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Bush, Berlusconi Reaffirm Commitment to Iraq Effort - 2004-06-05

President Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi say their troops will stay in Iraq to help provide security after this month's handover of power.

President Bush says he has a strong ally in the Italian leader, who backed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and will keep nearly 3,000 Italian troops in the country to help secure the peace.

"Italian and American military forces will remain in Iraq to help Iraqis establish the security so that Iraqi people can live their lives free of fear and so that democracy can take root," the president said.

Mr. Bush says the United States and Italy will continue to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and economy while helping to move toward national elections next year which he says will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.

President Bush says these efforts deserve the full support of the international community. He thanked Prime Minister Berlusconi for backing a new U.N. resolution supporting the transitional government.

"The Security Council resolution will reaffirm the world's security commitment to the Iraqi nation and encourage other U.N. members to join in helping the Iraqi people as they establish a representative government," he said.

Some U.N. members have concerns about how much sovereignty that transitional government will have with more than 130,000 U.S. troops staying in Iraq. President Bush says those doubts are unfounded as Iraq's new leaders have asked coalition troops to stay.

"Our troops must be there at the request of a sovereign government. In other words, when you transfer full sovereignty, the government must say, we welcome your help. And that's precisely what is happening," Mr. Bush said.

Prime Minister Berlusconi said Italian troops will stay in Iraq only as long as the government there feels that they are helpful in maintaining peace and building democracy.

"We are in Iraq exactly for the same reasons why we are in Bosnia, why our men are in Macedonia, why we are in Kosovo, and why we are in Afghanistan," he said.

President Bush says U.S. and Italian troops in Iraq are not only making that country safer, but are helping make America and Europe safer from terrorist attack.