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Bush: Coalition Must Not Waver From Commitment to Iraq - 2004-04-14

In the opening statement to his news conference late Tuesday, President Bush said America and its allies must not waver in their commitment to help bring about a political transition in Iraq.

Mr. Bush said the political transition in Iraq will be completed by December 15, 2005, when Iraqis elect a parliament and a government.

He said the success of free government in Iraq is "vital". Mr. Bush insisted that a successful transition matters because it would show that America's word can be relied upon.

The president also said that the United States is on the side of Muslims who choose to live in peace.

Speaking about the war on terrorism, President Bush says terrorist attacks are the work of what he called a "fanatical ideology," not a religion.

In his press conference, he said terrorists seek to oppress and persecute women, and they want the death of Jews and Christians.

The president also said terrorist organizations want to set free nations against each other, and they are seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Bush says terrorists have seen since the September 11 attacks on the United States 31 months ago that countries fighting the war on terrorism will no longer appease them.

President Bush also says the former Taleban regime has lost a shelter in Afghanistan, and Libya has turned its back on terror.

He said the United States honors the memory of coalition forces killed in Iraq, saying the work of those killed will be finished.

In his press conference, he said U.S. armed forces are performing brilliantly with "all the skill and honor we expect of them."

He says it is important that the deadline of June 30 is met for turning over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. He says at that point, Iraqis must assume responsibility for their own future.

President Bush also says coalition forces in Fallujah have suspended operations in order to work on restoring authority in that city.

The U.S. leader says coalition forces have recently faced "tough weeks" in Iraq because of attacks by enemy forces.

He blamed anti-coalition attacks on what he called remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime, foreign fighters and fighters loyal to radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

But Mr. Bush insisted that most Iraqis reject violence and dictatorship. He said they want to see strong protections for individual rights and freedoms.

President Bush said it is wrong to compare the situation in Iraq to the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s.

Answering a reporter's question, Mr. Bush said such an analogy sends, in his words, "the wrong message" to American troops in Iraq.

The president insisted that the United States and its allies are "making progress" in Iraq, helping restore stability to the Middle Eastern country.

However, Mr. Bush admitted he was "disappointed" with the performance of some U.S.-trained Iraqi army units, who refused to fight alongside American troops during some of last week's fierce fighting.

President Bush says he would like to see another U-N resolution that would call upon other nations to participate in the situation in Iraq.

In his press conference, he also said a free Iraq is vital to peace and security in the Middle East.

The president said people are sacrificing their lives in Iraq for the good of the world, and he is proud the U-S-led coalition is there.

When asked why he and Vice President Cheney are due to appear together in private and not separately before the September 11 commission, Mr. Bush said it is a good chance for the two men to answer questions on the September 11 attacks.

President Bush said he is looking forward to answering the questions.

Asked about the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in post-war Iraq, Mr. Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and to international security. That is why, the president said, the United States "dealt" with the now-deposed Iraqi dictator. President Bush says he felt angry and sad on September 11, 2001, and that he grieves when meeting with family members of the victims of the attacks.

In his press conference, he said the United States would have been safer if the Homeland Security Department was in place on that day.

He also said he realized on September 11 the country was not on what he called a war footing, although "the enemy was at war with us."

The president said the ongoing hearings by an independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks will show the nation's anti-terrorism law, the Patriot Act, is important. He said the law will allow intelligence agents to better share information.

Mr. Bush said the United States must go on the offensive and stay on the offensive in the war on terrorism. He said U.S. officials must do everything to find and bring terrorists to justice.

The President said his Administration would have "moved Heaven and Earth" to prevent the September 11 terrorist attacks, if it had known they were coming.

The president answered questions about recent statements by former law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials who said the Administration did not pay enough attention to the terrorist threats before the attacks.

Mr. Bush said he and CIA Director George Tenet met "all the time" in the months before the attacks to discuss terrorism and threats to national security.

Asked whether he would apologize to the American people for his government's handling of the September 11th attacks, Mr. Bush said Osama bin Laden was responsible for them and should be brought to justice.