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Bush Works to Rally Support for Draft UN Resolution on Iraq - 2004-05-25

Reaction in Iraq and Europe to President Bush's speech on Iraq has been mixed, with many questioning how much sovereignty will be transferred on June 30. Meanwhile, President Bush is busy rallying support for a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would endorse the handover of power to an interim Iraqi administration.

Less than five weeks remain until the official handover of sovereignty in Iraq. On Monday night, President Bush outlined his administration's goals for helping Iraq achieve democracy and freedom.

One important element is security. President Bush says U.S. and coalition forces will remain after the June 30 handover to help stabilize Iraq.

"America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend - a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf," he said. "And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done."

Iraqis had mixed reactions to President Bush's speech, with many expressing doubts their new government will have full control over U.S. and other troops now occupying their country.

In a TV interview Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to reassure Iraqis.

"Iraqis want to be protected by their own people, not by occupation troops as they call them," he said. "So we are anxious to build up Iraqi forces, start to step back and, as the situation improves, bring our troop numbers down until the day sometime in the future when all of our troops come home."

U.S. military leaders in Baghdad say it will take more time to train Iraqi forces to take charge.

"It will still take some time to train up the Iraqi security forces to where they are capable of operating independently," said Military spokesman General Mark Kimmitt.

Iraq's defense minister, Ali Alawi, says that day will come sooner rather than later.

"I think it will be a question of months, rather than years," he said.

Meanwhile, another group of some 600 Iraqi prisoners are to be released from Abu Ghraib by the end of the week. The Abu Ghraib facility where Saddam Hussein tortured political opponents was in the headlines again this month after it was revealed that some U.S. troops have abused Iraqi prisoners there.

President Bush has promised to demolish Abu Ghraib and build a new maximum security prison if Iraq's new government approves.