Mr. Bush said the United States will stand with the Iraqi people as long as necessary to ensure that what he called their young democracy is stable, secure and successful.